Idea in Brief

The Debate

Which is the best style of leadership: empowering others or taking charge and pushing people to do great work?

The Answer

The authors’ research found that the answer is not either/or. Effective leaders—and teams—routinely shift from one mode to the other and back again, depending on the needs of the moment.

The Implications

Leaders should question the assumptions and beliefs that block them from alternating styles. They should analyze themselves and their teams and make all aware of whether they’re trapped in one power mode or the other. They should send clear signals about the mode expected in each situation and reinforce a bimodal approach with their own words and deeds.

Do the best leaders take charge, lead from the front, give orders, and push people to do great work? Or do they listen to them, empower them, and get out of the way?

A version of this article appeared in the March–April 2023 issue of Harvard Business Review.