Psychology and Leadership, Part 4: Flow and Goals

In the first two parts of this five-part series on Perceptual Styles Theory and leadership, we examined the five qualities of effective leaders, regardless of Perceptual Style. In these last three articles, we’ll look at the unique leadership qualities of each specific Perceptual Style, along with some real world examples of each.*The Flow Leadership StyleLeaders with the Flow Perceptual Style challenge the generally accepted meaning of the word ‘leadership.’ They suggest, encourage, and endorse specific actions; with a word here and a comment there, they gently nudge the direction of events. People with the Flow style tend to seek input from everyone involved, build consensus, and secure buy-in before taking action. They value community and create it around them.

Because those with the Flow style lead so subtly and unobtrusively, others are often unaware they have been led. Flow leaders attract followers through listening and advising; people follow them because it feels right to do so.

Flow leaders often gravitate to “behind the scenes” roles and shine the spotlight on their followers instead. Consequently, it’s hard to find real world examples that are well known, but some that come to mind are political leaders Jimmy Carter and Mary Parker Follett, psychologist Carl Rogers, and religious leaders Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama.

The Goals Leadership Style

Those with the Goals Perceptual Style exist on the opposite end of the spectrum. They epitomize traditional notions of leadership, boldly and courageously setting sights on new directions, taking decisive action and steering a confident path toward the future.

Individuals with this style tend to charge ahead with any endeavor, rallying those around them with exhortations to heroic action and self-sacrifice. They make quick decisions and move into action assertively and confidently, taking advantage of opportunities as they present themselves.

Leaders with the Goals style do not hesitate to tell others directly what needs to be done and what they want each person to do. For this reason, they may elicit resentment when there is no crisis at hand—but when chaos and confusion arise, this style tends to be respected and welcomed.

The Goals person’s clear direction and confident demeanor provides a focal point around which others rally. They attract followers because their dominating style provides practical direction and action when the answers may not otherwise be clear.

Examples of Goals leadership are abundant, as those with this style are drawn to the spotlight. Goals leadership is exemplified in actors such as Clint Eastwood and Katherine Hepburn, military leaders like George S. Patton, and political leaders such as Winston Churchill and Dick Cheney.

*It is impossible to determine another’s Perceptual Style (PS)by observation alone. This is especially true for public figures. The examples provided ‘appear’, based on their public behavior, to be the PS for which they are used as examples. However, without a complete Perceptual Style Assessment, their particular PS is simply an educated guess.

Gary Jordan, Ph.D., has over 27 years of experience in clinical psychology, behavioral assessment, individual development, and coaching. He earned his doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology – Berkeley.  He is co-creator of Perceptual Style Theory, a revolutionary psychological assessment system that teaches people how to unleash their deepest potentials for success. He’s a partner at Vega Behavioral Consulting, Ltd., a consulting firm that specializes in helping people discover their true skills and talents.  For free information on how to succeed as an entrepreneur or coach, create a thriving business and build your bottom line doing more of what you love, visit

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