The 4 Different Types of Leaders

Today, we are going to be talking about the four different types of leaders.

Now there are so many variations of this — you may argue that this is not the original four different types of leader, but hey, to each his own. This is simply my take on the types of leaders out there.

I do believe there are other types of leaders out there. I don’t claim to have figured it all out. However, these are the most evident types of leaders I see in the workplace right now, especially in our team.

The first type of leader, in my opinion, is the executive leader. Someone who likes to execute—who likes to get things done. These kinds of leaders are task-oriented. 

The way to keep these leaders happy is by finishing tasks, hitting goals and milestones, you make sure things get done, and checking things off of your task lists. That will make this type of leader happy about you, happy about himself, and happy about the universe.

The other side of the coin is if you don’t do these things and if that leader feels like you’re not productive, that you’re just wasting time or you’re not doing the right things at work, then you can easily make this leader not happy about you.

So it’s simple. You make this leader happy by executing. You make this leader sad about you if you don’t execute. 

The executive leader also usually asks the question: “when?” When will this get done? When is that finished? When can I have this? When can I see that? When can I see your output? When’s the deadline?

I’m that kind of leader. A lot of my people in SEO Hacker know I’m that kind of leader. I want to get the ball rolling and moving. I want to feel the momentum. I want to feel that we are all moving forward and hitting those milestones.

However, the downside to being the executive type of leader is that we’re not that great when it comes to building relationships. Building relationships is not a priority for the executive leader, because they simply just want to get things done.

At times, the executive leader feels like building relationships and engaging in mundane chit-chat just gets in the way — which is not really true. Though I am an executive leader, I would say there are so many benefits to building good relationships with people.

And so I go to the next type of leader: the relationship builder. The relationship builder is the kind of leader who just wants to get to know you better as a person. They do this before they ask things from you before they tell you what needs to get done before they give you goals and milestones before they can even expect results from you. 

Now, these types of leaders are cherished and adored by a lot of people on the team. This is how their influence grows, and how they can lead and manage people better as well.

The downside for relationship builders is that they usually don’t get things done—and they don’t get things done on time. When things get done, it’s likely beyond the deadline. 

They find it hard to move things, to move people, and to build momentum—even with themselves in their own tasks. This is because they can get carried away with building relationships.

Another downside to this type of leader is that they find it hard to call people off. They find it hard to tell people what’s wrong with them, with their work, with how they treat their job, with how they treat their coworkers and peers. 

This is because they don’t want to damage the relationship. This is something that the executive type, on the other hand, doesn’t find too difficult.

While some executive types may find it a bit hard — maybe they don’t want to offend someone or maybe they’re a bit shy — a majority of them actually find it quite easy to tell people “this is wrong.” They can say: I needed this on this day. Why wasn’t it done? What happened? It’s not that hard.

With relationship builders, it gets pretty hard because they don’t want to break the relationship they have with others. It is, after all, how they influence people. It is how they get things done with others.

The third type of leader is the strategic leader. They think ahead and think about what the best way is to get to a certain goal or to get people moving in that certain direction.

Now how is it different from a relationship builder or an executive? Strategic leaders are more analytical. They think about the process. They think about the system, how they can improve it, how they can make it work for them, and how they can shape it so that they don’t need to grind to get to where they want to be.

The downside to strategic leaders is they might find it hard to move people because they’re not relationship builders. They find it hard to build those relationships that they need. And if they do end up building relationships, it’s oftentimes not that deep. 

As a consequence, a lot of people do not follow them. After all, how are you going to follow a certain strategy if you don’t have momentum, no one’s going where you want them to be, and you’re not able to lead them well?

Another downside to the strategic leader is that they might have what we call “analysis paralysis,” where they keep thinking about: ”How am I going to get there? What’s the best way? And I only want the best way—it cannot be any other way.

The thing is, life is not perfect. You can’t always have things fully figured out.

Sometimes, if you just see the next ten meters with your flashlight, then walk the next ten meters and figure out the rest of the way from there. 

With strategic leaders, they want to figure out the way, all the way. However, life and work are not like that. You have to keep on going and going and going. And the little momentum you might have built initially will snowball into better and bigger momentum, and strategic leaders might find it difficult to lead in this way.

The fourth type of leader is the legacy type or the influential type. They are leaders that use their influence to lead others. They’re persuasive, charismatic, and have a good track record — they have a legacy that they’ve built over time. Maybe they executed, or have done some relationship-building there. Maybe they are also very strategic.

Any combination of those things can be used to build their legacy and their influence. It is what they leverage to make sure that people are following them, and that they’re moving things forward.

Now, the downside to them is if people don’t see them in the front line. This is if they are too comfortable with their legacy and their influence, that they end up just barking orders from behind. That is one of the downsides.

You can’t get too comfortable with your legacy. People need to see you leading from the front, doing the hard things, investing in yourself, and pushing yourself to grow. They also need to see you being an eternal student but also teaching others. Not hoarding your knowledge in, but being a reservoir for everyone else to learn from and follow.

Now those are the four different types of leaders. But I want to emphasize that all four types of leaders are all called to serve. It doesn’t mean that because you’re a leader, you can hold the best positions, have the best parking spots, or get the best food from the cafeteria. It’s actually quite the opposite.

Yes, you might get more pay, and you might have a better package when it comes to compensation, but you are primarily called to serve. Leadership is about serving others. If serving others is beneath you, then leadership is beyond you. You cannot lead if you’re unwilling to serve others.

At SEO Hacker where I’m the CEO and founder, we always say this: If you want to be a leader, that is a worthy and noble ambition—we applaud that and we encourage that. But the first thing that you need to have in yourself is the desire to serve others.

Do not want to be a leader simply for the position, for fame, for compensation. Want to be a leader because you want to serve others.

And my executives, the leaders in our team, emulate this. We make sure that people see this with all of us, especially me. I do hold myself in high accountability for this. And with anyone who may need anything in my team, I try my best to serve them.

Now, serving is not the same as being subservient. I do not just say yes to everything. Serving people might mean that I might need to fire them. It might mean serving them a memo and telling them what they did was wrong. Serving in this sense is very similar to raising children. You serve your children by disciplining them, by telling them what’s wrong and right based on your moral compass.

In my case, that’s the Bible—God’s word. I serve my kids by disciplining them whenever they are disobedient, whenever they’re rebellious, and whenever they do not practice God’s laws. I teach them God’s ways so that in the future they will be blessed. That for me is serving them.

Being subservient, on the other hand, is saying yes to whatever it is they want. Do you want more candy? Here you go. Do you want to run outside with no one to supervise? Go ahead. 

That’s being subservient — and that’s being foolish. Being subservient will make them rebellious children, which will ruin both your relationship with them and their future. This is very much the same for leading people.

You would want to serve as a leader, but remember you are not called to be a subservient one. 

The last thing I want to share with you today is for those looking to take their leadership style to a whole new, different level. If you want to level it up, I suggest you inject one critical aspect of leadership. 

This is often overlooked, and often not practiced. But I assure you, by doing this, you will level up your leadership style, skill, and career to a whole new level. 

What you can do is inject faith.

Whether you’re the executive, the relationship builder, the strategist, or the influential type, if you inject faith into your leadership, then you level yourself up to a level that almost no one has reached.

Let me tell you a story—and this is a true story in the Bible. It’s in the Book of 1 Samuel and is the story of King David of Israel before he became king. He was living in the Philistine territory of Ziklag. 

Why was he there?

It’s because the first king of Israel was King Saul, and King Saul was after David. He was going to kill David and his 600 men. So David fled to Saul’s enemy (and Israel’s enemy), the Philistines. 

So there he was, living in this fortress of Ziklag, and the Philistines were going to war with Israel. Ziklag, at that time, was part of Gath. The ruler of Gath asked David to join him in battle because he trusted him. 

But when the other rulers of the Philistines saw David, they told him to go back home to Ziklag. That’s a three-day march.

When David got home to Ziklag, he found his home burned down. They were raided and pillaged by the Amalekites. Now, where would their wives and children be? They were plundered and kidnapped by the Amalekite.

So imagine you were King David. You got 600 men with you. Your homes were burned down. Your wives, children, and everything you own—your cattle, your sheep, your servants—were all taken by the Amalekites. What would you do?

Well, I’ll tell you what David and his men did. They wept like real men. The Bible says they wept until they could weep no more. It is a horrible sight, coming home to that.

His men were also so angry. They felt a mix of emotions—fear, anxiety, nervousness, hopelessness, and depression. But mostly, they were angry, so much so that they wanted to kill King David. Believe it or not, they wanted to kill him. A tiring three-day march and they come home to that scene. 

So what’s the first thing that King David does? It says in the Bible that he first put his strength in the Lord. 

What does it mean to put your strength in the Lord? Well, if we study the Bible, what David did was he actually trusted God, and that God can deliver. 

So David called Abiathar, the priest, and he asked for the ephod, and he inquired of God: Shall I pursue the Amalekites? Will we overtake them and will I be able to retrieve all the things that we have lost?

And God says yes, pursue. So he did. And take note that they were so exhausted that one-third of his men were not able to go with them anymore—200 men decided to stay. So David and his 400 men went on, and they were going to fight these Amalekites, who were a multitude in comparison. 

When they finally overtook the Amalekites and fought them, they fought them from dusk until the evening of the next day.

And even then, 400 young Amalekites fled on camels. This meant that David and his men killed so many of the Amalekites, that it took them almost a whole day (maybe even more) to slaughter them, and still, 400 of those young men were able to flee. 

That also meant that David and his exhausted 400 went to battle against them and won. And they were able to retrieve everything that they owned, their wives and children. Nothing was missing.

All the plunder that Amalekites raided from the other cities that they pillaged were also spoils now to King David, and then they went home — and God had a big purpose in store for them. 

I’m not going to spoil that for you. You go ahead and read 1 Samuel 30 for yourself.

What’s my point? My point is, whatever type of leader you are, if you inject faith and put your strength in God, it takes you to a whole new level. 

David trusted God, he inquired of God and he obeyed, tired as he was. That was a desperate, hopeless situation in which so many of us leaders would feel desperate, hopeless, and angry.

David could have said, “Just stone me! Just kill me! I’m tired of this life. I’m tired of the three-day march. You guys want to kill me. I’ve lost my wife and kids, just as much as you have, my life in your hands.” He could have said that.

He could have thrown in the towel—which a lot of leaders do nowadays. But David put his strength in God. 

If you want to level up your leadership skills to another level, then do it as King David did. You have to have faith, and you need to strengthen your spirit. That will make you a way better leader than you are today.

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