Leadership Styles Part II: Settler or Pioneer?

imagesIn Wes Seeligers book, “Western Theology” (©1973 Forum House) he takes a look at theology from two different perspectives, that of a SETTLER and that of a PIONEER.

I’d like to take a look at leadership styles from the same 2 perspectives.

We’re talking about leadership styles, or leadership tendencies.  We recently wrote about leading in the Raging Rapids or Calm Water.  Were you able to identify where you feel most comfortable?

Now let’s look at the difference between being a Settler and a Pioneer.  Once again, there is no right answer.  Both are needed, but it’s important for you and your team to identify how you lead and where you feel most comfortable.


– You see your organization as something to be protected, something to be guarded

– You have worked hard to build it, you want to see long, steady growth an impact

– You have a clear purpose and mission, and every day you work towards accomplishing that

– You operate out of “safety” and you don’t risk much

– You fill your organization with people who love what you’re doing and who want to be a part of it. They all work towards the common goals.


– You see your organization as something that is constantly changing and adjusting

– You pursue new opportunities all the time, and sometimes this takes you a little off course

– Risk isn’t something to be feared, it’s something to embrace

– You’re not afraid of failure

– You applaud innovation and surround yourself with people who want to try new things

I want to remind you, both of these are important.

I tend to lean towards the pioneer side, yet in looking back at a number of leadership roles I’ve had, I was followed by people who lean towards being a settler but most of the time I followed the Jeremy Fouts advise.  This balance is important. Sometimes when you adopt a pioneer style, it’s like riding a roller coaster, always on the move, always trying new things, always adjusting. When you operate more in the settler style, this is when you build your infrastructure, this is when you affirm your values and systems, this is when you dream about what might be next.  This is also when you catch your breath before the next big thing.

I now find that I need to operate in both of these styles from time to time, and I can identify in myself, when I need to adjust.

For an organization to grow, develop and define its vision and mission, there is nothing better than pioneer leadership. This is where you discover, explore, experiment and fail.

For an organization to be sustainable and to last, there needs to be some settler leadership. This is where you build up, create discipline, develop systems and clarify your purpose.

Do you see the value in both of these?

Where do you find yourself operating most of the time? 

For More On Leadership Styles 

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