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  • Writer's pictureRob Buckingham

Boo to leadership styles; focus on skills, not styles

Updated: May 9

Previously I wrote about soft skill measurement (click to read). The Achilles heel of leadership and management, we noted:

  • There are over 50,000 titles available on Amazon tagged “leadership books.”

  • There are over 10,000 leadership groups on LinkedIn, with the largest having 128,000 members. There are also over 3 million followers of #leadership as well.

  • LinkedIn Learning has 3,900 courses on management, 765 on leadership development, 1,600 on strategy, 228 on diversity, to name a few.

  • There are over 35,000 ICF-certified coaches worldwide.

  • There are various leadership styles, all promoted as the “best.” Inclusive, servant, compassionate, authentic, transformational, visionary, resilient styles. How much overlap and difference is there?

So, without measurement, it’s difficult for anyone to know what to do. Is that why so many leadership styles are being promoted as “best”? For a great twist on this, check out 4 ways the Velveteen Rabbit can transform your leadership. My favorite quote….”Is it real?”


We hypothesize that a leadership style combines skills, with some skills emphasized more than others in practice. It’s also a way of talking about the skill combination, much like an SUV gives you an idea about a larger vehicle carrying lots of people and cargo. But does everyone need an SUV?


We did a deep dive on 5 high-profile leadership styles, with definitions provided by ChatGPT.

  1. Authentic leadership is characterized by being genuine, transparent, and consistent in one's actions and decisions. An authentic leader is true to themselves and their values, and they lead by example. They inspire trust and respect among their followers by being honest and transparent in their communication and consistent behavior and decision-making. An authentic leader is also self-aware and self-regulate, which help them to be a good role model for the team. Overall, being an authentic leader can lead to a more positive work culture, improved morale, and better performance.

  2. Inclusive leaders create an environment where all members feel valued, respected, and heard, fostering creativity and innovation and promoting better teamwork and problem-solving. Additionally, inclusive organizations are shown to have better financial performance.

  3. A servant leader puts the needs of others before their own and focuses on serving the needs of their team or organization. This type of leader is characterized by being selfless, humble, and putting the interest of their subordinates first. They build trust and create community by listening, empathizing, and working alongside their team members. They also empower others to grow and develop in their roles and create opportunities for others to lead. This leadership style can lead to a more engaged, motivated, and committed workforce, resulting in better performance and positive outcomes for the organization.

  4. Compassionate leadership involves being empathetic, understanding, and supportive of others, which helps to create a positive and productive work environment. A compassionate leader can understand the needs and concerns of their team members and provide support and guidance to help them succeed. Additionally, compassionate leadership helps to foster trust, respect, and loyalty among team members, leading to better teamwork and improved performance.

  5. Transformational leaders inspire and motivate their team members to reach their full potential. They communicate a clear vision and create a sense of purpose for their team.

  6. Other styles

  7. Strategic leaders can think long-term and make decisions that align with the organization's goals and objectives. They can anticipate and plan for future challenges and opportunities.

  8. Visionary leaders have a clear and compelling vision for the future and can inspire others to work towards that vision.

  9. Innovative leaders can think creatively and outside the box to develop new solutions and improve processes.

  10. Resilient leaders can handle stress, uncertainty, and challenges and remain optimistic and focused on achieving their goals.

So what are the reasons you might choose one style over the others? We think it comes down to your goals and your organization's needs.


qChange learning: Ultimately, it's important to note that the most effective leaders often combine these styles and can adapt their leadership style to fit the situation, i.e., the environment, company culture, team dynamic, their passion. It’s not a one size fits all approach, even within the same organization. So let’s go beyond the hype and focus on the skills needed, not style.


Next up: 45 soft skills for managers and leaders.


qChange Innovation Stories shares the learnings of building a next-generation experiential learning company in a sea of entrenched capabilities and status quo thinking.


To learn more, email: rbuckingham@qchange.com

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