There are two ways to hold onto power: You either dominate everyone and demand their support, or you get them to like you.
Which one is better? That depends on your organization, according to a Sept. 6, 2016 Kellogg Insight article based on research from Professor Jon Maner.
Dominance-motivated leaders rise through the ranks and gain followers via intimidation and coercion. They are swift, decisive decision-makers and are good at uniting an organization behind a single vision. However, they are sometimes willing to sacrifice the best interest of the group to benefit themselves when faced with an internal threat to their power—for example, to keep a talented subordinate from shining too brightly. On the other hand, these leaders are galvanized when faced with an external threat from competitors.
Prestige-motivated leaders achieve their status by displaying their knowledge and skills and convincing people they are worth following. They are good at fostering creativity and getting their teams to innovate. However, they will sometimes choose the popular decision over the one they know is right because they want to be liked. They also tend to pull their punches when it comes to giving hard feedback.
The choice between these two leadership styles depends on your organization’s goals: A dominant leader is called for when your team needs to present a unified front and move quickly; if you want innovation or creative solutions, then a prestige-motivated leader is best.
Organizational structure also has an impact. Hierarchical organizations with large power gaps between positions appeal to dominance-motivated leaders, while those motivated by prestige tend to work best in organizations that are relatively flat.
For more on dominance vs. prestige leadership, see the full Kellogg Insight: “Want to Be a Good Boss? Start by Understanding Why You Want to Lead.”