What Great Bosses Know: Are leadership styles born or made?

As employees, we’re pretty good at describing a boss’s leadership style. We use descriptive terms like:

  • By-the-book
  • Team-builder
  • My way or the highway
  • People person

And a lot more colorful expressions I’m certain you can add.

Managers do indeed have specific styles. You might wonder whether those approaches to leadership are instinctive or acquired — are they born or made?

I believe it’s a combination of both. We bring certain internal characteristics to our work as managers and we are influenced by external forces. Here’s a look at both:


  • Our personality preferences. As I’ve written before, I know from my work with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® that some of us are more naturally inclined to be hard liners, others to be soft touches.
  • Our emotional intelligence. Our self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management all play into our approach to management.
  • Our values. There are certain things each of us consider core values and principles — from “playing to win” to “serving the greater good.”


  • Our role models. We are influenced by the best and worst leaders we’ve experienced. I often hear managers talk about wanting to emulate a leader (relative, clergy, teacher, coach, boss) who had a great positive influence on them — or to never, ever behave like the worst of the bunch.
  • Our environment. Managers can be influenced by the culture of an organization, for example, to be more collaborative or more controlling than they’d like.
  • The situation at hand. Our approach to management can be influenced by the specifics of a situation we face. Change management and crisis management, for example, are two entirely different challenges.

So, leadership styles are born AND made — and great bosses understand how to take the best of their internal characteristics and adapt to the external needs they ascertain in the workplace.

How do you know your style — and whether it’s the best for a situation? Take a look at this video for some insights:

For a look at our full-length instructional series on leadership, communication and conflict resolutions styles, go to NewsU.org.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/jill.geisler Jill Geisler

    Hi Anne:
    Thanks for your good thoughts. I agree that in times of crisis, people expect leaders to provide accurate information — early and often. Great leaders also find ways to frame that information in ways that comfort and inspire.

  • http://twitter.com/AnneEgros Anne Egros

    I agree with the last point about the context. In crisis some leaders really thrive and are able to make informed decisions quickly, clearly communicate the good and bad news without making people panicking and provide directions on what people have to do to manage an emergency situation, sometimes life threatening. One example of poor leadership during crisis is the president of TEPCO, the company running the Fukushima nuclear plants who did not show up just after the March 11 Japan quake and tsunami that damaged the reactors. He came back a week later with an apology on TV, but Japanese people were very angry at him and at the Japanese government who did not share clear information about the severity of the situation fast enough.