Ulterior Motifs: What Does Your Office Décor Say About Your Leadership Style?

officedecorYou can’t judge a book by its cover, but can you judge a leader by their office? How you choose to decorate your office can say a lot about you. Here are some extreme examples of common office décor and what it may suggest about your leadership style.

The Hall of Fame
Key characteristics: Industry awards on every wall, grip-and-grin photos with at least two former presidents, and evidence of active community involvement strewn strategically, but seemingly nonchalant around the office. Also, a collection of books about leadership that makes the Library of Congress look like the local bookmobile.

This leader is driven by recognition. They are ambitious go-getters who always don their best red power tie. When they take on a new project, they go head first. Confident and comfortable in leadership roles, if they aren’t an expert on a particular topic, they will be by the time the project is complete. Their know-more, do-more, and be-recognized-for-it personality can lead to some tremendous results – which they’ll make a point to mention in every subsequent conversation.

The Yard Sale
Key characteristics: Trinkets, doodads, and knick knacks – everywhere. A “daily kitten” tear-off desk calendar prominently displayed along with an extensive collection of porcelain figurines which, ironically enough, were purchased at an actual yard sale.

This leader sees value in everything. In their work. In their professional relationships. And, in life. Every idea is worth exploring and everyone’s contribution is valuable. They’ll be the first to say good morning and will never forget a birthday. Always on the bright side, they’re slow to anger and quick to forgive. That is unless someone uses their favorite coffee mug. It’s the one that says, “Chocolate is my favorite food group!”

The Cave
Key characteristics: Except for a narrow path from the door to the desk, every square inch of this office is stacked floor to ceiling with papers, files, memos, and project folders. There may be some decoration and pictures of family, but it would require some serious spelunking to find them.

Both figuratively and literally buried in their work, this leader is rarely seen and seldom heard. They are a true workhorse with the innate ability to bounce back and forth between projects at a moment’s notice. Their world appears chaotic to the average passerby, but there is usually some method to their madness. They typically have a wealth of knowledge to draw upon and can be a great resource for new perspectives – assuming you don’t get lost among the manila stalagmites.

The Battle Field
Key characteristics: An oversized desk presiding over two undersized chairs strategically situated to ensure an unobstructed view of at least two college diplomas in big, expensive frames. Everything is solid oak or mahogany and very well-crafted. However, the stuffed grizzly bear standing sentinel in the corner is a bit unsettling. Did they buy that or kill it themselves?

This leader knows how to take charge. They see the big picture and have a plan to achieve it. Rallying the troops comes as second nature and they’ll be the first to set foot in any battle. Those who can keep pace will share the spoils of the latest project victories. But, those who fall behind are likely to receive an ear full or, even worse, be left to fend for themselves.

The Operating Room
Key characteristics: Stark. Clean. Organized. On the desk; one pen, one pencil, one stapler – all in a row and equally spaced. The color scheme varies between gray and darker gray. And, the most prominent item in the room is a 50 gallon drum of hand sanitizer.

A place for everything and everything in its place is this leader’s mantra. What seems cold and sterile to some, means order and control to others. However, this leader’s redeeming quality is their attention to detail. No stone is left unturned, all i’s are dotted, and every t will be crossed. Their ability to correctly and efficiently diagnose every situation with surgical precision is awe inspiring. And, as long as you stick to the plan, success is the only logical outcome.

Obviously, these are exaggerated examples of common stereotypes, but there is something to be said about how your office portrays your personality. Whether you like it or not, people form opinions based on more than just the person. So, take some time to make sure you are sending out the right messages.

5 Responses to Ulterior Motifs: What Does Your Office Décor Say About Your Leadership Style?

  1. Suzanne Hogan August 31, 2010 at 8:02 pm #

    Keen insight about the intersection of workplace and personal aesthetics. You are your own brand and no place reflects that more than how one adorns the office. Great article!

  2. Jennifer September 7, 2010 at 2:05 pm #

    I don’t know about some of these. I worked with a “leader” who’s office fit under the Cave description, but they were farm from buried in their work. The mess was more of a front so no one would go looking to see what they were or were not working on.

  3. Susan Mulholland September 7, 2010 at 4:50 pm #

    As a commercial interior designer, I spend a lot of time with my clients trying to understand what they need and want in an office space. I often look at things like what they hang on their walls and how they arrange their desk as a way to suggest furniture & finish choices. I also use this information to make suggestions for more storage or more wall space to display their trophies and awards. This article made me think of other ways to address my clients so that I can further the design process and make their space truly reflect their personality & leadership style. thanks for the new insights!

  4. brandi belgarde October 17, 2010 at 7:53 pm #

    express has givin me the freedom to do all the things i want to do during the week be with my son go to school and work and have time for miscellanious stuff like going to lunch with family and friend and other things express is great in alot of ways.


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