is there a leader type?

Posted on Friday.7.24.2009



I recently thought about the number of leaders in the world, whether it’s by position or simply by influence and realized there must be a lot of different types of people and different types of leaders. I wondered though if there’s a “type” of leader that’s the most effective. Obviously, there are some ways of thinking, analyzing and influencing that make each leader an effective leader, but I wonder if there’s some external qualities that make a leader more effective  than another.

Here are some signifiers that I thought about:

  • looks: does a leader look a certain way? Does someone who’s taller have more potential for influence than someone who’s shorter? Does a leader who’s attractive have more impact than one who is not? Does a leader who is physically fit make a stronger argument than a leader who may be slightly obese? If I dig a little deeper, I can even wonder if the race of the leader matters, especially when looking at the industry. Are you more likely to listen to an Asian leader at an engineering firm? An African-American leader of a sports team? What about an Asian leader of a sports team or an African-American leader of an engineering firm?
  • voice: does the person have to have the right type of voice? What if you have great talent and skills but you’re really quiet, don’t have a lot of words? Even worse, what if you’re monotone? Does that limit your influence, no matter how much talent you have? What if you have a really loud voice? Does that automatically make you a better leader?
  • age: should the person be of a certain age to carry any influence? Can a younger leader influence as easily as a leader who looks older but may not necessarily have more experience? What if you just naturally look young? Does that hinder you from being taken seriously?
  • physical quirks: if you have a physical quirk, does that take you out of the running for great influence? There’s an obvious level of having to overcome some of these things, but should a leader be automatically have to compensate for the fact they may have some physical quirk? Does that seem fair? But doesn’t it happen?
  • apparel: does it matter? Most of the time, the industry will dictate what the leader will wear, but if your leader didn’t adhere to that, wouldn’t that affect your view of the leader’s effectiveness?

I think most of us would say a leader can come in all shapes, sizes, and types. But if we really thought about it, we all have a picture of what a good leader looks like and how they should act, dress, look and talk. I think it’s good to realize our own biases when it comes to leadership and see what we value in our leaders, because it’s often what we value or want to value in ourselves. In the end, we have to be ourselves and be willing to hone our skills as best as possible.

Here’s an unexpectedly great quote from rapper Asher Roth’s song Y.O.U.

Besides, it’s all about your mind
Your will and your drive, and what’s going on inside
The size of your heart is what sets you apart
If you aren’t using it, I suggest that you start

Posted in: leadership