Leadership Expert Kate Ludeman

Who she is: Kate Ludeman is an author and executive coach who has worked with thousands of senior executives. Her books include “Alpha Male,” (see our Q&A with her, below, about that title), “The Worth Ethic,” “Earn What You’re Worth,” “The Corporate Mystic,” and “Radical Change, Radical Results.”

What she does: In addition to writing books, she works with her husband / business partner Dr. Eddie Erlandson at their Austin, Texas consulting company, Worth Ethic Corp., which advises such notables as Meg Whitman of eBay and Larry Lucchino of the Boston Red Sox.

Why she does it: “Eddie and I love working with male and female leaders, because these highly motivated people bring their awareness to their mindsets and mental models,” she says. “They can make shifts that positively alter behavior patterns, which may have limited them and embrace new skills that support even greater success. To have impact as a leader is to recognize key moments and show up with a style that will have the most impact.”


By Hope Katz Gibbs

In her book, Alpha Male Syndrome: How to change nonproductive behaviors and increase leadership performance, Kate Ludeman, Ph.D. identifies four types of alpha males: commanders, visionaries, strategists and executors.

Most alphas have a combination of these personalities, she says, but all have one thing in common: They are wired to achieve results.

“That’s the positive side of being an alpha, though,” says Kate, who collaborated on the book with her colleague and husband, Dr. Eddie Erlandson, who spent 20 years practicing vascular surgery at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan. “The book actually focuses on the fact that the very traits that breed success carry serious flip-side risks.”

Below is a Q&A with Kate, an executive coach who has worked with thousands of senior executives.

Can you give us some details about the personality traits and characteristics of the four types of alphas?

Kate Ludeman: After years of working in the medical and business fields, my husband and I had much insight and experience with alpha males, which is what gave us the idea to write the book. We then conducted a sophisticated research study and on the whole, we found alpha males are tough-minded, hard-driving, highly skilled individuals who can be categorized into four groups:

  • Commanders—These men are natural born leaders who know how to get people to do things.
  • Visionaries—Leaders who see the big picture.
  • Strategists—Those who excel in abstract thinking, problem solving and planning.
  • Executors—Leaders who are dogged implementers.

According to our research, about 70% of C-level executives are alpha males. However, the characteristics that got them there—competitiveness, impatience and aggressiveness— can be toxic, especially when they start to compete with friends or even their kids.

So one of the goals of our book is to help those natural born leaders get this aspect of their personalities under control.

Another goal, it seems, is to help the people who work for alpha males learn to cope with a hard-driving boss.

Kate Ludeman: Definitely. It can be a nightmare working for an alpha, and that’s because they have an insatiable need to win. Unfortunately, those with an alpha boss approach the relationship by responding in one of two ways: Either they cave in and play the victim or they take the opposite tactic, turning every interaction into an ongoing battle in a long war. Both approaches are dead wrong. You have to realize that alpha males are dysfunctional and make up for their flaws by using your abilities. Employees need to stop trying to change the alpha male and focus on their own behavior around him.

The key, you say, is to never become defensive.

Kate Ludeman: That’s right. Just work from facts and data and be sure to let the alpha know you understand the idea they are trying to convey. Otherwise, the alpha male will continue to be competitive. And never take on an alpha in public. They excel in that play ground.

Are there no alpha women?

Kate Ludeman: Of course there are, and we all know them. But we decided to focus on males because there are simply more of them—especially in the top executive ranks. As consultants, we also found that while alpha females get angry, they rarely become as belligerent as alpha males. Yes, they like to win, and yes, they set aggressive goals for themselves and their team, but they are not as intimidating or as authoritarian as their male counterparts. A great deal of wreckage is simply caused by boys behaving badly, so that’s why we focus on helping the men.

Do you need to control “alpha male” tendencies? Find out by using the assessment tool on the authors’ Web site: www.worthethic.com

The Women