Considerate or strict. Humble or egotistical. Admired or despised.
Bosses are usually lumped into clear-cut categories of “good” or “bad.” But according to a study by Jon Maner of Northwestern University, effective leadership is a perceptive shift between prestige and dominance.
In a general sense, prestige has to do with great importance. In leadership, however, it is muted to a good reputation. Prestigious leaders earn respect by displaying expertise and allowing others on the team to do the same. These bosses relegate themselves to the background, allowing people to share their ideas.
Dominant leadership is a familiar story. These bosses are assertive and authoritative. An example cited by Maner is Steve Jobs, whose bad mood was enough to send the team scrambling for a quick solution. Still speaking of Jobs, many dominant leaders are visionary and decisive.
Each leadership style has a drawback. Although perceived as ideal, prestigious leaders may shy away from making unpopular decisions like making the team work on a weekend, even when needed. Dominant leaders thrive on power, so they may perceive talented employees as a threat.
It is better for leaders to bend to the needs of the situation instead of being solely dominant or prestigious. A brainstorming session is better when ideas come from more heads than one—prestige leadership at work. But when troubles arise and quick decisions have to be made, dominant leadership is called for. One head to direct overwhelmed people may be the best thing for the team.