Home | About | Consult | Facilitate | Train | Speak | Articles | Blog | Books | eNews | Media | Contact


Article by Shirley Fine Lee printed in July 2009

Leadership Excellence (The Magazine of Leadership Development, Managerial Effectiveness, and Organizational Productivity) 


Article Text

Coffee Flavored Leaders

What drink reflects your style?

By Shirley Fine Lee

What type of leader are you? Have you ever considered mixing styles in working with different people in various situations? The style you adopt should depend on the degree of trust or respect you have for your employees, how much time you have to get the task done, and what information is available to you at the time.

Let’s compare three common leadership styles to popular coffee drinks— Espresso, Latte, and Cappuccino—then ask where and when you might change.

If you are an Espresso leader, you’re seen as strong and direct. You are a high-energy person who is controlling in both how work flows and distribution of employee responsibilities. You want to dictate the type of work to be done, who will do the work, and how they will do the work. You use power, influence, and close supervision to get things done and seldom ask people for input because you communicate with them only when you feel it’s required.

This style works best when people are efficient and satisfied with what you provide, your project timelines are short, or you have all the information necessary to solve problems and make decisions. Your Espresso style can leave a bitter aftertaste. Drawbacks might be stress and burnout for you as the leader and resentment from employees who are dissatisfied, disengaged, or may be afraid to express disagreement with or alternative ideas to what you propose.

If you are a Latte leader, you try to add the milk of kindness. Hence, you may be seen as both mild and weak or more empowering—depending on the people you work with most. You run a smooth operation and freely delegate power to employees for the work they do. You encourage people to analyze their problems to determine what needs to be done and how they should do it. You can be either hot or cold in how you choose to set priorities or goals for certain tasks or allow employees to do it based on importance. You rarely interfere with job situations involving your employees unless you are asked. As a Latte, you empower employees to make decisions and carry them out.

Many employees recognize and appreciate your style of showing trust and confidence in their abilities. This style works well in teams with members who have much experience and are responsible for their own success. Drawbacks are manifest when leaders fail to provide enough communication on needs or monitor progress or provide feedback. If the leader does not communicate expectations and verify results, production costs might increase or teams may miss deadlines.

As a Cappuccino leader, you utilize a democratic approach, sharing some control and power. Your energy may be lower than Espresso and less kind than Latte, but it includes: employee participation in decision-making, working together to determine what needs to be done, and how best to do the work. You consult with employees to learn what is mutually beneficial for them and the company, knowing that you’re responsible for making final decisions.

Shared work responsibility can result in increased job satisfaction and motivation, greater ownership, and less resistance to new ideas and change. This style works well when employees and you each have valuable information to solve problems together. This style is highly recommended if product and service quality are more important than speed or the perception of productivity. The drawback to this style is the length of time it takes to build the team and get results during development phases.

Personal Assessment - Address six questions:

1. Which style do you display most often?

2. Why is this style good or bad for your business? (List pros/cons)

3. In what situations does it make sense to keep your leadership style as it is?

4. What situations might require you to adopt another style?

5. Which style do you want to become more like and why?

6. How and when will you start revising your style? (Develop an action plan.)

Studying various styles helps you to know yourself better and blend styles to best meet the situation. 

Shirley Fine Lee is a meeting facilitator, trainer, and author of R.A!R.A! A Meeting Wizard’s Approach. Visit www.ShirleyFineLee.com, email or call.

ACTION: Adapt your leadership style.



Click cover above to order Paperback Book or below for

RARA A Meeting Wizard's Approach Kindle e-Book

Click cover above to order Paperback Book or below for

TAPP Steps in Time Mgmt Kindle e-book

OPIE Project Planning and Implementation for Team - Only available as Kindle e-book on Amazon

Team Building Primer: A Start-up Guide for Developing Effective Teams, Committees, and Other Groups


Shirley Fine Lee's purpose is to help people and organizations increase capacity to produce results.

Privacy Policy

Copyright © 2019 Shirley Fine Lee