Frederik Van Lierde

Seven Ways of Leading: Insights from Stewart D. Friedman’s Framework

Drawing on the insights of Stewart D. Friedman, a pioneer in leadership education, this article explores seven distinct leadership types, delving into their characteristics, implementation methods, benefits, drawbacks, and potential misperceptions. Seven Ways of Leading: Insights from Stewart D. Friedman’s Framework

Table of Contents

  1. Opportunist Leader
  2. Diplomat Leader
  3. Expert Leader
  4. Achiever Leader
  5. Individualist Leader
  6. Strategist Leader
  7. Alchemist leader
  8. Leadership Styles Across Different Settings
  9. Leadership Styles in Crisis Management

Opportunist Leader

Opportunist leaders excel in environments that demand quick decision-making and assertive actions, focusing on personal gains and direct results, which makes them highly effective for short-term achievements.

To lead as an Opportunist, one should concentrate on immediate goals and prioritize decisive actions, being bold especially when rapid responses are required. An opportunist leader shines in crisis situations where the need for individual initiative and quick decisions outweighs the benefits of collective deliberation.


The approach of Opportunist leaders can often result in a lack of collaboration, which can make it challenging to build team loyalty and trust.

There is a risk that employees might perceive these leaders as self-serving or manipulative, which can hinder the development of long-term relationships and team cohesion.

To avoid these pitfalls, Opportunists should not become overly aggressive or unethical in their pursuit of personal gain and should balance their assertiveness with a consideration for the team’s needs.


In start-up environments or during company turnarounds where quick, decisive action is needed to seize fleeting opportunities, Opportunist leadership can prove to be especially effective.

In these scenarios, the ability to act swiftly and drive results can significantly impact the success of the organization.

2. Diplomat Leader

Diplomat leaders are known for their ability to create harmony and reduce conflict within their teams, which makes them especially effective in roles where team cohesion is directly linked to productivity.

Implementing this style involves prioritizing listening and mediating skills to ensure that all team members feel heard and that conflicts are resolved in a peaceful manner. Being a diplomat leader helps maintain a cooperative and serene work environment, boosting both morale and efficiency.


Diplomat leaders may find challenges in environments that require strong direction or quick decision-making. There’s a risk that employees might view Diplomats as overly passive or incapable of making tough decisions, particularly in high-pressure scenarios.

To counter these perceptions, it is important for Diplomats not to shy away from necessary confrontations or decisions just to maintain peace. They must balance their diplomatic nature with the capability to make difficult choices when the situation demands it.


In organizations that place a high value on team culture and collaboration, such as non-profits and educational institutions, Diplomat leaders tend to excel. In these settings, their ability to foster an inclusive and supportive environment can significantly enhance team performance and satisfaction.

3. Expert Leader

Expert leaders command respect and guide decisions through their deep knowledge and skills, making them particularly effective in technical fields or specialized industries.

To adopt this leadership style, one should focus on continuous learning and skill enhancement to remain at the forefront of their field, while also sharing this knowledge to empower their team. Expert leaders are valued for their ability to provide detailed guidance and are often sought out during technical challenges due to their profound understanding.


Despite their strengths, this leadership approach can be restrictive if overly dependent on the leader’s own expertise, which may inhibit innovation from team members.

There is a risk that Expert leaders may be perceived as inaccessible or overly critical, particularly if they focus excessively on details or perfection.

To avoid these pitfalls, it is crucial for Expert leaders to steer clear of micromanaging, instead trusting in their team’s abilities and promoting independence.


In sectors such as healthcare, engineering, or IT where specialized knowledge is essential, Expert leaders play a critical role. In these environments, their expertise not only enhances operational effectiveness but also drives innovation and problem-solving.

4. Achiever Leader

Achiever leaders are recognized for their goal-oriented and performance-focused approach, making them powerful drivers of productivity and results.

To effectively implement this style, it’s important to set clear, measurable goals and foster a results-driven environment.

Recognizing and rewarding achievements is important to motivating the team and sustaining high performance levels. Achiever leadership style is particularly effective in competitive industries where outcomes are critical to success.


A relentless focus on results can lead to employee burnout or high turnover, especially if there’s insufficient consideration for team well-being.

Another potential issue is how employees might view Achiever leaders — specifically, they may be seen as overly focused on results at the expense of personal or ethical considerations.

To avoid these pitfalls, Achiever leaders should not prioritize short-term achievements over long-term goals and should strive to maintain a balance that promotes a sustainable work environment.


In sectors like sales or finance where direct results significantly impact company success, Achiever leaders often thrive. Their ability to drive teams toward specific, quantifiable targets can dramatically influence organizational performance and growth.

5. Individualist Leader

Individualist leaders are known for their innovative approach and ability to challenge the status quo, positioning them as natural agents for change and innovation.

To implement this leadership style effectively, it’s essential to encourage creative thinking and risk-taking, creating an atmosphere where new ideas are not only welcomed but also thoroughly tested. Individualist Leadership style is particularly advantageous as it promotes innovation and personal development within the team.


The unique methods of Individualist leaders can sometimes lead to alienation or a detachment from practical outcomes, which poses a significant disadvantage.

Employees might also perceive Individualist leaders as disconnected from day-to-day operations or too engrossed in abstract ideas, which can hinder practical applications and team cohesion.

To mitigate these issues, Individualist leaders should avoid becoming so immersed in innovation that they neglect the operational or relational aspects of their roles.


Creative sectors such as marketing, design, or research and development, Individualist leaders are invaluable. Their capacity to think outside the box and push boundaries can lead to the development of groundbreaking ideas and products, driving the industry forward and setting new standards.

6. Strategist Leader

Strategist leaders are valued for their vision and the ability to align long-term objectives with daily operations, which provides clear direction and inspires team members.

To implement this leadership style effectively, it is crucial to develop a clear vision and communicate it effectively to the team, ensuring that all actions and decisions support this broader vision. Strategist leadership style is particularly advantageous as it is essential for sustained growth and successful adaptation in changing markets.


Strategist leaders may encounter challenges with flexibility, as their commitment to long-term visions can sometimes restrict their ability to adapt to immediate changes.

There is also a risk that employees might view Strategist leaders as rigid or too detached from day-to-day issues, which can create disconnects within the team.

To avoid these pitfalls, Strategists should ensure they do not become so fixated on future goals that they miss immediate opportunities or fail to address current challenges.


In industries like technology or global business, which are characterized by rapid changes, Strategist leaders are crucial. Their ability to foresee and navigate through complexities makes them invaluable, helping to steer their organizations towards long-term success amid fluctuating conditions.

7. Alchemist Leader

Alchemist leaders are transformative figures who inspire change and bring out the best in their teams by combining various aspects of leadership to guide their organizations through significant transformations.

Implementing this leadership style involves embracing a holistic approach that includes fostering personal growth, championing innovation, and driving performance. The Alchemist Leadership style is particularly advantageous as Alchemists are able to lead organizations through transformational changes, often achieving remarkable turnarounds.


Despite these strengths, the intense focus on transformation can be exhausting and might provoke resistance if not managed with care.

The rapid pace of change and high expectations set by Alchemist leaders can sometimes overwhelm employees.

To avoid these issues, it’s crucial for Alchemists to avoid pushing for change at a pace that the organization cannot sustain and to recognize the limits of change, adjusting their strategies accordingly.


In industries experiencing significant shifts or in companies in need of revitalization, Alchemist leaders play a critical role. Their ability to effectively steer organizations towards renewed success makes them invaluable in contexts where substantial adaptation and innovation are required.

Leadership Styles Across Different Settings

Whether it’s a buzzing startup or a well-established company, or the contrasting worlds of high-tech firms and non-profit organizations, each setting demands a unique approach from its leaders.

Startups vs. Established Corporations

  • Opportunist: In the startup scene, where quick decisions and bold moves are often needed to survive and thrive, Opportunists can really shine. They might find it tougher in bigger corporations that value stability and detailed processes.
  • Diplomat: Diplomats might find start-ups a bit overwhelming with their need for fast decisions, as they prefer to take things slow and ensure everyone agrees. In larger companies, though, they’re invaluable, especially when it’s crucial to keep everyone on the same page during changes.
  • Expert: Whether it’s a nimble start-up or a massive corporate, Experts are always in demand in roles that require specialized knowledge, like in tech roles. They might need to adapt though — start-ups require juggling various tasks, while bigger companies might let them focus more on what they know best.
  • Achiever: Driven by results, Achievers are great for start-ups needing to meet intense demands. In larger companies, they help hit targets and drive teams but might need to dial it back to mesh well with the company culture.
  • Individualist: Start-ups often need the fresh ideas and new approaches that Individualists bring. In a large company, they’re best suited for roles like research and development or any job that requires thinking differently.
  • Strategist: Strategists can help start-ups guide in the right direction but truly stand out in larger companies where they can align large teams or departments with the company’s long-term vision.
  • Alchemist: These leaders are great for guiding start-ups through significant changes or new directions. Big companies also benefit from their visionary approach, especially during major overhauls or culture shifts.

Tech Industries vs. Non-Profit Organizations

  • Opportunist: Tech companies often need to move fast and break things, which suits the Opportunist’s style. However, in non-profits, their aggressive approach might not gel well with the need for careful stakeholder management.
  • Diplomat: Non-profits thrive under the guidance of Diplomats, who excel at keeping teams motivated and aligned without a profit motive. Tech companies might find Diplomats helpful, but they’ll need to speed up a bit to keep up.
  • Expert: In tech, an Expert’s deep knowledge can give a company the edge. In non-profits, while the impact might not be as direct, they still play a crucial role in areas like program development and research.
  • Achiever: For tech firms pushing for quick growth, Achievers are perfect. They need to remember in non-profits, though, that it’s all about the cause, which might mean adjusting their approach.
  • Individualist: Tech industries often look for the next big idea, making Individualists invaluable. In non-profits, they need to make sure their innovative ideas align with organizational goals and community needs.
  • Strategist: In tech, Strategists are crucial for keeping up with or staying ahead of market trends. Non-profits also benefit from a good Strategist who can map out funding strategies and plan community engagement.
  • Alchemist: Whether it’s through leading a tech company through a market upheaval or steering a non-profit to better meet its mission, Alchemists know how to handle big changes.

Leadership Styles in Crisis Management

Crisis situations test the mettle of leaders, whether it’s during economic downturns, public relations nightmares, or severe operational hiccups. How leaders respond under such pressures can vary greatly depending on their leadership style.

Each leadership style brings something unique to the table in times of crisis. The best leaders are those who can adapt their natural style to meet the demands of the situation, maybe even blending approaches to guide their organizations through rough waters.
  • Opportunist: When a crisis hits, Opportunists can be invaluable due to their ability to make quick decisions. They’re the ones who react immediately, often cutting through red tape and making tough calls that others might hesitate over. However, their focus on quick wins and personal gains might not always be the best for long-term stability.
  • Diplomat: Diplomats shine during internal crises where keeping the team’s spirit up and the company unified is crucial. They are great at mediating disputes or soothing ruffled feathers, ensuring that the organization maintains a cohesive front. Their softer approach might be less effective in situations requiring swift, decisive action.
  • Expert: Experts are the go-to leaders when the crisis is technical or highly specialized. Their deep knowledge makes them adept at devising technically sound solutions quickly. The downside? They might overlook the human side of crisis management, focusing too much on the problem and not enough on the people affected by it.
  • Achiever: Achievers tackle crises with a laser focus on results, making them effective at driving their teams to meet critical deadlines and recovery targets. Their challenge is to not push their teams too hard, risking burnout when everyone’s already stretched thin.
  • Individualist: Individualists bring creativity to crisis management, often finding innovative solutions where others see dead ends. They thrive in unprecedented situations, turning challenges into opportunities for change. The risk is that their unconventional methods might not always align with established crisis protocols, leading to friction.
  • Strategist: Strategists approach crises with a calm, planned strategy, aligning immediate actions with long-term goals. They are adept at adjusting strategies based on new developments, keeping the organization on course through turbulent times. Sometimes, though, they may appear detached from the immediate pressures.
  • Alchemist: Alchemists are all about transformation, seeing a crisis not just as a problem to be solved but as a chance to overhaul systems and processes for the better. They inspire and lead change, potentially turning a crisis into a catalyst for significant improvement. This broad focus can sometimes mean that immediate issues don’t get the quick attention they require.


  1. Understanding and adapting different leadership styles is crucial for effective management across various organizational scenarios.
  2. Each leadership style has its unique strengths and is best suited to specific situations and team dynamics.
  3. Integrating multiple leadership styles offers leaders flexibility and a comprehensive approach to address diverse challenges effectively.