YOUR RÉSUMÉ: Leadership Styles

The other day I was helping a young woman with her résumé. She was just beginning her nursing career and had a position as a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) in a care centre working with the elderly. An LPN, in the hierarchy of the health system is a lower level nurse and receives about $25/hr for her efforts. Generally, an LPN is in charge of Resident Care Aides (RCAs) who deliver personal care to the residents of the care centre for about $22/hr.

I asked the LPN to describe a little bit about her leadership style.

“I don’t have one, “ she said. “I’m not a leader.”

“You have to be,” I told her. “It’s in your job description.”

“No it’s not,” she said. “I’m just an LPN. The Registered Nurses (RNs) or nurses with degrees are the leaders. Not me.”

How many RCAs are you in charge of?” I asked

“Seven or eight,” she said.

Do you schedule them?”


“Do you assign residents to them?”


“Do you resolve any conflicts?”


“Do you chip in if the team lags behind the schedule because you feel responsible?”


“Guess what,” I said. “You’re a leader. Let’s see if we can tease out something to say about your leadership style.”

Many people go through their entire careers and assume both major and minor leadership roles but they fail to recognize the importance of saying HOW the lead on their résumés. If they thought to do that, they might find their dream jobs to be a little more attainable.

In 1939, Psychologist Kurt Lewin identified three main leadership styles:  Authoritarian, Laissez-Fair and Democratic (Cherry 2011)



As I grew up, I learned a fair bit of information about leadership from my old man. He was a tugboat skipper and he earned the name “Typhoon Broderick” because he had an uncanny knack of leading his crew, his boat, and his barge into the centre of hurricanes, typhoons, tempests, waterspouts, and tsunamis – often before he had his first cup of coffee.

Being the skipper of a tugboat, he had legal responsibilities, so his leadership style is an authoritative one. For example, there was a wall plaque over the toilet (so male users could see it) that read:



The Captain is Always Right


If The Captain Is Wrong, See RULE # 1

Here’s a good reason not to argue with a Captain:

When the old man died, I had an opportunity to meet and chat with some of his crew. Rocky Johnson, his First Mate, told me that he was always impressed how the old man could dock the boat in high seas. The tugs he commanded were large ocean going tugs that were basically an engine with a wheelhouse on top.  There were twin propellers ran the boat, and one could vary the speed of each one independently. He went on to tell me that the old man used to grab a walky-talky and go to the stern and shout out RPM instructions for each prop.  He always got us home safely. “I never could figure out how he did it. Was there a trick to it?”

“You mean he never told you?” I said.

“You mean there was a trick.”

“Of Course, “I said. I went on to tell him that he went to stern to make educated guesses, and to pray they would be correct. The nature of the trick was the acceptance that he was responsible for whatever happened there. He was ready to accept full responsibility (legally) but in the mean time, he wasn’t about to do anything less than his best.

It was a different story when he was in charge of the Halloween fireworks in Burnaby’s Central Park. There an errant lit cigarette butt prematurely set off the whole display at once. “Some damned teenager with a cigarette did it all. He wasn’t asked to be in charge of the fireworks after that.

That particular leadership style is Authoritative, and it is a more-or-less military/legal style. While it is effective, it does not look particularly good on a résumé as it conjures up images of Captain Bligh walking around the deck with a ropes end.  There are two other styles that look better.


This may be the least productive of all three groups.  Leaders offer little or no guidance to a team, and most of the decision-making up to group members. It can be an effective style if the team is highly qualified. Laissez-fair leaders may define their roles as not to have a role as the team knows more.

 Laissez-faire leadership is not ideal when team members lack the knowledge or experience they need.  Some may not good at setting their own deadlines, managing their own projects and solving problems on their own. Projects can go off-track and deadlines can be missed when team members don’t get enough guidance or feedback from leaders.

When describing your leadership style on a résumé, try to avoid writing items like

  • Established a leadership format that involved self-directed teams

The person interviewing you will doubtless have years of experience dealing with leaders who won’t even bother to consult with team members on problems.


The Democratic Style is one that involves group problem solving, decision making and collaborative work. It is the one where the leader elicits help from the group. Team members are encouraged to share ideas and they tend to feel more involved and committed to team projects. In this sense, the team may be more productive. The down side is that it may take a while, and projects aren’t always finished on time.

The result is that the best leaders may be able to move from one style to the other seamlessly.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “But what should I put on my résumé?”

F. John Rey (2011) wrote an essay outlining the qualities of the best leader he ever knew. Here are some of them that could easily transfer to your résumé:

Know what you want to do

It’s hard to get others to follow you want if you don’t know what you want. On your résumé, write,

  • Ability to maintain a clear vision of the scope of the job

Tell people what to do, not how to do it.

Encourage people to think, innovate, and   be creative.  Write,

  • Possess a collaborative leadership style to promote team creativity

Do your homework.

Find out what others had tried that had succeeded or failed.  Write:

  • Flexible and committed to life-long learning

Lead by example.

Make sure nobody is working worked harder than you.  Write.

  • Lead by example

Demand excellence/not perfection.

Make sure your team is as goal oriented as you. Write,

  • Possess a strong ability to motivate staff.

Take care of your people.

Know your team and let each member take praise for their contributions. Write

  • Possess excellent interpersonal skills with an ability to identify each team member’s strengths (and weaknesses)
  • Comfortable giving credit when it is due

Be humble and have character.

That goes without saying


Cherry, Kendra. (2011). “Lewin’s Leadership Styles.”

Rey, F. John.  (2011). “The Best Leader I Ever Knew And what we can learn from him.”

Mike Broderick is an Employment Specialist for the Neil Squire Society in Burnaby where he finds employment for people with physical disabilities. Part of this work means affiliation with the Vancouver Board of Trade where he is a member of the Ambassador Club, the Burnaby Board of Trade where he is a member of the Labour Task Force, the Tri Cities Chamber of Commerce where he is an active member of the 10X10 initiative, and the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce. He does some work as a field Archaeologist and is a fitness instructor and frequent contributor of fitness humour articles to alive magazine in Port Coquitlam. You can reach him at home at or at or at 604-464-4195.  If you’re looking for a career change, he is the Spin Doctor and can give you a résumé makeover at competitive rates When he is not doing all this he lives in Port Coquitlam with his partner Cecelia.



One Response to “YOUR RÉSUMÉ: Leadership Styles”

  1. Sharon Says:

    Love it. Funny and great advice. I would like to have met your dad. No wonder you are so good at what you do — and funny too.

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