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.

  • Jill Geisler

    Jill helps news managers learn how to lead her favorite people in the world - journalists. Good journalists, she points out, question authority and resist "spin." It takes exceptional leaders to build trust, along with the systems and culture that grow great journalism.


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