When it comes to developing your own personal leadership style there are two common approaches. The first is to default to your natural personality in all situations and let your current mood have a big influence over your decisions and actions. The disadvantage of this approach to developing a leadership style is that it often results in inconsistent decisions and knee-jerk reactions that are frequently out of alignment with the qualities the leader openly states that he or she values. While it may sound counter-intuitive, falling back on your natural personality often results in a perception of inauthenticity and a lack of trust from the team because of these disconnects between words and actions. A very few leaders are the exception to this rule because their true personalities and core values revolve around authenticity and trust.
A more solid approach to developing your leadership style is to take a much more conscious and deliberate method towards choosing the leadership traits you want to exhibit as part of your leadership philosophy and style as well as those traits you don’t want to exhibit. Much like determining and articulating your core values, this takes careful consideration and self-reflection. Additionally, because your leadership traits are reflected in your behavior, it can take conscious, sometimes significant effort to really authentically adopt some leadership traits if they are not part of our inherent personality.
Identifying Your Key Leadership Traits
One of the most effective ways to determine which traits you’d like include in your leadership style is to observe other leaders and make a list of the positive and negative traits that they exhibit. There’s no standard list of traits that all leaders should have, although you will probably find similar traits among most leaders such as integrity, drive and commitment, but there are always exceptions. And since none of us are perfect, you’ll probably observe a few negative traits in leaders as well. It’s not critical that you try to emulate the traits of one particular leader exactly as much as the idea is to observe many leaders, see what traits make them effective or ineffective, and consciously choose for yourself the combination of leadership traits that you want to exhibit to make yourself a successful leader.
It’s important that your leadership traits are consistent with your core values. Many leaders have strong leadership traits that work really well for them, but will be of limited effectiveness in your leadership style if they are not aligned with your core values. For example you may have a hard time authentically exhibiting a trait of transparency if integrity is not one of your core values. A good exercise that you can do after you’ve built your list of traits is to take each one of those traits and link it back to one or more of your core values. If you have a trait that doesn’t map back to a core value it’s probably worth exploring if you have missed a core value that is critical to you. If you have a core value that doesn’t have any traits mapped back to it, it’s probably worth some self-reflection on traits you can adopt to exemplify that core value in your daily words and actions.
Additionally, if you’ve identified some traits you have that you believe may be negative and that you want to remove from your leadership style, look back at your core values and recognize how these traits conflict with them. Trying to hold to your core values can provide strong motivation to improve in the areas you feel are important.
Incorporating Your Leadership Traits into Your Leadership Style
After doing some honest self-assessment about the traits you have on your list, you may find that you may not be as strong in some of those traits you admire and respect as you would like to be. There’s nothing wrong with this because being a great leader is all about determining the areas you feel like you need to grow in and taking action to make that growth happen.
Building a plan to develop those leadership traits you desire can be intimidating, but an easy first step you can take is to go back to your notes about effective leaders and the traits that they have. Ask yourself what behaviors they exhibited that exemplified those traits and try to work those behaviors into your daily routine. If compassion is a trait you want to grow in yourself, try asking people about their day and what they have going on and actively listen and be genuinely interested in the answer. It may be hard at first, but with practice and commitment (another great leadership trait) you can see some real growth in this area.
Figuring out those key leadership traits you most want to demonstrate is an important step towards developing your own personal leadership philosophy and leadership style. Making a conscious effort will help you make more considered and reasoned decisions and prevent falling back to knee-jerk reactions or overreactions.
Tell us in the comments which leadership traits you believe are most important to effective leadership.
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