What Kind of Leader Are You?


I recently discovered a well-established leadership theory (Rooke and Torbert, HBR April, 2005) that divides individuals into 7 types of leaders. The theory, as it reads, conceives these 7 leadership types as different developmental levels that people evolve through on their leadership path.

The authors supported their theory with several corporate and non-profit anecdotes, but it really got me thinking about entrepreneurs and how leadership theory applies, and should matter to them too.

If you are an entrepreneur envisioning launching or running your own successful small business, you might falsely believe that leadership theory is best left to the “big boys” or the tech founders hoping to become the next Mark Zuckerberg.  Let me tell you why you’d be wrong. . .

Imagine you are a solo business owner – it’s just you against the world.  What does leadership look like in this case? Leadership is first the ability to envision a future where your business is reaching and helping others – and then it’s your leadership skills that help enroll others in your vision to make that dream a reality.   Whether the others are web designers building your platform, or clients and customers believing what you provide will benefit and enhance their lives, you are creating a shared vision with them.  So if you are still solo, how much time have you spent defining your business vision and how you will you attract those around you to your mission?

And what if your business is already you plus a team?  I think leadership is what turns you from an employer, hiring people to do what you say – into someone creating a shared culture that helps motivate and enthuse your employees.  Let’s be honest, it’s hard to get passionate about serving others overpriced drinks, but Starbucks management has changed the terms to making people’s day happier and warmer, to making Starbucks the bright spot of their day.  And that grander philosophy continues to galvanize 1000s of employees every single day.  So if you’re beyond the solo stage, what company culture are you transmitting to your employees? (I sure hope it’s not, ‘do what I say without making mistakes or face my wrath!’)

The seven transformations of leadership as Rooke and Torbert envisioned them range from the Opportunist to the Alchemist.  In the interests of space and the limited time you might have, I’ve condensed them into a table with brief descriptions, what the benefits and drawbacks might be of each level in the entrepreneurial space, and a question I believe is relevant for seeing new possibilities and moving along the leadership trajectory.

If you’re really interested in learning more, you can click here  to take a free initial profile of your own leadership style, or here.

(Click on table to enlarge it)

So now my question to you is, where do you think you land on this leadership spectrum? (Just leave a comment below to let me know!)

My challenge to you is to consider these more broad questions:

  • What does leadership mean to you as an entrepreneur?
  • Do you believe it’s beneficial for entrepreneurs to embrace leadership theory or does it not seem to apply to your business model?  If not, why?

Jo Ilfeld, PhD

An executive leadership coach, Jo helps C-suite leaders, executives, and high-potential managers develop the flexibility, skill, and frame of mind to meet the challenges of the next five, ten, twenty years…. and beyond. She works with individuals, teams and organizations on four core areas of leadership development. Check out Jo's bio page for more information.


  1. […] that it is more valuable than I might expect for my own market. Think about articles I have published in my newsletter and on this blog like January’s taking executive leadership and applying it to […]

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