The essence of intelligent leadership is to lead by example and empower others. By creating value for others, intelligent leaders pave their way to success.  Those who do not have the maturity to recognize how leadership works, end up goading and pushing their reports, often pursuing personal goals. Such a leadership style is doomed to fail.

“You don’t lead by hitting people over the head – that’s assault, not leadership.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Unless you intend to lead your company as an organized crime ring or a feudal state, you have to learn the difference between pushing and pulling in the context of leadership.

The intelligent leader leads by example. He/she is the mule diver who gets off the cart at the foot of the hill to lighten the load and takes hold of the reins, leading the animals up the road.

By contrast, the boss/pusher stays on, cracking the whip harder, goading those bearing all the weight to do more.

Get off that cart and start leading by example. 

There is a certain measure of both of these leadership affinities in everyone. The question is, are you more of a pusher or a puller?

Are You a Pusher or a Puller?

To find out on which side of this equation your leadership style resides, you can ask yourself a handful of simple questions. You can also delve deeper into the issue and use my Enneagram of Leadership Maturity to determine how your leadership style relates to your maturity and how you can improve it.

  • When you are under stress, is fear the primary driver of your decisions?
  • When you make a decision, do you shape it around your personal motives?
  • Do you feel that you are above your reports and peers and that your contributions to the common cause greatly exceed theirs?

If your answer is yes to any of those questions, you may have a pusher streak in your leadership style.

Taking a Closer Look at Your Leadership Style

From the perspective of professional leadership development, however, nothing is ever simple. As I have pointed out in my books, we aim to gain very specific and precise answers so we can work out actionable ways to mend leadership deficiencies and maximize strengths.

Based on my Map of Leadership Maturity, identifying your predominant leadership style is the first step of the diagnosis process. The leadership style closest to what one would call a pusher is what I have defined as a Driver. If you read my book “Intelligent Leadership,” you will see that there’s a huge difference between a mature Driver and a derailing one.

Leadership Style and Maturity

Derailing Drivers are perhaps the worst type of pushers. They care about no one and nothing but their personal goals and agenda. They will gladly sabotage whomever they perceive as an adversary on their way to the top. By failing to cooperate, however, they sabotage themselves as well, in the ultimate display of leadership immaturity.

Leadership maturity is an essential ingredient of intelligent leadership.

Mature Drivers, on the other hand, inspire through the confidence they show, and thus help others achieve the success they may not have been able to reach on their own. Such drivers may still see themselves as better than others, but in their case, this false sense of superiority translates to an overdeveloped sense of relatedness rather than hostility.

How Can You Be a Puller Instead of a Pusher?

Maturity makes all the difference when it comes to leading as a true leader rather than a warlord. Maturity gives you a deeper understanding of human cooperation and psychology. A mature leader knows that leadership is about making others want to do something rather than forcing them to do it.

Mature leaders have appropriate levels of courage, integrity, and humility to realize that the road to success leads through the empowerment of others and not in their deprecation.

For More Information 

To deepen your understanding of the concepts of mature leadership, follow my blog, or take a look at my book “Intelligent Leadership” and other publications.


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