The 7 Types of True Leaders: Which One Do You Want to Be?

Do you ever wonder why some people succeed and others don’t? We’ve all seen deserving people who never quite got things off the ground, and others who made it look easy. It doesn’t always seem to make sense.

Over the past three decades of coaching top leaders all over the world, I’ve worked with every type of person and every type of personality you can imagine. The thing I’ve found consistently in people who succeed is the understanding that the same traits that made them successful have a flip side—an opposing counterpart—that can lead to their downfall through a gap in their leadership.

In my new book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness, I identify seven leadership archetypes that lead to success. And within each I also identify a polarity. For every archetype that can make you great has a flip side that leads to a gap. This is especially true for high-achieving individuals. Your success hinges on knowing your own attributes and how to leverage them to play to your strengths and avoid the gaps.

1. The Rebel

The Rebel wants to make an impact on the world and embarks on quests to achieve remarkable things. The Rebel is driven by confidence.

But, leading to the gap, the Rebel can instead feel like the Imposter, characterized by self-doubt. The Imposter appears when you find yourself constantly having to fight off negative messages in your mind

Three ways to leverage the Rebel and banish the Imposter:

  • Make a list of all the things you do well and review them daily. When your competence goes up, so does your confidence.
  • Surround yourself with people who believe in you. When you spend time with people who reflect who you want to be and how you want to feel, their energy is contagious.
  • Stop comparing yourself to others. It’s a waste of time and a thief of success.

2. The Explorer

The Explorer is driven to innovate and create new opportunities, new products, new businesses. Fueled by intuition, they test the boundaries and limits of what is known. They reject the status quo and are constantly looking for something new, listening to their inner voice to forge a new path.

But, leading to the gap, the Explorer can become the Exploiter, characterized by manipulation. The Exploiter appears when you feel stressed or out of control, bringing a need to micromanage and feel in control of things. It’s especially damaging to anyone whose work depends on creativity.

Three ways to leverage the Explorer and banish the Exploiter:

  • Quiet the analytic mind and let the intuitive mind speak loudly. No problem can be solved with the same mind that created it.
  • Let go of control. You lose only what you cling to.
  • Allow yourself to wonder. Accept what is, let go of what was, and hold to the wonder of what will be.

Related: 7 Powerful Habits of the Most Successful People

3. The Truth Teller

The Truth Teller embraces candor, even when it makes people uncomfortable. They speak with openness and honesty, driven by a sincere desire to be of service. For Truth Tellers, speaking up is a duty.

But, leading to the gap, the Truth Teller can become the Deceiver, characterized by the creation of suspicion. It’s the leader who withholds information, the boss who tells half-truths, the manager who doesn’t address concerns—all forms of holding back that create a culture of suspicion.

Three ways to leverage the Truth Teller and banish the Deceiver:

  • Always tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. It may hurt for a while, but deceit hurts forever.
  • Let people be part of the solution. Whatever the problem, allow others to participate in solving it.
  • Talk straight. Say what you mean and mean what you say.

4. The Hero

The Hero is courageous—willing to put their career at risk for a shot at greatness. Heroes act when others will not, even in the face of fear and overwhelming opposition.

But, leading to the gap, the Hero can become the Bystander, characterized by fear.

The Bystander is paralyzed by inaction and driven by fear. They keep you playing small and stuck where you are.

Three ways to leverage the Hero and banish the Bystander:

  • If you see something, do something. The things we fail to do become our limits.
  • If you hear something, say something. Treat fear as an obstacle that can be overcome.
  • Feel the fear but do it anyway. Everything you want is on the other side of fear.

Related: Be an Office Hero by Acting as the Decision Facilitator

5. The Inventor

The Inventor is brimming with integrity, constantly searching for the best way to improve processes and products and to perfect their craft. They’re experimenters who make many small bets and are willing to fail in pursuit of big wins. They seek quality and excellence, with integrity always paramount.

But, leading to the gap, the Inventor can become the Destroyer, characterized by corruption. Willing to cut corners and do whatever is expedient, the Destroyer works by compromising quality.

Three ways to leverage the Inventor and banish the Destroyer:

  • Make excellence a habit. Treat everything you do as your very best work.
  • Keep your promises. Don’t agree to anything you don’t intend to do.
  • Make integrity part of everything you do. There’s no other path to becoming a person of thorough integrity.

6. The Navigator

The Navigator has a way of making the complicated simple and the simple understandable, masterfully steering their organization and the people within it to ever better outcomes. Their hallmark is trust—given and received.

But, leading to the gap, the Navigator can become the Fixer, marked by arrogance. The Fixer tells people what to do instead of navigating the way alongside them—they’re bossy and often aggressive.

Three ways to leverage the Navigator and banish the Fixer:

  • Fix the fixer within you. Remember that trying to fix people isn’t a good way to be valued or appreciated.
  • Empower people. Show them they’re smarter than they think.
  • Set boundaries and don’t cross them. Teach people how to treat each other by modeling a good example of not crossing boundaries. Once you set them, keep them.

Related: 22 Words and Phrases That Will Make You Sound More Trustworthy

7.The Knight

To the Knight, loyalty is everything. They’re always looking for opportunities to serve and protect.

But, leading to the gap, the Knight can become the self-serving Mercenary, who tries to lead by self-absorption or self-obsession.

Three ways to leverage the Knight and banish the Mercenary:

  • Learn what it means to serve others. Everyone can succeed when everyone serves.
  • If you want respect, first give respect. It’s a two-way street.
  • Protect what you love and those you love. The best protection of all is loyalty.

The people who succeed—the Rebels, Explorers, Truth Tellers, Heroes, Inventors, Navigators, and Knights—know how to stand in their greatness, while the others—the Imposters, Exploiters, Deceivers, Bystanders, Fixers, and Mercenaries—who lead from their gaps inevitably fall short of the mark.

This article was originally published on Inc. It has been republished here with permission

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About Richard Moy

Richard Moy
Richard Moy is a Content Marketing Writer at Stack Overflow. He has spent the majority of his career in talent management, including a stint as a full-cycle recruiter and hiring manager. In addition to the career advice he contributes to The Muse, he also writes test prep and higher education marketing content for The Economist. Say hi on Twitter @rich_moy.

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