Which of These Ps Define Your Personal Leadership Style?

by Alli Polin on February 5, 2019

The issue had been brewing for close to a year. Sue reminded me that she joined the team a few months ago and inherited the problem; it wasn’t her fault.  

Sure, I agreed. You didn’t start this, but you’re the leader. What happens next is up to you.  

Over the next few weeks, we connected, and I began to understand her default personal leadership behaviors.  


Looked at the issue… but not too closely, afraid of what she’d find.  

Told herself it wasn’t so bad… and maybe it would resolve itself.  

Took a few jabs at getting momentum towards resolution, but nothing that would result in anything messy or a KO.  

Then came the point of crisis.  

People on the front lines were beyond frustrated and once quiet mumbles of leaving “someday” started to look a lot like a mass exodus.  

Things had to be resolved one way or another. Every path forward had effort and pain, but the hardest would be arduous and also have the most significant positive impact on the division.  

Instead of peering, pretending and poking, Sue needed to dig deep, recognize her default personal leadership style, and choose to change. Moreover, she had to choose to be aware of when she was falling into patterns that would not serve her or the team. Self-awareness in the midst of crisis is a leadership competency that’s hard to cultivate- that’s why she had a coach to support her.  

Are You a Pauser, Perceiver or Pacer? What P’s Define Your Default Personal Leadership?

Turns out, when it comes to leadership styles, most people have a mixture of P’s – default behaviors that define the way we engage, inspire and lead.  

As you go through the list, ask yourself: Do I do this? You’ll discover that some you do and need to stop, and others you don’t and need to start, not to mention those that you need to continue. Remember, different situations require different approaches.  

There is no one way to lead. 


You look in on an issue from a distance hoping that nobody sees you and asks you to get too involved.  


You can move agendas forward. Instead of accepting the blow-off, you ensure that critical issues aren’t ignored and important programs don’t die a slow death. 


Maybe you send an email to get more information or discretely ask a question or two. Whatever you do it’s easy, and you can say you’re doing something.  


You make sure people know about great work that’s happening on the team and about changes that need to take place. You take a positive sales-forward approach.   


Worry is a constant. “What if?” is always the question of the day. You don’t create solutions because you’re so busy obsessing over the problem.  


Until you’re 100% sure you know the right thing to do, you’re paralyzed. You research, talk to people, research some more on an endless loop and ultimately take little action.  


“Head in the sand” is a losing leadership approach. Even worse, reporting you have it all under control when you don’t doesn’t make it real.  


There are “let’s put a pin in it” people. Is that you? If you always tell your team that you’ll get to it, but every single month it rolls to next months agenda, be honest, you’re on pause


Nobody has to tell you something’s not working, you know, you feel it, and sense when things need intervention and when they don’t.  


Willing to roll out changes and solutions but not before they’re 100% guaranteed to be perfect? Yup. This is you.


You can talk anyone into anything not because you wear them down by being annoying but because you are gifted at sharing a compelling story to create meaningful change.  


A key component of success is hanging in there and refusing to give up at the first (or second or third) roadblock.  


We all know “because that’s the way we’ve always done it” leaders. When there’s an issue that you’ve inherited or are the first in line, looking back instead of looking forward is a perpetuator’s favorite pastime.  


On the positive side, sometimes pestering is what it takes to get people to take action. On the flip, a pesterer can be like a mosquito that people just want to leave them alone.  


This leader likes to look 100 steps ahead at all times and envision countless possibilities. All that imagining and pontificating may feel like action, but it’s not.  


Always have your team’s back? That’s a leader who’s using their protector style to help the team. Protecting the status quo and defending decisions that only favor the corporation at the expense of the individual? That’s protecting that’s not serving anyone. 


Shit stinks. Still, you may try to convince everyone it smells sweet with your creative spinning and all-hands rhetoric. Truth is, you can put all the perfume you want on it, and it’s still shit.  

Sue needed to do some pestering (outside of her comfort zone) and persuading. She also was a perceiver but chose to push down her intuition instead of rocking the boat. Ultimately, understanding her defaults and resistance to new behaviors enabled her to take a crisis situation and find a solution to move forward and retain talent.  

Sue had doubters, people who said she couldn’t or wouldn’t – but she did. Why? Because she decided that she was willing to dare herself and not buy into the bullshit that a positive outcome was impossible. She also surrounded herself with people who were willing to help her create change.  

Whether you’re running a team or division, the school PTA or head of your household, the Ps that define your personal leadership style aren’t out of your control.  

Know this: Things may be hard or awkward or uncomfortable or unsettling, but nothing is impossible.  

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Chery Gegelman February 5, 2019 at 10:33 am

Alli – I recognize a few P’s in there! And I love the mix of the challenge to recognize our own behaviors, and the encouragement at the end that we can control what happens next.


Alli Polin February 5, 2019 at 5:06 pm

Thanks, Chery! I know there are a lot of P’s 🙂 Different circumstances can bring out different behaviors. Sometimes they serve us and the people on our teams and other times not so much.

Hope all’s well!



Terri Klass February 6, 2019 at 9:29 am

I love your post and your insights about the many P’s that make up our personality and choices! I can relate to so many of them especially the Perceiver and the Pusher. I need to trust my gut when dealing with difficult client situations and sometimes help push out the importance of what I am sharing to help them develop their leadership.
I will definitely share!


Alli Polin February 6, 2019 at 11:14 pm

Learning to turn up the volume on our gut and intuition is so important. It’s tempting to play it safe when there are difficult client situations but when you have something to share in service of their success, it’s not the time to hold back. Thanks for sharing your experience!



LaRae Quy February 9, 2019 at 6:49 pm

Well done, Alli! I recognize myself more than once as I moved down your excellent list. What really struck me, though, were the different situations in which one of those default behaviors kicked in. As you say, it really does depend upon the situation and people involved. There have been times when I’ve backed off and let the chips fall because no one wanted to listen to a different opinion…their way had always worked before so no reason to change with the times—the perpetuator. And other times when I needed to pester because the team was ALWAYS late 🙁 Thanks for a great article that can help leaders see themselves in different situations…


Alli Polin February 11, 2019 at 11:17 pm

Appreciate your examples of when you adopted different styles. Not every circumstance brings out the same behavior in us. Knowing that we may call on any of these is what helps us choose to be more mindful about it too.

Thanks, LaRae!


Karin Hurt February 10, 2019 at 8:09 pm

LOVE THIS! I see so much application here. It makes me also so curious about what triggers might make leaders chose to adopt one of these choices. I know I can relate to a number of these… and what makes me go there is a curious question.


Alli Polin February 11, 2019 at 11:14 pm

Hello there! Thanks!

What a great question. I definitely believe that there are triggers, not only default behaviors in every single circumstance. I’m going to continue to take a look too to see if there are some answers hidden within the patterns.

Thanks, Karin!


Gary Gruber February 12, 2019 at 9:39 am

Seventeen P’s and I didn’t see Power as a default. I’m the boss, that’s why. Or I am the Mom, that’s why. There were (and are) those times when the leader has to take the reins, make a critical decision and hope it was the right one. Regardless, your list itself reveals much about a leader’s style, personality and behavior. Ironically, we must be drinking the same thing. Look at my post of a couple of days ago on The Spirit of Leadership. We’re back after 6 weeks in Mexico and I’m off to a national conference in another two weeks. Would rather still be south of the border where a T shirt said, “Relax, you’re on the fun side of Trump’s wall.”


Alli Polin February 12, 2019 at 8:33 pm

First of all, that is a winning t-shirt slogan.

Second, thanks for adding Power. There are times when leaning into our power is what we need to do to get things done. Other times, its’ a crappy way to force people to do what you say they have to do (especially when it’s overused but that applies to just about every one on the list.)

Enjoy your upcoming conference!



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