Leadership Compass: What Type of Leader Are You?

11 min read

Leadership is all about knowing yourself and leading in a way that fits who you are.

As John Maxwell once said, “The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails.” You have to find the right tools to help you steer your subjects to safety through your leadership.

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"The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails."
John Maxwell

So if you’re wondering what you need to become a better leader or are looking to find the type of leader you are, you came to the right place.

The leadership compass should help you answer these leadership questions and lead you to become a better leader.

What’s a Leadership Compass?

A leadership compass is a tool to help you determine which leadership style best describes or fits you. A leadership compass describes the practical concepts you can use to lead a group of people to achieve a goal.

So, how do you know which leadership style is the best fit for your leadership compass?

It all takes the form of the main directions of a compass — the North, West, East, and South. These directions are pointers to the type of leader you can become or you already are. Every direction represents a type of leadership that the majority of leaders fall in.

Let’s find out how this works for leadership.

The North (The Action-Centered Leader)

The North is the leadership compass that provides clear direction. The leader, in this case, is very active and always assertive and decisive. This type of leadership is focused on achieving goals and aims through a forward-looking approach.

Key Takeaway
The North-leader is assertive and decisive.

Leaders in this category enjoy taking on tough challenges presented to them by the people they lead. They are result-oriented and think in terms of bottom line or results. A North-leader likes it when they are at the center of leadership action and is always willing to take on any risks that might come with the projects they are working on.

However, this leadership compass can also be a disadvantage in some situations. The North-Leader often has an intimidating presence around other people. This could make others feel threatened by their leadership position or authority over them — not something you want when you’re trying to build a leadership team.

North-Leaders take pride in their ability to quickly make decisions without consulting anyone else and do not expect others on the leadership team to question those decisions. This can lead people who have more input into projects or leadership actions to feel disrespected by North Leaders.

And as we all know, leadership styles don’t always work out the way we want them to. The North-Leader can find themselves in a leadership position where they cannot make decisions or collaborate with others because of personality clashes (or worse).

A Good example of an action-centered leader is former U.S. President Donald Trump.

The West (The People-Centered Leader)

If you’re leaning West on the leadership compass, your primary focus will be to develop relationships with people to achieve success. In other words, the leader’s work involves building strong interpersonal relationships for others to feel valued and productive.

Key Takeaway
The West-leader is focusses on relationships.

People-Centered Leaders are great motivators who create a comfortable leadership environment where everyone can excel. A West-Leader is helpful to others and will go out of their way to provide valuable resources that will see a project completed successfully.

They move with utmost care and ensure they follow procedures and guidelines to the latter. A West-Leader will equally move with caution and thoroughly examine their subjects' needs in every situation.

However, things don’t always run smoothly for the West-Leaders. They may be hampered by their lack of objectivity, resulting in them having difficulty making difficult decisions without careful consideration for others' feelings.

Also, they might end up spending a lot of time in their heads, and they can easily get lost in all the details.

Examples of great people-centered leaders include Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda and L.L Bean CEO Stephen Smith.

The South (The Empathetic Leader)

A South-Leader leads with a lot of empathy and warmth and is a natural people-person or charismatic. They can read other peoples' emotions well and adapt their leadership styles accordingly.

Key Takeaway
The South-leader uses empathy and charisma.

They know how to deliver information in the best way possible to optimize the chances of their subjects acting upon it.

These leaders also trust their own emotions and intuitions, which significantly impact the type of decisions they make. They’re excellent at building relationships and leadership teams, as they are good listeners and can easily relate to people of all backgrounds.

The South-Leader is highly aware of the importance of soft skills (e.g., empathy, listening) in leadership. This quality makes them a strong fit for leadership positions where employees need help with those areas first. In leadership, they can focus on the bigger picture and ensure that all team members are working toward a common goal.

They can be very persuasive as well as highly organized. They have a strong vision of what is possible and believe in it wholeheartedly — thus inspiring teams with their conviction.

However, a South-Leader can also fall into trouble if they are not careful with how much they give away, as it could potentially erode the authority needed for leadership purposes.

In addition, they can run into problems if they don’t pay enough attention to the individual needs of their team members. If not careful, a South-Leader can easily lose themselves while trying to help their team.

While South-Leaders are very good at getting people to follow them, they can also be somewhat controlling and aggressive, which doesn’t always work out well for leadership purposes!

Examples of this type of leader include Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Warby Parker CEO Neil Blumenthal.

The East (The Visionary Leader)

These types of leaders are visionary leaders. They think creatively and generatively and are known to influence decisions with their witty minds. They’re the team members who always have the solution to the team’s problems at work.

Key Takeaway
The East-leader is creative and visionary.

They could imagine an idea and bring it out in a practical, contextualized manner for the North-Leaders to act upon. An East-Leader solves problems by imagining solutions and using the relevant information to find the best, most practical way to achieve their goal.

If you want a visionary leader to make a decision, they’ll look at the problem from a future point of view. They’ll then come up with a solution by standing up in the future and predicting what they’ll see.

It’s like playing chess with the future and seeing how each move will shape up to be in terms of your decision-making process before you make it. They’re excellent problem solvers who are curious by nature.

However, their leadership style can also be seen as a weakness because they can’t stand up and fight for what is right when the going gets tough.

East-Leaders are reluctant to make any decision without knowing it will work out, and as a result, they can sometimes come off as indecisive. Visionary leaders can also take a lot of time to develop a solution because they need to analyze much information before making their final decisions.

Examples of these types of leaders include Elon Musk, Nelson Mandela, and Henry Ford.

Why You Should Consider Using a Leadership Compass

Great leaders are consistent learners. They continually grasp new ideas and implement them in their leadership patterns as best as they fit.

As J.F Kennedy once said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” And this is what a leadership compass helps you achieve.

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"Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other."
J.F Kennedy

A leadership compass will help shape your leadership skills and point you to the right leadership style. It will provide you with leadership insight and help identify the leadership attributes that suit your personality best.

Here are more reasons you should consider using a leadership compass.

It Promotes Accountability

With the help of a leadership compass, everyone gets to know their leadership style and will be held accountable for it. There’s no excuse for leadership styles contradicting leadership skills as everyone now operates under their specific leadership style.

North-Leaders will understand what their strengths are and learn skills relevant to their leadership style. That way, no one blames them for not doing things in a West-Leader’s way of doing things.

It Creates Transparency

A leadership compass creates transparency for leadership skills, and everyone has an idea about their leadership style now. This means that there’s no need to guess or play office politics; instead, people can work together in sync with leadership styles they are comfortable using.

Leadership Skills Will Improve Over Time

Using a leadership compass will help leadership skills improve over time. You can see your leadership strengths and try to develop them for a chance of becoming the perfect leader that you want to be.

It Provides Guidance on Leadership Styles

A leadership compass will help you understand the different leadership styles and apply them in your work environment. You can then use this insight for future endeavors, including leadership training or mentoring sessions with subordinates. It makes it easier to identify specific leadership traits that are needed at a particular time.

It Provides a Guide to the Future of Your Career

With leadership training and assistance, you will better know what career path might be best for your leadership skills. You can also use this information in conjunction with leadership testing when looking at various job opportunities to determine which one’s right for where you are currently in life.

It Puts You in Control

At any point in time, you can change your leadership compass parameters to suit the situation best. This promotes self-awareness of who a person is as a leader and how they interact within certain situations.

People Don’t Have To Change Who They Are

The leadership compass is not meant to change who you are but rather how you act in certain situations. For instance, if someone enjoys leading through encouragement and support, they may find themselves often placed into leadership positions that require them to push others harder than they wish.

However, with the leadership compass, these people can know that they should be more demanding under this leadership style and hold their employees to a higher standard.

As Woodrow Wilson put it, “Leadership does not always wear the harness of compromise.” You can be a great leader with your natural skills without having to compromise who you are.

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"Leadership does not always wear the harness of compromise."
Woodrow Wilson

The Challenges of using a Leadership Compass

It’s never all merry and bright when you lead your team; there will always be challenges. The leadership compass is not a magic tool that can solve all of your problems as a leader. Some of the significant challenges of using this tool include:

It can be Overwhelming

At times, the leadership compass demands that you use two or more leadership directions to achieve your leadership goals. Combining more than one leadership direction from the compass can be overwhelming, especially if you are naturally inclined to one leadership direction.

It is Useless without Followers

The leadership compass can be an excellent tool for identifying your leadership style, but it will not work unless people follow you as the leader. It may take more time than expected to get followers who believe in and share the same values.

You could fail to Lead by Example.

If you are not leading by example, leadership is useless. John Quincy Adams puts it this way, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

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"If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader."
John Quincy Adams

It’s easy for people to follow your leadership if they see that what you do matches what you say. If there is a discrepancy between your actions and leadership decisions, it will be difficult for them to trust in your abilities as the leader.

Find Out What Type of a Leader You Are

Many leadership types are available, but the leadership compass will help you determine what kind of leader you are or would like to become. It enables you to decide which leadership style is best for each situation and gives tips on how to improve upon it if needed.

Action Item
Apply the leadership compass today to determine what kind of leader you are.

The leadership compass also lets others know more about themselves too. They can learn through your leadership style and leadership decisions what type of a leader they are.

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