Which Bird Does Your Leadership Style Resemble?

Knowing whether you’re an eagle, parrot, dove or owl can help you understand your strengths and weaknesses and be a better leader.
Are you an eagle or an owl? Merrick Rosenberg of Take Flight Learning says figuring out your management style can help you create an environment that works for everyone. (Photos: Shutterstock)

As a leader, are you more an assertive eagle or an analytical owl? Or perhaps your style is more that of a dove or a parrot.

Merrick Rosenberg analyzed the personalities of more than 25,000 people and says every person has one (or more) of four leadership styles he named after these iconic birds. Rosenberg is CEO of Take Flight Learning, a training business that helps people figure out their styles and maximize their strengths.

“If you’re running a small business, you’re going to run that business differently if you’re an eagle than if you’re a dove,” Rosenberg told NCR Silver.

All styles have advantages, and pitfalls. “When you are overusing your strengths, your strengths become your weaknesses,” Rosenberg said.

Also, bosses sometimes impose their styles on their employees, who may be wired to work in completely different ways. Figuring out your style, and the style of your employees, can help you avoid traps and create an environment that works for everyone.


Eagles are confident, direct and assertive.

“They tend to make very quick decisions,” Rosenberg said. “They tend to be in control of what’s happening. For them, the most important thing is results.”

But directness has its disadvantages. Eagles can become too blunt and offend people, especially when they’re stressed. “That’s when they push everyone else’s buttons,” said Rosenberg.

Criticizing employees may seem like the most direct way to address problems, but it can hurt people’s feelings and come off as insensitive rather than candid. Eagles should do their best to recognize when they’ve gone too far.


Parrots are fun, social and engaging. They’re great at motivating and inspiring their staff. For parrots, “it’s all about creating a great culture that people love,” Rosenberg said.

Parrots can, however, get overly optimistic.

“We can do it. We can do anything,” Rosenberg said, imitating a parrot leader. “What’s the worst that can happen?”

As a result, parrots can become easily distracted, bite off more than their beaks can chew and forget their mission. This type needs to recognize the difference between being optimistic and being unrealistic.


Doves are soft-spoken and harmonious. “They just want people to get along,” Rosenberg said.

“It’s about creating a great environment where people feel comfortable and safe.”

These are great qualities for a small business owner. But doves can get stressed out when an employee has a significant performance issue or interpersonal problem or when someone needs to be fired. In these situations, doves might feel uncomfortable and become passive rather than dealing with the problem head-on.

They “let hard issues linger,” Rosenberg said. “If you don’t deal with performance, then one person can bring everyone else down,” especially in a small company.


Owls are logical, analytical and detail oriented.

“They’re very structured,” Rosenberg explained. “They tend to create a lot of processes, and they’re focused on quality.”

That can be very efficient — if your employees are also owls. “What if that owl is leading an entire team of parrots?” asked Rosenberg. Owls “get very caught up in the task. They get detached from the culture.”

They end up forgetting to make sure their employees are happy. They ought to pay more attention to their work environments, give positive feedback, celebrate team success and perhaps put together some team building activities.

Owls should “recognize that doing things that pull the team together… has value,” said Rosenberg.

Stretching your wings

According to Rosenberg, even if you have a natural tendency to act more like an eagle, parrot, owl or dove, you should do your best to be a chameleon and transform to fit the needs of the moment.

“Nobody’s just one style,” Rosenberg said. “The most effective leaders are flexible.”

When you need to focus on results, put on your eagle hat. When you need to motivate and inspire your team, act like a parrot.

“The key is to notice when you’re using your strengths rather than overusing your strengths,” Rosenberg explained.

Figuring out your employees’ styles can also be a huge help. “As a leader, can you read the style of your people?” asked Rosenberg. Doing so can clear up a lot of misunderstandings. You might realize that, as an eagle, you’ve been talking too harshly to your dove employee. As an owl, you may not being trying hard enough to develop a friendly atmosphere for your staff.

“Your style determines how you will go about being a leader,” not whether you can be a good leader. “Any style can be an effective leader.”

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