Abstract: The characters and preferences of individual leaders matter greatly for policies and governance in many political systems, yet systematic evidence on how politicians lead and the consequences of their leadership styles remains scant. This study sheds light on these issues by analyzing a unique data set of internal evaluation remarks for top provincial politicians in China. Latent class analyses on evaluation keywords reveal two distinct styles: an assertive, autocratic style that focuses on centralized decision-making and efficient execution and a relatively soft, collegial style that respects dissent and fosters intraelite collaboration. We further show that these two leadership styles are associated with distinct governing strategies and that they both offer viable, but different, paths to political survival. These findings enrich our understanding of survival tactics and selection dynamics in one-party systems.