The Mindsets of a Leader

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According to Florida International University professors Modesto A. Maidique and Nathan J. Hiller, “One of the most revealing questions leaders can ask themselves is “Whom do I serve?” Their answers to that question say more about their style of leadership and field of influence than their personality traits or emotional intelligence does. And if they make that choice thoughtfully, it snaps their efforts into focus, helping them put together better teams, avoid disasters, and create lasting impact within the organization and beyond.”

In recent years, Maidique and Hiller have interviewed leaders from more than eighty organizations in a variety of industries. Based on those conversations and drawing from research in both cognitive leadership and developmental psychology, they have identified six leadership mindsets: they call them the Sociopath, the Egoist, the Chameleon, the Dynamo, the Builder, and the Transcender. Each one represents a set of assumptions and beliefs about the nature and purpose of leadership — and about how best to wield it.

In the course of presenting their model to individuals and groups, Maidique and Hiller realized that a self-assessment tool would be useful in helping people understand themselves as leaders. Partnering with Daniel Newman, an industrial and organizational psychology professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, they developed a set of leadership scenarios, along with response choices that map to the various mindsets in this framework. By filling out the survey at, you can see the mix of mindsets that influence your own leadership style.

This research was conducted over four and a half years and involved both inductive and deductive methods. First, Maidique and Hiller conducted twelve structured in-person interviews with current and former CEOs in various industries (including semiconductors, biotechnology, finance, construction, and government). The companies included National Semiconductor Corp., Archstone Partnerships, Carnival Corp., Micron Technology Inc., Analog Devices Inc., and Odebrecht Organization. From these interviews, they developed a preliminary set of leadership mindsets.

In their experience...

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