“The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.” – Ronald Reagan, former U.S. President

The 5 Top Sustainable Leadership Styles

Stop…and look around you. Yep, right where you are. Right now. For a moment.

It’s rare we reflect on the incredible individuals who have changed the course of human history, against all odds at times. Martin Luther King, Jr., Coco Chanel, and Steve Jobs are just a drop in the mighty ocean of change-makers we owe our modern lives to – our freedom, our fashion style and our Apple products in these instances – in a seemingly unfathomable list of significant contributors in their respective fields.

Behind every successful brand, business or organisation are great leaders.  Successful companies have grown to learn that to be leaders in their field, their inherent strength lies in having great leaders of their own.

Leadership is simply the art of inspiring people towards achieving a common goal.

Its simply though, is not without challenges. Humans are intoxicated by the concept of “What makes a great leader”. For a leader to be truly effective, they must first innately know their own dominant leadership style, then deeply understand and, at times, embody the other styles responding to various situations.

Adopting this fluid leadership strategy, lead by their dominant style, leaders will be equipped to triumph over many situations by applying appropriate and sustainable leadership styles.

We have uncovered the top sustainable leadership styles that are the foundations of great  brands to achieve great heights of success.

1. Expansive Leadership Style

The 5 Top Sustainable Leadership Styles

“It’s not necessary to be the number one to be a successful Company.”  – Jean-François van Boxmeer

Continuous growth and development are the hallmarks of the Expansive Leader.

Expansive Leaders are truly passionate about their work, and constantly strive to learn and improve the various aspects of their lives – and openly lead by example.

Leaders who embody Expansive Leadership, welcome change and are innovative. They respond to change by seeking to understand, anticipating its implications, creating a viable solution.

Heineken’s CEO, Jean-Francois van Boxmeer is an ideal example of an Expansive Leader. Heineken International is a family-owned Dutch brewery that’s considered one of the most successful companies in the world.

Through the leadership of Mr. Van Boxmeer, the company was hailed as the second largest brewer in the world, by market share, from being fourth over a decade ago. Like many expensive leaders, Mr. Van Boxmeer welcomed changed, was open to ideas, and achieved his simple, yet effective, goal of making ‘things overall better’ for the company.

Expansive Leadership has proven to be both an effective and sustainable method in becoming a successful leader and inspiring others. Expansive Leaders have a strong sense of connectivity and are keen to create and innovate wherever they may go.

2. Collaborative Leadership Style

The 5 Top Sustainable Leadership Styles

“To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Google

A Collaborative Leadership Style is a team-oriented management method.

The Collaborative Leader focuses on the process of engaging collective intelligence in driving the results desired. They tap into the knowledge and abilities of their team and recognises that their strength is greatest in a collective.

Leaders who effectively operate with dominant Collaborative Leadership place great importance in building relationships, growing connections, sharing of control, and handling conflicts through a constructive manner. Trust and equality are the foundations of Collaborative Leadership.

One of the most influential Collaborative Leaders in the world is Google. This huge Tech company puts emphasis on taking care of their people and most importantly team-work. Google’s cornerstone of success, just like collaborative leaders, is open information sharing. As their mission statement speaks volumes, “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

Over the years, the world has seen many successful Collaborative Leaders, with their success lying in the drive to create revolutionary ideas through harmony and teamwork.

  1. Visionary Leadership Style

The 5 Top Sustainable Leadership Styles

“Life is about creating and living experiences that are worth sharing.”  -Steve Jobs

A clear and consistent leader whose visions can inspire and provide meaning and purpose to the work of others is a Visionary Leader. The Visionary Leadership style is focused on developing a personal vision into a shared vision.

A vision that’s bigger than everyone, a common goal, a purpose that each and everyone believes in. Visionary Leaders are extremely articulate, imaginative, and confident.

Great leaders such as Steve Jobs possess the ability to effectively communicate their visions and sustaining the support of their followers. Apple Inc., and Martin Luther King Jr. are well-known Visionary Leaders who were able to make people share their dreams and visions of the future.

Visionary Leadership is an effective and sustainable method as it taps the emotions and challenges the belief of people. The foundation of Visionary Leadership is strong as it relies on creating and maintaining true loyal relationships with their followers.

  1. Servant Leadership Style

The 5 Top Sustainable Leadership Styles

“He who cannot be a good follower cannot be a good leader.” Aristotle

The Servant Leadership Style is built on collaboration, trust, empathy, and ethics.

First proposed by Robert K. Greenleaf in 1970, the concept of Servant Leaders are those driven to lead in order to better serve others. Those with this dominant style have well-developed listening skills and inspire people by showing genuine empathy. They put emphasis on stewardship and are committed to creating an environment that fosters the growth of others.

As once quoted by Aristotle, “He who cannot be a good follower cannot be a good leader.” Servant Leaders are effective leaders because people can relate to them. They share the same experiences with others, thus the support of their followers.

  1. Transformational Leadership

“Success is often achieved by those who don’t know that failure is inevitable.” – Coco Chanel

Transformational Leadership shares the same principles with Expansive, Collaborative, and Visionary Leadership styles. Transformational Leaders are guided by their vision for innovation, sharing this vision to the world, and creating a positive change to the system. This dominant leadership style is articulate, confident and passionate in making a positive impact in the world.

Coco Chanel, one of the most influential women in the world, is a Transformational Leader. She shared her vision of elegance and fashion to the world. People believed deeply in her vision drawing loyal supporters spanning the globe and all time. Coco Chanel’s confidence and passion to create a positive impact in the fashion industry forever changed history.

Transformational Leadership is a complex yet effective form of leadership. Great Transformational Leaders turn their visions into reality by leveraging the abilities of their people and creating revolutionary change in society.

How do you lead?

Understanding the different types of leadership is key to providing insights into your own dominant and preferred leadership style. Knowing your inherent style isn’t the ‘main prize’ though…

Your invaluable knowledge, and practice of integrating all four main leadership styles shines a light on the leadership styles of others you’re looking to influence, collaborate or negotiate with.  This is the edge, this is your power and this is your path to leading with success – in work and in life.


Nicole Hatherly is a leading Brand and Profile Strategist, international keynote speaker, facilitator, published writer and podcast producer, offering over 25 years’ experience delivering award-winning strategies for iconic and international brands.
As Founder and Director of Brand True North, she works with business leaders, thought leaders, founders and entrepreneurs to position their brands for maximum impact and their personal brands and profiles for high credibility and trust to deliver invaluable media exposure and prestigious business awards.