You could fill a library with all of the books about leadership styles and why each is the best. I’ve seen a lot of them come and go and they all have pros and cons. The leaders I respect most have developed their own unique style, rather than adopting someone else’s. When we try to adopt a leadership style that doesn’t fit who we are, we get that queasy feeling and second guess ourselves. Taking on a style that’s incongruent with our personality leads to inconsistent decision making and additional stress. These tips will help with finding your own leadership style for today and the leader you want to be in the future. To learn more about leadership styles, download our Leadership Style Guide and Worksheet.
Finding Your Own Leadership Style Tip #1 – Know Your Values
Values are our own guiding principles for life. We get them over our lifetime from parents, teachers, leaders, and others who have influenced us. In addition to our personal values, our companies and organizations have values. They may be stated or unstated. Sometimes the values of an organization are unstated, which makes it difficult to promote those values. An even more extreme case is when there is a set of published values, but the leadership doesn’t practice them. To develop your leadership style, it’s important to understand your personal values and how they mesh with the organization’s values. Try this short exercise to determine your values.
Finding Your Own Leadership Style Tip #2 – Determine Key Leadership Traits
Traits are parts of your nature that allow you to align your actions with your core values. They’re things like honesty, commitment, decisiveness or even humor. To live our lives according to our values, we must have certain traits. As we’ve mentioned before, if our traits and actions don’t align with our core values we have internal conflict and conflict with others. We second guess ourselves and get that feeling in our gut something is wrong. Traits are not just things that you’re born with, you can grow and develop them, but it takes time and conscious effort. Think about building traits like trying to build a new habit. Think about the leaders you admire and what leadership traits they have. What traits do you think you need to be a successful leader? What are you strong at, where do you need work on them?
Finding Your Own Leadership Style Tip #3 – Determine Key Leadership Skills
This is the most nuts and bolts part of your leadership style. What skills do you need to get your mission done? Do you have the skills you need to develop your team into future leaders? What skills do you already have? Are there any key skills you feel like you need to develop? Consider soft skills as well as technical skills. The technical skills that got you this leadership position may not be the same skills you need to effectively lead your team.
Finding Your Own Leadership Style Tip #4 – Know Your Personal Communication Style
Important to understand your own communication style. Do you talk more than you listen? Learn to listen, it’s hard, SUPER hard for me and it’s still something I have to consciously work on. Do you get all your thoughts together first and then speak? Or do you think out loud fostering discussion to get to the best idea. One isn’t better than the other but it’s important to know. I tend to think out loud. If I’m not careful it can lead to conflicting messages to the rest of my team. At the end of a meeting or conversation, I summarize the main points and the direction I want the team to go in.
Finding Your Own Leadership Style Tip #5 – Know Your Priorities
What are your priorities for yourself and your team? Accomplishing your mission is almost certainly number one, but what’s next? Is it developing your team members into future leaders? Maybe efficiency on your team is important to you? Developing camaraderie on your team might be one of your priorities. There’s no right answer to what your priorities should be, although your boss might weigh in with their opinion. What’s important is that you have consciously thought about them and communicated them clearly to your team. As time goes by your priorities may shift. This isn’t something you want to do on a daily basis, but is good to revisit every few months or year. If events warrant a shift, give it some thought, make a decision and communicate the new priorities to your team.
I hope I’ve convinced you that finding your own leadership style is much more effective than just adopting one from a book or another leader. That’s not to say those leadership styles are bad. You should definitely look at the pros and cons of each and include the best aspects that work for you. In the downloadable guide, there is a list of pros and cons for each style as well as some areas for you to write down the different aspects of your style. Don’t worry if you don’t figure it all out in one sitting. Finding your leadership style takes time and self-reflection. Just keep asking yourself the questions “Who am I?” and “What kind of leader do I want to be?” and it will come to you!