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Are you more of a peacemaker, or are you more effective at provoking others to take action and get things done? Are you the person who wants to make everyone feel welcome, or are you the person who challenges team members to do something that seems impossible?

Leadership researchers and thought-leaders, Drs Zenger and Folkman, were curious to know which of these attributes made a leader more effective. They developed an assessment to measure how leaders performed in these two areas.



Peacemakers are highly motivated to resolve conflicts and to ensure that everyone cooperates. They show a high level of concern for others and stay in touch with issues and the concerns of all members of the team. They go out of their way to be inclusive.



Provocateurs challenge others to do everything possible to achieve goals. They become the champions for new projects or programs. They know how to market, persuade, and encourage others. They also possess the courage to make changes that will improve the organisation.


Who is a More Effective Leader?

Zenger and Folkman analysed 360-degree assessment data from over 85,000 leaders. There were a number of interesting findings:

  1. Managers and peers rated provocateurs significantly more positively than peacemakers
  2. Direct reports rated peacemakers significantly more positively
  3. Engagement of direct reports for a peacemaker leader was at the 50th percentile and for a provocateur leader the 47th percentile, a small yet statistically significant difference

Many leaders gravitate toward one of these approaches or the other. In many ways, some leaders believe that the ideal leader is either a peacemaker or a provocateur. While most people appreciate the inclusiveness and consideration of the peacemaker, they also recognize how the provocateurs can challenge people to do things they would not have done on their own. The best leaders do both approaches well.


Leadership Profiles

Peacemakers and provocateurs stood out on different leadership characteristics.


Peacemaker Profile

The key characteristics of the peacemakers were:

  • HONESTY & INTEGRITY – They were more likely to honour commitments and to walk their talk.
  • DEVELOPING OTHERS – They were more skilled at coaching and giving feedback. Their direct reports felt they were genuinely concerned about their development.
  • COMMUNICATION – They ensured that the team understood how their work contributed to the business.
  • TRUST – They were trusted by everyone in their team and were trusted to make good decisions.
  • FEEDBACK – They asked for feedback and made a real effort to change.


Provocateur Profile

The key characteristics of the provocateurs were:

  • INNOVATION – They encouraged others to consider new approaches and recognised the need to change.
  • EXTERNAL FOCUS- They brought in relevant information from outside the organisation and understood customer needs
  • STRATEGIC PERSPECTIVE– They helped their team understand the organisation’s vision and objectives.
  • SOLVES PROBLEMS – They anticipated and responded quickly to problems. They saw new trends and pre-empted problems.
  • STRETCH GOALS – They were skilled at getting team members to stretch for difficult goals and set high performance standards.
  • INITIATIVE– They were willing to go above and beyond what was expected.


Becoming Ambidextrous – Be a strong peacemaker and a strong provocateur

Most people have a strong preference for using one hand over the other. That is a natural tendency. No doubt people will prefer one of these dimensions more than the other, but leaders who do both well are much more effective. A leader does not need to be equally skilled at both. If one of the skills is above average and the other is below average, then you are destined to be an average leader.

Leaders can lean toward one dimension more than the other, but the effect of doing both well is substantial, as is demonstrated in the graph below. Being above average at both dimensions raises the ratings of overall leadership effectiveness to the 79th percentile, and being in the top quartile on both lifts a leader’s effectiveness to the 91st percentile.


GRAPH: The most effective leaders are peacemakers and provocateurs


DIANA’s PRO TIP: Figure out which side you are on. Ask your fellow workers, am I a peacemaker or provocateur? An easy way to begin the improvement process is to identify a leader you know that is highly skilled in one of these areas and ask them for some advice. You can take it a step further and ask them to be your coach.