An organization is often made up of different types of people, all with varying strengths, weaknesses, and personality types—with this diversity come different leadership styles. As you think about the people within your team, consider how the managers or leaders show up, communicate, and delegate in their roles. Some of these managers may be easy to approach and other leaders may cut small talk out and get right to the point.
These different traits usually correlate to a certain leadership style. Let’s explore the rainbow of leadership styles and the traits that coincide with each color.
What are leadership colors?
Leadership colors refer to the personality type of a leader, and specifically what leadership style they use most often and the types of management skills in their arsenal. Knowing which color pertains to each leader within your organization can help you build a strong relationship with leadership and understand the best way to deal with and interact with them in work situations.
Below is a breakdown of Lara Hogan’s rainbow of leadership styles.
When someone has a red leadership color, this can mean this person has a directional leadership style. Someone who is red is driven by purpose and is always determined to push things forward–even if a given project may not necessarily be ready to move forward with yet. This person values helpful and exciting ideas. They’re sometimes more focused on the task at hand rather than on people, and you can find them having intense, high-energy debates about various issues or concepts.
Without a red leader, a team or an organization may see purpose and direction lessen over time. An example of someone with a red leadership style is a front-line manager or a sales leader. Some emotions a red leader may have are a sense of urgency, feelings of frustration, and a little bit of anger. Others may find their drive and working style intimidating, but every organization needs a handful of red leaders.
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Next up, we have orange leaders. This type of leader tends to be flexible, easy-going, and open to change. Typically, someone with an orange leadership style is the one who sets forth change in the first place. They don’t let challenges, burdens, or roadblocks affect their temperament, and you may find them saying, “let’s keep it moving!” as their team moves through projects and to-do lists.
Orange leaders are often adventurous, spontaneous, optimistic, and impulsive, but are still cautious of potential mistakes.
People with a yellow leadership style are made to inspire others since this color aligns with inspirational leadership. For comparison, while a red leader will lead with an idea or a mission, a yellow leader will put relationships with others front and center.
You’ll find a yellow leader investing in their team members and inspiring them to take action and succeed. They’re personable, trusting, likely to crack a joke, and they often speak with their hands. A yellow leader is typically not someone who will focus on or handle the details of a significant project or initiative, so it’s best to have someone else handle big action items or tasks.
A yellow leader may also have a good sense of humor and be sociable, lighthearted, and effervescent. You may find that your CEO (chief executive officer) or chief marketing officer is a yellow leader.
Next in the color wheel is green, which aligns with a collaborative leadership style. An individual with a green leadership style likely leads by encouraging the team when times get tough and has “never give up” as their motto. They often are lateral leaders, meaning they bring people together who are not necessarily on the same team or within their reporting line. A green leader trusts their team, is loyal and patient, and often makes for a great friend inside and outside the office.
It’s important to seek out the opinions of a green leader, as they sometimes keep their opinions or emotions to themselves. Typically, a green leader is in tune with their feelings, is a great listener, and has high emotional intelligence. You may find a green leader in a chief human resources officer position or in a role focused on improving the customer experience.
An individual with a blue leadership color exhibits operational leadership styles. They’re the person in a business or organization you turn to when you need to build a process or system that will lead to success from scratch. They help build company culture and implement new initiatives to help others. They’re always paying close attention to the details and asking hard questions to ensure every task is done correctly. Nothing falls through the cracks for a blue leader!
You may find a blue leader working in logistics, operations, or finance roles. Sometimes a blue leader is socially withdrawn, but they always exude high-quality work. Some personality traits of a blue leader are analytical, calm, organized, and steady.
Next, we have the purple leadership style, which refers to someone who is creative, is great at storytelling, and goes with the flow. As a leader, this individual will often encourage creativity in others while being innovative and quick to come up with solutions others may not have considered.
Some roles a purple leader may gravitate toward are graphic designer or content creator roles. People seek out a purple leader to help them see problems from a different perspective and potentially get a solution that no one else has considered.
Someone who exhibits a brown leadership style favors complexity and ambiguity and may live in nuance. Within an organization, these leaders often are one with their team and aim to get everyone working as a cohesive unit for maximum productivity. However, sometimes a brown leader may struggle to delegate tasks effectively and will do things on their own. Because this can lead to burnout, it’s important that brown leaders know this about themselves.
Last but not least, the black leadership style is someone who is straightforward with their thoughts and opinions, very direct, and often rational, and who sees things as cut and dry. Someone with a black leadership style can sometimes be hard to reason with and may struggle to see things from other sides. You may find a leader with a black style in an analytical position or as a member of the team who always tells it like it is.
Best practices for leadership colors
No matter what leadership color you align with most, here are three best practices to keep in mind to get the most out of every color.
- Take advantage of the variety of leadership styles in your toolbox
- Create your own rainbow
- Observe how you feel using each leadership style
1Take advantage of the variety of leadership styles in your toolbox
Leadership colors aren’t one-size-fits-all. In fact, the same leader can fall into more than one bucket of color, so lean into the fact that you can have a variety of leadership styles, depending on with whom you’re working.
For instance, some team members may react differently to different leadership styles, so know when to use which one for the best results. As a manager, you may have direct reports who need different leadership colors during your one-on-ones. Or, the color you use when working with other managers may be different than the one you use when in meetings with your team.
2Create your own rainbow
You don’t have to relate to every leadership color, but you can create your own rainbow by sticking to the colors that work best for your personality and working relationships. You’ll likely start to have a few colors that work best with other team members and specific situations. Once you have that narrowed down, build your own rainbow by honing into and perfecting how to use those colors.
3Observe how you feel using each leadership style
Not every leadership style will be your cup of tea. When you try out new colors outside the one you typically gravitate towards, see how you feel in the moment and right after. Additionally, take notice of how people react to this change in style. Do people take you more seriously, or do they brush you off?
It’s okay to admit that certain leadership colors are not the right fit. But you won’t know for sure until you try all eight!
Paint with all the colors of executive leadership styles
From red to blue to black, there are many colors you can choose from for your leadership style. Find the ones you like best and pinpoint the ones that just don’t work with your personality or role. Once you try all eight on for size at least once, you’ll know how you can best succeed in the leadership styles that align with who you are both as a person and as a leader at work.