For the next 10 minutes, I want to give you a few little thought-provoking analogies about leadership styles as demonstrated by the music from the ’80s (a decade of punk, rock, and everything in-between).

I definitely have lyrics on the brain right now, so let’s just say I’m going for the reaction of, “things that make you go hmmm!”

What’s your anthem?

Music’s always been a huge focal point of my life. I can instantly change my mood with a song. It can take me to new heights in life or support whatever feeling that I need to process at the moment. For example, if you looked at my iPod you would see a collection from almost every genre dating back to the ’60s all the way to the present.

When I’m working out, I have a playlist full of angry rock music that pushes me forward. When I’m mourning something, I might listen to my Christian music or love songs. When I’m happy, you’ll find all kinds of music from Aretha Franklin to Miley Cyrus (yes, I just admitted that to the world).

The point is I can turn on my iPod and slip away to another reality. If this resonates with you, you’re really going to enjoy this blog!

For me, the 1980’s brings back fond memories and offers some of the best music. This decade produced some truly talented musicians that can paint a picture like no other and tell a beautiful story. I was listening to Pandora the other day and Tears for Fears came on… and I before I knew it, I began singing “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”.

While this may seem a bit odd — the singing of that song and the thought process that came soon after — connected two seemingly unrelated things. You see, I’d been working with a group of employees who were having difficulty with a leader. Yet, it made me wonder, “How many songs can I find that truly define the essence of a leader?”

This particular “Wham!” song reminded me of a leader you may know as a Command/Control type; the one that micro-manages, challenges everything, hovers and likely gives less than constructive feedback on your deliverables. Have you ever worked for this kind of leader? Um, yeah me too. It’s a painful experience but have no fear, there are so many great leaders out there! Even more who are right there on the cusp of being a force to be followed.

This whole experience sent me to the internet to explore other ’80s songs that may resonate. In my 15 years of supporting, developing, and working with leaders, I found that behaviors are situational but there’s an overarching natural style that defines the leader.

Let’s explore leadership styles that you may wish to follow, learn from, or stay away from in your career. Now, if you’re the leader, you can determine which leader you are, or better yet, which one you want to be.

Let’s get started on our musical journey. Take a look at the descriptors and sing along in your head if the mood strikes you…

First let’s begin with my personal favorite:


The Authentic Leader

This leader’s the craftsman.They care about the task at hand, but also about the people that need to make it happen. Engagement’s a focal point of their style.

They’re flexible, a good team builder, and listen actively. They measure success by balancing the values of their employees and the results necessary to accomplish a goal. They personally drive for achievement, trust, teamwork, and integrity. They can bring up the energy in a room just by being present!

The song that plays in my mind for this type of leader is “What’s On Your Mind (Pure Energy)” by Information Society:

I wanna know
What you’re thinking
There are some things you can’t hide…
I wanna know
What you’re feeling
Tell me what’s on your mind


As a side note, this is a leader on the edge of greatness. With a little bit of development, they can reach the authentic leader status because they naturally hold a lot of the characteristics.

The Mentor/Guardian Leader

This leader goes to great lengths to be transparent and gain followership. They’re an effective listener, easy-going, stress harmony, and are dependable.

Small talk’s welcomed and understanding quality of work life for everyone is important. They want to know all about you so they can help you develop and grow. The downside of this type of leader is they may delay making tough calls because of their loyalty to their team versus accomplishing the goal. Any Bryan Adams fans out there? Their messaging to the team sounds like “Straight From the Heart…”

Give it to me straight from the heart
Tell me we can make another start
You know I’ll never go – as long as I know
It’s comin’ straight from the heart

The Zen/Charismatic Leader

This leader makes the team feel like everything’s going to be okay at all times.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a “wooer”. They’re the one who says, “Don’t worry, just take it day by day.” Having this type of calm in the midst of a storm’s a wonderful feeling.

BUT… the drawback here can be that when times are tough, they may not truly have your back. They’re likely to avoid conflict at all costs. They prefer harmony to dealing with the issue at hand. It’s a great trait to have the skill-set to rally the troops, but there has to be support when the rubber hits the road.

The song of a Zen leader’s the good old Bobby McFerrin song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy…”

Here’s a little song I wrote
You might want to sing it note for note
Don’t worry, be happy
In every life we have some trouble
But when you worry you make it double
Don’t worry, be happy
Don’t worry, be happy now


The Egomaniac Leader

This is a lot like the Command/Control leader, but it goes beyond trust and delegation issues. It truly gets to the heart of “I know more than you” or “I’m smarter than you”.

I like to compare this leader to the Godfather. This leader expects loyalty. They’re authoritative and create dependencies on themselves. They tend to be solo decision makers as if “the buck stops here”. They’re good in a crisis because they focus on getting things done at any cost. They’re poor listeners. They believe in a hierarchical respect regardless of the behavior exhibited.

Eventually, they burn out their team or cause disengagement. And why not, right? In the end, they validated the original thought process that they truly are smarter and better than you!

This leadership style sounds a lot like the good old song from Charlie Daniels Band, “Devil Went Down to Georgia…”

Now, you play pretty good fiddle, boy,
but give the devil his due
I’ll bet a fiddle of gold against your soul,
’cause I think I’m better than you

The Toxic Narcissistic Leader

Yes, you know this leader. It’s a combination of the Command/Control leader and the egomaniac leader.

It’s the one that doesn’t care whether you’re human or a robot. Their turnover numbers are astronomical. The only concern’s around whether or not the job’s getting done. Oh, and that they look good — giving very little credit to the actual worker bees.

The feeling this leader exudes to a team is a sense of urgency around every issue. They tend to drive a lot of drama into their team environment. They’re aggressive, negative, and have an intense need for control. They challenge everything and everyone

Because this leader’s all about themselves and don’t really care about the people, the song that best describes them is by Queen, “Another One Bites the Dust…”

Another one bites the dust
Another one bites the dust
And another one gone, and another one gone
Another one bites the dust
Hey, I’m gonna get you too
Another one bites the dust

I just couldn’t stop there on this one. I think another song that describes how this leader makes YOU feel is “Beat It,” a classic by Michael Jackson:

They’re out to get you, better leave while you can
Don’t wanna be a boy, you wanna be a man
You wanna stay alive, better do what you can
So beat it, just beat it

The Rogue Leader

This is a leadership trait to watch out for in your career.

They’re the salesman. Skillful, bright communicators who are politically savvy, but play by their own rules. They’re competitive, which often drives them towards their own agenda versus what’s in the best interest of the company.


Because clearly they already know what’s in the best interest of the company, so they’re going to do their own thing until everyone catches up with them and their brilliance!

Because culture eats strategy for breakfast, this type of leader doesn’t usually last long. Selling ideas and being able to gain support and attracting followership is the key to a successful leader, so the house of cards typically will crumble on this type of rogue renegade.

A perfect song to describe this leader is by Whitesnake, the ultimate rock band of the ’80s, “Here I Go Again…”

Here I go again on my own
Goin’ down the only road I’ve ever known
Like a drifter I was born to walk alone
‘cos I know what it means to walk along the lonely street of dreams

What songs came to your head based on my descriptions?

I’m sure there are a lot more out there, but these resonated for me. I’ve worked with, supported, and been many of these leaders over my career.

I tended to float between the mentor and authentic, but I’m not fooling myself. There was always a little bit of the rogue leader in me. I wanted to try new things and sometimes the company wasn’t willing to go there with me. I sold in ideas and watched them get just enough support to feed my drive, but sometimes it wasn’t enough to get full buy-in, so my strategies and goals would fail.

I blogged a while back about the Art of the F Word, where epic failures are a must so you can learn and grow. So while I went there from time to time, I definitely grew over my 15 years of leadership.

If you’re a leader who’s on the edge of being that authentic leader, but just need a little bit of guidance to get you to the next level, I encourage you to think about these types of leaders.

Seek out support to define the leader you want to be, put a plan of action around it, and begin sharing the best of you with your team. It can be an exciting ride finding your PURE ENERGY and personal zone of authentic leadership.

I’d love to keep the conversation going, so please comment below!