I want you to imagine that I come to your office when you are not there. When I am at your office, I decide to survey the team that reports to you. And the subject of the survey? Yes, we are evaluating you as a leader. I want them to tell me about your leadership skills. If I ask your team to complete this sentence, “My manager is ________________________,” what would they say?

Maybe they will say positive things:

  • “My managers is inspiring.”
  • “My manager is a great teacher.”
  • “My manager pushes me to be better at what I do.”
  • “My manager believes in me and trusts me to get the job done.”

Maybe they will have a different kind of comment:

  • “My manager micromanages me.”
  • “My manager can’t communicate clearly and then blames me.”
  • “My manager takes all the credit.”
  • “My manager has no respect for the team.”

So what do you think your team would say about you? What rating would they give you on a scale of one to 10 with 10 being the best? Would they say you are a beacon of light or a blowtorch? So what is the difference? Let’s take a look at 10 examples. For each one, ask yourself: Which one am I?


Beacon – gets more done through the team and with the team. They work together, and people work with them.

Blowtorch – forces the team to get something done, often against their will. They report to a “boss,” and people work for them.


Beacon – communication is two way. They resolve problems and discuss issues to find mutually beneficial solutions. Relationship is built on mutual respect.

Blowtorch – communication is one way: “my way or the highway.” This person cares little about mutually beneficial solutions. Relationship is built on singular respect for the leader or else.


Beacon – asks team members their long-term goals and works with them on action plans to help them get to the next level.

Blowtorch – doesn’t ask and thinks it’s silly to do so. Why would the company develop people’s skills so they can leave and use them somewhere else?


Beacon – gives credit where credit is due and acknowledges the individual and team efforts when something goes well. When it doesn’t go well, this person takes responsibility as the leader of the team.

Blowtorch – takes the credit for everything when it goes well and never acknowledges the effort of the team. Why bother? The team was just doing their job, which they are supposed to do anyway. When it doesn’t go well, blame is assigned to everyone except the leader.


Beacon – gives team members individual coaching on what they do well and on what they can do better. This is an ongoing, constructive process that is done in private.

Blowtorch – coaches the team during staff meetings by pointing out when they screw up. This type gives them a dressing down in front of the team and believes that this technique can be a very effective tool used to teach valuable lessons in the “school of hard knocks.”

Policy and Procedure

Beacon – believes that policy and procedure is a guideline for leaders, but it is meant to be used at the discretion of the leader. Certain exceptions can be made when needed.

Blowtorch – policies and procedures are the letters of the law. In fact, it is the law.  Anyone caught violating it will be written up and could face termination, no matter the circumstances.


Beacon – believes the workplace environment is an essential element for improving morale and motivation. This type of leader puts a great deal of time and effort into ensuring the office is well kept since morale and motivation increase productivity.

Blowtorch – believes the whole concept of the positive office environment is a bunch of poppycock. The only thing that drives productivity is not morale or motivation but the simple act of lighting a fire under people’s butts.


Beacon – likes to use reward to boost productivity and morale. Likes reward in terms of raises and bonuses and an occasional contest with prizes along the way to keep people enthusiastic. The leader gives a cash award for employee of the month as voted on by all employees, including management.

Blowtorch – thinks the reward is being able to keep your job every week. Raises are given once a year, and bonuses? They are for the birds. Silly contests and prizes are a waste of time and effort when there is work to be done. The employee of the month gets to stay for another month.


Beacon – never shows emotion such as anger and is always in control. This leader models how the team members should behave. When disappointed, they may say so, but they should never raise their voices or yell. Beacons treat every team member with respect.

Blowtorch – has been known to yell, throw objects, and use curse words liberally. This type believes intimidating team members will get them to move, move, move! If you don’t let them see some steam every now and then, they stop working so hard. There must be consequences for their actions.

Goals and Objectives

Beacon – openly shares both the team and the organization’s goals on a frequent basis. If everyone knows what is going on, each can contribute. Plus, if the leader is unavailable, they will know what to do because of the long-term plan.

Blowtorch – shares information only on a “need-to-know” basis because it’s none of their business. Each person on the team knows only what he or she needs to know and only when there is a need to know it. The leader will tell them when that is the case.

So what do you think your team would say about you? Would they say you are a beacon or a blowtorch? Are you sure? Here is a way to find out—if you have the courage. Ask them! Yes, that’s right. Take a stand, and ask your team how you are doing. This is what beacons do. During individual discussions with team members, ask them to consider each category and then give you some honest, no-holds-barred feedback on how things are going on a scale of one to 10. You may be closer to the flame than you think.