2008 Volume 11 Issue 4

Discovering Leadership Potential

Discovering Leadership Potential

The critical, worldwide need for Authentic Visionary Leadership

A Call to Action!

A crisis of leadership is brewing. Given the recent global economic meltdown of financial markets, the need for effective leadership has never been more evident than it is today. This crisis has led to a call for organizations to evaluate the leadership potential of current employees and new hires.

The rules of the business game are changing, unexpected competition is coming from many places, and “current leaders represent what…business needed in the past, not in the present or the future.”[1] The most important priority for organizations is to discover new leadership potential, develop it, and find the best way to grow it. In this article the authors argue that firms need to develop “Authentic Visionary Leaders” by using the Leadership Style Inventory (LSI) and matching the results with specific job requirements.

To be effective and successful in any leadership position, an individual must fit the demands of a particular position, as well as its leadership requirements. Organizations and individuals can use the LSI to identify leadership styles and match employees to key positions that drive organizational and individual performance.[2] Employees with strong potential can then be enrolled in leadership development programs that enhance their potential, hone their leadership skills, and place them in appropriate positions of authority. By using the LSI to gauge not only the leadership style but the dominant leadership pattern with the organizational position, organizations can develop Authentic Visionary Leaders at every level.

Photo: alexsl

What is an Authentic Visionary Leader?

Developing Authentic Visionary Leaders—leaders whose styles match the organization’s needs and available positions—helps ensure that organizations can succeed in a turbulent global marketplace.[3] To be an Authentic Visionary Leader, a leader must comprehend more than just his or her dominant leadership style. An individual’s authentic leadership style usually consists of two or three styles that are strong and include the dominant style. These patterns can be used to identify the right position for that person and develop a program to improve the effectiveness of his or her Authentic Visionary Leadership.

Author and founding chairman of the Leadership Institute at the University of Southern California Warren Bennis believes true leaders are made, not born.[4] In his book, Why Leaders Can’t Lead, he points out that many leadership development programs do not produce better results because leadership potential is not evaluated before training begins.

Using the LSI at the beginning of the training period enhances the leadership development program by first identifying a person’s style pattern, then matching it to his position, and, finally, developing a program to enhance his effectiveness.

An Overview of LSI Styles Research

The LSI, which is relatively new,[5] is comprised of four basic styles that encompass two dimensions and are assigned to four quadrants.

CommanderWhen goals are narrow and short-run, and performance and specific results are required.Intuitive, takes charge, demands loyalty, insists on compliance, expects results, and finds workable solutions.[6]Jack Welch
Walter Wriston of Taking First National City Bank of New York.[7]

LogicalWhen goals are broad and future-oriented, and performance is important.Uses analysis and reasoning, is good at structured problem solving, is systems-oriented, looks for new directions and innovative improvements, and expects commitment.[8]Bill Gates
Warren Buffet
Steve Jobs[9]
ImaginativeWhen goals are broad and future-oriented, and are of a world-changing nature.Envisions new opportunities, creates future visions, is very creative, empowers others, engenders trust, uses heuristic solutions, and tends to have charisma.[10]John F. Kennedy
Pierre Wack of Shell, who pioneered the creation and application of strategic planning methodologies, such as “Future Histories,” and changed course after the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) crises (1974, 1980)[11]
SupportiveWhen goals are narrow and short-ranged-specific, and are of an organization-behavioral and transformational nature.Relates well with others in a cooperative environment, is considerate, gives approbation to peers, and always tries for mutual agreement (does not like conflict).[12]Pope John Paul XXIII.[13]
(No business leader has been identified as possessing this Basic style by itself, but this style is very important as part of a style pattern)

Figure 2: Basic Leadership Styles, 2005

GoalsFocus On
Broad and Future-OrientedLogicalImaginative
  • Uses reasoning
  • Expects commitment
  • Systems-oriented
  • Looks for new directions
  • Innovative improvements
  • Structured problem solving
  • Engenders trust
  • Has charisma
  • Creates future visions
  • Envisions new opportunities
  • Empowers others
  • Very creative
  • Heuristic solutions
Narrow and Short-Range SpecificCommanderSupportive
  • Intuitive
  • Demands loyalty
  • Expects results
  • Takes charge
  • Insists on compliance
  • Finds workable solutions
  • Is considerate
  • Peer approbation
  • Cooperative environment
  • Relates well with others
  • Tries for mutual agreement

© Rowe, Reardon, & Bennis, 1995, 2005 (reprinted with permission)

Basic Style Comparisons

In 1996, executives in the University of Southern California’s (USC’s) Executive Master of Business Administration (EMBA) program were compared to executives in a similar EMBA program at Bond University in Australia. The averages for each style were as follows:[14]

Table 1: An Example of Dominant Styles


*Previously established norms by Rowe, Reardon, and Bennis, 1995.

Here is an example of how to use the four basic styles in hiring: A New Zealand advertising company executive scored 66, 94, 92, and 48 in each of the four categories, commander, logical, imaginative, and supportive.[15] He exhibited dominant logical and imaginative styles, which is typical of a senior executive. This finding helped underline the need to appoint employees with combined styles to many different positions.

Research indicated that most situations require leaders presenting style patterns as opposed to exhibiting just one dominant leadership style. However, testing can only be conducted by using the basic styles to assess patterns as well as dominance of one or more style.

Combined Leadership Patterns and Areas of Effectiveness

Very few leaders have only one dominant style with no backup style. Most leaders utilize a combination of two styles, while some adhere to three styles, or a balance of all four. An interesting example of a balance of the four basic styles was found in a study[16] of The Young President’s Organization (YPO), a global leadership network. The YPO average was a nearly perfect score of the established norms (a balance of all four norm scores).

Figure 2 diagrams the patterns of combined dominant leadership styles and highlights the relationship of style patterns to job positions, as extrapolated from previous research by Mann (2008) for an upcoming book on how style patterns can be used to improve leadership development.[17]

Many leaders have more than one dominant style, but previous LSI findings only emphasized the most dominant style. When leaders have several strong styles, they often combine these styles into patterns that can be very effective, depending on the needs of the organization. The six Authentic Visionary Leadership patterns are based on studies of hundreds of managers and student leadership style patterns.

Figure 3: Authentic Visionary Leadership Patterns, 2008

FocusAreas of Effectiveness for Six Style Patterns
Broad, Future-Oriented Vision
and Limited,

© Mann, 2008.

The most common pattern is one dominant style with one or more backup styles. One very dominant style may be obvious to a trained observer, but the only way to ascertain one’s style pattern with certainty is to complete the LSI questionnaire.[18]

In every situation, several leadership styles may be required. If a leader is not dominant in the key style for a particular situation, he or she can use a backup style or adapt a less-used style according to his or her degree of flexibility. A higher level of flexibility is usually the result of experience.

Summary of Leadership Style Patterns

Pattern 1: Ideation. Ideation is a combination of the logical and imaginative basic styles. This pattern hinges on visualizing or imagining a future that is both achievable and practical and is helpful in planning an organization’s strategic future. Ideation is the hallmark of successful CEOs, top executives, and those who are determined to achieve a new vision for their organization. Leaders in this category use logic and detailed analysis as well as vision and imagery to direct the organization.[19]

Example: Steve Jobs is the consummate example of an ideation leader whose focus is broadly based on both performance and transforming organizations. As one of the top ideation leaders in the field of computers and entertainment, Jobs seems to be on a mission of global change. He focuses on revolutionary product ideas and envisioning the future while driving change with simplicity and ergonomic detail.[20]

Pattern 2: Stewardship: A combination of the logical and the commander basic styles, it is necessary in areas of financial or risk management within organizations. Leaders who utilize this style focus on resources—conserving them, allocating them wisely, and acquiring sufficient amounts to carry out the mission of the organization. Effective executives with this pattern are financial planners, managerial accounting analysts, and managers of detail and logistics.[21]

Example: John Bogle, the founder of Vanguard, is one of the best-known stewardship leaders. Named one of Time’s “100 Most Powerful People” in 2004, he advocates for strong governance and fiscal responsibility.[22] He practices what he preaches by using a logical style based on sound financial and economic principles as well as a commander style to take action quickly.

Pattern 3: Coordination. A combination of the logical, commander, and imaginative basic styles, this triangular pattern is more common in smaller firms and in the second- and third-tier levels of larger organizations. The logical/commander components of this style tend to be almost equal, with an imaginative backup. In small entrepreneurial firms, the imaginative style may be the most dominant, with the commander style a strong second and the logical style a weak backup. This coordination leadership pattern represents the popular, “traditional” upper-management pattern from the study of 294 male managers that established the “norm” for Decision Systems Analysis (DSI)[23] and has held constant for the LSI as well.[24]

Example: Mark Shapiro, CEO of Six Flags and a former ESPN executive, is known for being an innovative yet commanding/logical leader.[25] Shapiro has implemented several “imaginative” programs, including new shows at ESPN and real estate sales at Six Flags, while using his logical style to gain buy-in and his commander style to cut through red tape. He also has a reputation for being hard-nosed and practical while adding cable channels and local content programs at ESPN.

Pattern 4: Exploration. This combination of imaginative and commander styles is typical of leaders in entrepreneurial start-ups, especially female entrepreneurs. The imaginative style tends to dominate and the “follow-the-star” method of reaching a desired goal trumps everything.[26]

Examples: Indra Nooyi, chairperson and CEO of PepsiCo, is an example of a leader who utilizes an imaginative and commander style. She transformed PepsiCo’s global strategy by diversifying into more health-conscious products, such as juices and waters and is considered a brilliant corporate strategist.[27] Similarly, a former PepsiCo vice-president, Maigread Eichten, is currently transforming FRS Healthy Energy, which produces a healthy alternative to highly caffeinated beverages and energy snacks, based on a product developed to provide energy to cancer survivors and women who have recently given birth.[28]

Pattern 5: Customer-Centric. This pattern represents a combination of the supportive and commander basic styles and is dominant in strong marketing- and sales-oriented organizations. Supportive behavior comes first because empathy for customer needs is more important than the drive to convince or persuade. Empathy means understanding and wanting what is best for the customer because satisfying the customer is also in the best interests of the firm.[29] Nonetheless, leaders must also utilize the commander style to drive results.

Example: Meg Whitman, former CEO of eBay, is a strong Pattern 5 leader who is supportive and a commander. As a former marketing executive at Disney and Hasbro, she was able to quickly grasp eBay’s core competencies and focus on community while expanding eBay into a global brand.[30] She increased efficiency at eBay and implemented new standards, such as not selling guns, by being both inspirational and commanding. Brad Anderson, CEO of Best Buy, has also used a customer-centric approach while commanding the troops in Best Buy’s transition from a product-centric company.[31]

Pattern 6: Employee-Centric: A combination of the supportive and imaginative basic styles, this pattern is necessary for understanding and supporting the needs of employees, associates, and customers, as well as having the imagination to inspire through external and internal public relations, advertising, promotion, and employee empowerment programs. It is essential for human resource leaders.[32]

Example: Anne Mulcahy, Xerox’s Chair of the Board and CEO, is both a supportive and imaginative leader, who is also not afraid to make the tough calls.[33] One difference that this former sales representative and human resource executive exhibits is that she listens to her employees. Former Kohl CEO Larry Montgomery is another example of an employee-centric leader. In a change of fortune, he recently stepped down as CEO and was appointed to run the company’s human resources area.[34] By combining Montgomery’s strengths with an area of critical need, Kohl’s has been able to maintain its reputation as a talent management leader.

Where do Authentic Leaders Come From?

Developing Authentic Visionary Leaders at every level creates a potential paradox—after all, not everyone will become a CEO.[35] Nonetheless, scholars have long been calling for authentic leadership development programs at every level to increase organizational effectiveness.[36] Authentic Visionary Leadership development is at the heart of making the nation stronger. According to Bennis, “A nation cannot survive without virtue, and it cannot progress without a common vision and high expectations.”[37]

While using LSI to build Authentic Visionary Leaders is not a panacea for the current global economic crisis, it is an important step in strengthening the national economy. By utilizing the LSI, individuals can determine where they are likely to be most effective given their strengths and then position themselves in jobs that can best utilize their talents. At the same time, organizations can allocate scarce resources to more effective leadership development programs that will build on the skills required of a given position and match an individual to the appropriate job. Individuals will gain insights about their authentic leadership abilities and may be able to avoid jobs that do not utilize their skills. Organizations will be able to develop more effective leaders that have the potential to solve not just the problems of today, but to anticipate the problems of tomorrow.

Determining the Authentic Visionary Leadership Patterns in Your Organization

  1. Take the LSI[38] to determine scores for each of the four leadership styles shown in Figure 1.
  2. Compare each score to typical ranges.[39] Authentic Visionary Patterns reflect all scores that fall in the “dominant” or “very dominant” range.[40]
  3. Finally, compare these results to the six Authentic Visionary Leadership patterns in Figure 2.

See Appendix A

See Appendix B

[1] Robert M. Fulmer and Jared L. Bleak, “Strategic Leadership, Part 1: Applying Lessons Learned from Research about Strategic Leadership Development,” Graziadio Business Report, 11, no. 2 (2007).

[2] Alan J. Rowe and James D. Boulgarides, Managerial Decision Making, (New York: Macmillan, 1992).

[3] Bill George, Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value, (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2003); Bill George, David Gergen, and Peter Sims, True North, (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2007).

[4] Warren Bennis, Why Leaders Can’t Lead: The Unconscious Conspiracy Continues, (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1989).

[5] Alan Rowe, Kathleen Reardon, and Warren Bennis, Leadership Style Inventory, Rvsd. November 11, 1993, (testing instrument). See Appendix A.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Steven I. Davis, “Walter Wriston: Building a Global Financial Services Business through Communications and Meritocracy,” Leadership in Financial Services: Lessons for the Future, (London: Macmillan, 1997): 69–73.

[8] Op.cit. [4].

[9] , “The Power of Steve Jobs,” Fortune, (November 22, 2007).

[10] Op. cit. [4].

[11] Philip Van Notten, Writing on the Wall: Scenario Development in Times of Discontinuity (Boca Raton: Universal Publishers, 2005).

[12] Op. cit. [4].

[13] George R. Goethals. “Theories of Presidential Leadership,” Annual Review of Psychology, 56 (February 2005): 545–570.

[14] Kathleen Reardon, J. Reardon, and Alan Rowe, “Leadership Styles for the Five Stages of Radical Change,” Acquisition Review Quarterly, (1996).

[15] Ibid.

[16] Op. cit. [4].

[17] Richard Mann. In-Know-vation: To be in the Know about Strategic Innovation, (Malibu: Manuscript-in-progress, 2008).

[18] Ibid.

[19] Op. cit. [12].

[20] Apple.com, Steve Jobs: CEO, Apple, http://www.apple.com/pr/bios/jobs.html.

[21] Op. cit. [12].

[22] Forbes.com, Bio:John Bogle, http://www.forbes.com/2008/06/10/bogle-invest-fund-oped-cx_hra_0610bio.html.

[23] The Decision Style Inventory (DSI) was an outgrowth of Richard Mann’s research as first conceived in Alan Rowe’s Decision Style Analysis class in 1975, but the Authentic Visionary Leadership Patterns were generated as a result of analyzing data and subsequent interviews by Mann in 2005. They were included in a manuscript-in-progress (see Op cit. [16]).

[24] Op. cit. [12].

[25] About.com, Flagging Down Mark Shapiro, http://themeparks.about.com/od/sixflagsarticles/a/shapiro2006.htm.

[26] Op. cit. [12].

[27] CNNMoney.com, PepsiCo Names First Woman CEO, http://money.cnn.com/2006/08/14/news/companies/pepsico_ceo/.

[28] Personal interview with Maigread Eichten, (San Francisco: September 13, 2008).

[29] Op. cit. [12].

[30] TechCrunch.com, Meg Whitman’s Exit Interview, http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/01/24/meg-whitmans-exit-interview/. (no longer accessible).

[31] HarvardBusinessPublishing.com, Customer-Centricity order form, http://harvardbusinessonline.hbsp.harvard.edu/b01/en/common/item_detail.jhtml?referral=1145&id=506055.

[32] Op. cit. [12].

[33] Xerox.com, Group Led by Xerox Chosen by the Department for Work and Pensions in the UK, http://www.xerox.com/go/xrx/template/inv_rel_newsroom.jsp?app=Newsroom&format=biography&view=. (no longer accessible).

[34] Just-Style.com, US: Mansell to Replace Montgomery as Kohl’s CEO, http://www.just-style.com/article.aspx?id=101784.

[35] Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus, Leadership: The Strategies for Taking Charge, (New York: Harper and Row, 1985).

[36] Noel Tichy and Warren Bennis, Judgment: How Winning Leaders Make Great Calls, (New York: Penguin Books, 2007).

[37] Op. cit. [3].

[38] See Appendix A for the LSI instrument that corresponds to the dominant styles in this article.

[39] Op. cit. [13]. Also see Appendix B for dominant scores and ranges.

[40] For additional assistance wit

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Authors of the article
Richard Mann, PhD
Richard Mann, PhD, is an adjunct professor at Pepperdine University’s Seaver College. He has over 20 years experience and continues to work in the areas of business entrepreneurship and non-profit as an executive. From 1995 to 2000, he was director of the DBA division of Pacific States University. Dr. Mann developed an entrepreneur and small-business incubator at Suffolk University in Boston, which he has presented at numerous academic and business conferences. As president of the Planning Forum in Boston and a member of the Southern California Association of Corporate Planners, he has co-authored several books and articles. His research involves planning and implementation problems for large and small firms, such as ARCO, CTC Communications Technology Corporation, Computax Corporation, and Hughes Aircraft.
V. Seshan, PhD
V. Seshan, PhD, is a professor at Pepperdine University’s Seaver College, where he teaches the capstone class in business policy, strategy, and ethics, and coordinates the International Management Studies program. Dr. Seshan offers an array of hands-on technological and management expertise as a senior executive for America’s leading Fortune 10 corporations IBM, DuPont, Olin, and ARCO in strategic planning, profit centers gains, R&D, marketing, manufacturing, and finance. He is the recipient of the inaugural Harriet & Charles Luckman Distinguished Teaching Fellowship reward for teaching excellence. Dr. Seshan is past-president and treasurer of the Western Casewriters Association, and treasurer of the Academy of Management’s MED Division.
Connie James, PhD
Connie James, PhD, is an associate professor and chairperson of the business administration division of Pepperdine University’s Seaver College. She has published and presented articles on organizational learning, strategic thinking, and ethics, and was an Exxon Fellow at the University of Michigan, where she earned a BA in Economics and an MBA in Finance. She completed her doctorate at UCLA, where she won awards for her dissertation on organizational learning and firm effects. She has been a faculty coach at Noel Tichy’s “Cycle of Leadership” workshop and chaired the Teacher Excellence Committee for the Business Policy and Strategy Division of the Academy of Management. Dr. James has been nominated for “Who’s Who, America Teachers.” She serves on the faculty of NAMIC and the board of Team World Corps.
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