A Guide to Reading Your CEO's Leadership Style: Despite strengths and weaknesses, there is no right or wrong.

Author:Gwin, Bonnie

Directors today must be able to read CEOs as well or better than they read a profit-and-loss sheet. Many of the board's most critical duties depend on it: CEO succession planning, performance review, compensation, development and selection.

All of these require subtle and nuanced judgments that go beyond the chief executive's experience, competencies and past performance to the question of leadership style: How exactly does our CEO lead? How well does that style fit the company's current situation? And what can we as a board do to accentuate the CEO's strengths and manage the blind spots?

To help answer those questions our firm conducted extensive research involving more than 14,000 senior executives across a wide range of roles and industries around the world. In the course of the research we identified eight statistically distinct leadership styles or "signatures."

Think about the senior executives on your team and your experience of how they think and behave. You'll likely be able to intuit a sense of their leadership style from the list below:

* Forecaster: Learning-oriented, deeply knowledgeable, visionary, yet cautious in decision-making.

* Provider: Action-oriented, confident in their path or methodology, loyal to colleagues, driven to provide for others.

* Producer: Task-focused, results-oriented, linear thinker, loyal to tradition.

* Collaborator: Empathetic, talent-spotting, coaching-oriented.

* Harmonizer: Reliable, quality-driven, execution-focused, creates positive and stable environments, inspires loyalty.

* Pilot: Strategic, visionary, adroit at managing complexity, comfortable with ambiguity, open to input, team-oriented.

* Energizer: Charismatic, inspiring, connects emotionally, provides meaning.

* Composer: Independent, creative, problem-solving, decisive, self-reliant.

Although every style includes strengths and blind spots, it's important to keep in mind that no particular leadership style is "right" or "wrong" and all styles can be equally effective.

Individuals tend to have some degree of access to all the styles, and self-aware or well-coached executives can learn to flex to additional styles when appropriate. Nonetheless, our experience and research suggest that leaders tend to gravitate to a much smaller set of default styles they find comfortable or familiar--and those styles have significant ramifications for their performance in their roles.

For directors, an understanding of these styles can enrich judgments and...

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