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Leadership Compass: What Kind of Leader Are You?

I am an online writer with a degree in journalism who writes on a wide range of topics.


The Leadership Compass is based on the Native American Medicine Wheel, or Four-Fold Way, in which each direction has a main "human resource" from which to draw for support and strength.

We also use it in City Year to become the best leaders we can be.

The point of the Leadership Compass is to identify the different types of leading one may follow. A person may lead in one primary "direction" or a combination of two or more. The Compass can help people work with other leaders by identifying their strengths and weaknesses so you can assess how to complement their characteristics. You can also understand your strengths as well as where you may be lacking so you can improve your own leadership skills.

Here is the breakdown of the different directions of the Leadership Compass. Have fun finding where you fall on the compass and how well you fit the description!

North: Action

  • Likes to be in control; comfortable in a leading role
  • Quick and to the point
  • Enjoys challenges and newness
  • Perseveres; not easily deterred
  • Can grow defensive
  • Can overlook details, logic, and strategy
  • Can produce hasty, incomplete work
  • May disregard others' feelings
  • May take too much responsibility

South: Empathy

  • Understands others' feelings and capabilities
  • Heeds and integrates work and thoughts of others
  • Use relationships to progress
  • Willingness to trust others
  • Supportive and receptive
  • Able to focus on current activities
  • Non-competitive
  • Can put too much emphasis on relationships over goals
  • May over-compromise or have difficulty saying "no"
  • May internalize personal issues and take the blame
  • May have difficulty dealing with anger
  • May become too focused on the now and lose track of the long-term

East: Vision

  • Sees the big picture
  • Creative and idea-oriented
  • Understands mission and purpose
  • Looks for main themes
  • Great at solving problems
  • Likes to try new things
  • May put too much emphasis on the future and lose track of time
  • May burn out over time
  • May become easily frustrated, especially when working on something they don't consider contributing to main goals

West: Analysis

  • Understands and analyzes information well
  • Practical, logical, and thorough; notices problems
  • Resourceful and helpful
  • Sees all sides of an issue
  • Examines needs
  • May get stuck with too much information to analyze
  • Can be stubborn or indecisive
  • May become aloof or uncaring of others

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

Question: Do Norths feel like they have to know everything, and hate surprises?

Answer: Norths prefer to be in control and in a leadership position, so sometimes those traits may apply.


glassvisage (author) from Northern California on August 23, 2011:

Thank you all for the comments! I'm glad this was of use, A Ford!

A Ford on August 23, 2011:

What a great way to integrate culture with a leadership model. At first, I thought I was more North- pointing at a direction. Then, I realized I am really an east- looking toward and hoping toward new comings.

sarah on February 22, 2011:

City Year is a non-profit organization that unites 17-24 year olds in a year of full-time service. Their main objective is to dramatically lower the number of high school drop outs. City Year sends volunteer's into public schools in 17 cities in the United States to tutor, mentor, and act as role models to students. They also provide after school and weekend programing for youth. Visit to find out more!

Shane Belceto from WA USA on November 17, 2010:

I can see parts of me in the first 3 for sure .. not west though smiles

~Expect Miracles

johnmce from Brighton, UK on October 29, 2009:

Think I'm definitely East facing!

LeaderCast on July 21, 2009:

Thanks for this hub! Very well written and informative. It is so important to be able to analyze what kind of a leader you are to be at your highest potential. Great hub!

lead365 from Florida on June 17, 2009:

Good hub. I think it would be great to see some examples of each compass point as Aya Katz posted. It may be great to even explain how this can be used in the workplace and other places (home, community, etc.)

kwray on May 21, 2009:

very informative..... i really like the way how it has been done. See im looking for a job but trying to match my leadership style along with my boss.

roberwat from Winfield, Alabama, USA on September 19, 2008:

Great aand Eduaational. I have used this without even knowing it. I look forward to more.

glassvisage (author) from Northern California on September 15, 2008:

Thanks folks! This is great for workplaces, that's for sure. And yes, being a combination is definitely common... some people may be northwest, southeast, etc. I am a sort of southwest... but less west than south :)

Moon Daisy from London on September 15, 2008:

Thanks for an interesting hub; I like the idea of the compass and its background. I think I'm a combination of a few of those descriptions; is that normal?! I'm going to be using this method to analyse people I know!

Rick49 on September 14, 2008:

Definitely this is something to think about when dealing with co-workers. Thanks Glasvisage.

fishskinfreak2008 from Fremont CA on September 12, 2008:

Autocratic leaders are strict and dictatorial. In other words, an autocratic leader will most likely say "Do it my way or else". Then, there are laissez-faire leaders who take a back seat and basically take "Do as you please". Finally, a democratic leader employs a strategy somewhere in between autocracy and laisez-faire.

glassvisage (author) from Northern California on September 12, 2008:

Thanks to both of you! City Year is an AmeriCorps program, and we work together to encourage students to do better in school and get involved in addressing social issues. We depend a lot on good leadership and spoke at length about this topic :)

GARCIA8287 on September 12, 2008:

Wow, very informative

Aya Katz from The Ozarks on September 11, 2008:

Glassvisage, intriguing hub.

Maybe it would be good to give examples of people who fit each leadership profile. For instance, you could use well known politicians and classify their leadership styles.

What is City Year?