The average person makes about 35,000 decisions a day.  

What should I eat? What should I wear? How will I spend my morning? Should I pick up this random number? What time should I book my dentist appointment? Whatever your decision-making style may be, it impacts your future and those around you.

Before we take an in-depth look at five unique leaders that embody their own distinct decision-making style, take a peek at our strategic thinking guide.

Strategic Thinking Skill Guide | Definition and Examples | Matter
Strategic Thinking is developing effective plans that are aligned with a company’s mission. Learn what is strategic thinking, examples, and how to improve it.

The visionary decision-maker

Steve Jobs has become synonymous with visionary decision-making. It's years after his passing that Jobs is still regarded and coined for his visionary leadership approach. His meticulous eye for detail and uncanny insight into social trends changed the world we know today.

So, what makes a visionary a visionary? They focus on long-term results, brainstorm uniques solutions, take responsibility end-to-end, and push creativity at the forefront. Visionaries are driven and inspired by a clear idea of how the future will look. Just take a look at Jobs' famous 2005 Stanford Commencement Speech where he discusses the importance of finding your vision.

Steve Jobs talks about understanding your vision in life at his legendary commencement speech. (Video from YouTube)

When are visionary leaders important?

Organizations will seek out visionary leaders when they're either experiencing a transition or challenging times.

Visionary leaders characteristically bring cohesiveness to inspire everyone to be on the same page. To meet their objectives, visionary leaders are often charismatic and determined. They identify themselves as confident coaches who are meant to guide the organization through transitions or difficult organizational eras.

If you are working on something exciting that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed. The vision pulls you.

— Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple

The catalyst decision-maker

Meet Greta Thunberg. At just 15, she became the youngest catalyst for a global climate strike movement called #FridaysForFuture.

Thunberg quickly became a household name as she sat in front of the Swedish Parliament every school-day for three weeks to protest against the lack of action on the climate crisis. She garnered support from thousands of young activists around follow her footsteps.

Her demands were, and still are, simple: Politicians should follow the Paris agreement and declare an international climate emergency.

Greta Thunberg speaking at a protest, explaining why it is crucial for individuals to take action. (Image from BBC)

When are catalyst leaders important?

Catalysts help get the ball rolling. They are the people that take the team out of ideation into action. They're the key players in a company's success. A catalyst and a visionary are similar as they both take risks, but a visionary is the glue that keeps the team together while a catalyst gets the engine started.

I have learned you are never too small to make a difference.

Greta Thunberg, climate change activist

The guardian decision-maker

Barack Obama: "What I can say pretty indisputably is that you're [women] better than us [men]." He's definitely talking about Michelle Obama.

Michelle Obama's charisma and compassion that has invoked permanent social change is what defines her as a guardian decision-maker. She stepped outside the traditional boundaries of the first lady to ensure issues on women's rights, public health, and racism were addressed. In essence, her mission was to show that every voice has the power to change the world.

Most of us today want leaders who resemble us rather than stand apart from us. At the end of the day, we want assurance that our leaders can recognize and empathize with our struggles. Above all, guardians deeply identify with the ideal of service. Their leadership is about empowering others.

Take a look at this speech Michelle Obama gave championing women's leadership and the value of mentoring and being a guardian for the next generation. (Video from YouTube)

When are guardian leaders important?

Guardian leaders help shepherd and protect the team. They ensure a healthy, safe work environment where everyone feels included and empowered to do their best work.

There's power in allowing yourself to be known and heard, in owning your unique story, in using your authentic voice. And there's grace in being willing to know and hear others.

— Michelle Obama, attorney and former first lady of United States

The motivating decision-maker

Motivating decision-makers are leaders who show gratitude and appreciation for those around them. They truly live by the old say, "There's no 'I' in team." They believe in empowering and creating a deep sense of purpose in their teams. And that's exactly what Indra Nooyi did with her colleagues.

Nooyi, PepsiCo’s first female CEO, leaned into her unique methods of motivating and aligning teams to change the trajectory of a multinational corporation. She went as far to show her appreciation by writing hand-written notes to employees’ parents. Now, that's what we call a motivational force.

Indra Nooyi brings people along in the journey and motivates her team to be their personal best. (Photo from CNBC)

When are motivating leaders important?

Motivators keep the company going through the hard times. These individuals bridge together cross-functional teams that otherwise would have nothing in common together. Motivating leaders thrive on building connections, empowering individuals, and displaying gratitude.

We want to create an environment in PepsiCo where every employee can bring their whole self to work and not just make a living but also have a life.

— Indra Nooyi, former CEO of PepsiCo

The flexible decision-maker

Jenn Hyman, founder of Rent the Runway, a company which allows women to wear and experience clothing at a fraction of the purchase price, has in six years won over $114 million in venture capital backing, hired about 350 individuals, and partnered with more than 300 luxury designers.

This has all been possible because of Hyman's flexible mindset and approach to building and growing with a company. What exactly is a flexible decision-maker? When faced with a problem, flexible leaders will research just enough information to carefully choose a line of attack and change course.

Rent The Runway: Jenn Hyman : How I Built This with Guy Raz
Jenn Hyman got the idea for Rent the Runway in 2008, after she watched her sister overspend on a new dress rather than wear an old one to a party. Jenn and her business partner built a web site where women could rent designer dresses for a fraction of the retail price. As the company grew, they deal…
Listen to Jenn Hyman's podcast interview with Guy Raz. They discuss leadership and how flexibility played a major part in her success. (Podcast from NPR)

When are flexible leaders important?

Flexible leaders are the champions of innovation. These individuals help a company stay on its toes and adjust their sails when a new problem arises. Flexible leaders always take feedback seriously and make people feel heard and understood.

As our company has grown, we have become more flexible about when people are expected to be physically in the office. We understand that people have responsibilities outside the office that they need to tend to.

— Jenn Hyman, founder and CEO of Rent the Runway

Finding a leadership archetypes that fits you

You can mix and match find a balance that matches your leadership style. If you are trying to build a product, you will need a catalyst. You will need someone to motivate the team and someone to help execute it. If you're part of a big company, you will need guardians to protect your brand category and vision. As with all things in life, it's all about finding the balance that works best and benefits your team.


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