Career Woman

The 6 types of boss you’re most likely to come across: infographic


Developing a long and successful career means meeting and working with a lot of different people over the years – and it isn’t always going to be easy. That same random factor that can cause you to make inspiring new connections, friends for life, and outstanding professional chemistry with others, can just as easily result in personality clashes and apparent workplace incompatibility. That’s the maddening beauty about human beings: we’re complex and mostly unpredictable.

A commitment to a meaningful career, then, requires a commitment to learning some people skills and accepting that to work together means to engage. Honesty, empathy, and generosity will get you a long way in business – so long as you have the patience to wait for the fruits of your work to ripen.

Few of these working relationships will be quite as important to the ambitious career woman as those with the leaders with whom she works. Yet you may need to add one more super-power to those people skills we talked about if you are to develop a healthy chemistry with your boss: patience. Bosses have the luxury of working at their own pace, and whether intentionally or not they may withhold the familiarity and accessibility that you seek.

Fortunately, leadership seems to bring out certain common identifiable features in an individual. Indeed, author, psychologist, and science journalist Daniel Goleman has identified six main leadership styles that he believes account for many of the behaviours you’re likely to witness in the workplace. While each individual boss will have their own uniquely maddening and/or endearing traits, you can calibrate your own attempts to strengthen your professional bond by figuring out which of the six types of boss yours is, and adjusting your approach.

The first type to consider is the ‘visionary’. You will often find a visionary leader in charge of a small or growing start-up, or a creative concern. The visionary has big ideas, very good ones if you’re lucky – it’s their particular talent for imagining products and solutions that has got them where they are today. It can be inspiring to watch them work, and indeed to collaborate in making these wild ideas a concrete reality.

Unfortunately, the visionary boss often tends to have their head in the clouds. While they’re friendly and empathetic when they do drop by to ground level, they’re unlikely to be big on providing realistic plans and directions on how to realize their ideas. If you find yourself working with a visionary-type boss, listen carefully to their ideas and allow yourself to be inspired by their enthusiasm. But bear in mind that you will need to come up with practical solutions yourself and with the team in which you work. Figure out what your boss’s goals and landmarks are, and try to fill the gaps in between – this way you can develop a productive symbiosis and hopefully succeed in creating something unique.

Another type of boss is the ‘coach’. This guy is far more likely to give you specific instructions, or at least to work closely with you on developing a workflow and strategies. This boss recognizes the value in his workforce, although he may become overbearing: to get what you need most from him, be honest about where you feel your strengths lie, the responsibilities you’re confident to take on by yourself – and the areas that you feel could use a little more practice or training.

The third type of boss is another people-person, but more team-oriented than training-focussed: this is the ‘affiliative’ boss. She is building a team to conquer the world, and may place more value in your chemistry with others than you ability to excel on your own. Resist too strongly and you may find yourself alienated and ignored, but acquiesce and you may find your true talents are allowed to lie fallow and you are restricted from developing. However, the middle-ground can be a very fruitful place to be: learn to work co-operatively with your colleagues, be honest about your personal goals and limitations, and know when to be assertive and when to let go, and you will find yourself in a very dynamic and rewarding work environment.

The affiliative boss’s cousin is the ‘democratic’ boss. He likewise puts his faith in the collective power of the team, so you can be sure your voice will be heard and your ideas have a chance of making it to the board. However, it can be frustrating to work without a clear decision-maker, or to feel that you’re overlooked in favour of what you consider to be a colleague’s weaker ideas. Commit to this boss by listening carefully to what your colleagues say and giving them a serious chance, but don’t miss the opportunity to speak your mind if there’s something you’re not clear on or with which you disagree.

The last couple of types are a bit tougher to work for – depending on your own personal style and goals. The ‘commander’ is, as the name suggests, a giver of commands rather than a collaborator or listener. She will tell you what to do and when it needs to be done by, and most likely how to do it, too. This can be frustrating or even distressing if you have your own ideas and goals; but in the right environment, if you knuckle down and get on with it, you can get a lot done and develop your skills and stamina very quickly.

The ‘pacesetter’ commands by example. He won’t tell you how to work, but you might find it difficult to get instruction when you do feel you need it. The pacesetter will show a lot of trust in you, so it’s important to tell him if you have a problem. Let him know how you’re getting on, and observe him closely: you can learn from his strengths and from his flaws.

Have you spotted your present boss in the above descriptions? For another angle on how to recognize the different types, have a look at this new infographic. Even if you’re not working for one of these types now, it’s only a matter of time until you career brings you into contact with one or more of these common management styles.

The 6 types of boss you're most likely to come across: infographic

About John Cole

John writes on behalf of NeoMam Studios. A digital nomad specializing in leadership, digital media, and personal growth topics, his passions include world cinema and biscuits. A native Englishman, he is always on the move, but can most commonly be spotted in the UK, Norway, and the Balkans.

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