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Think about your leadership style

4 June 2021

Think about your leadership style

Real leaders understand that theirs is a complex role, involving numerous skills and characteristics. These include (but aren’t limited to) their ability to: communicate; motivate; inspire; make decisions; set goals; and initiate action. But arguably, the way you lead is as important as any of these. Do you prefer to tell people what to do? Or do you lead by consent or agreement? Or do you prefer to broadly show the way, then let people get on with it? Your leadership style is one of the most important components in your success as a leader, and therefore the success of the teams you lead. 

There is quite a range of style labels but we think these can be categorised into three broad leadership styles. Leaders will generally have either a directing, collaborating or empowering style. For example:

  • A directing style involves leaders giving instructions and expecting their teams to carry out the tasks.
  • A collaborating style means the leader defines roles and tasks, and takes decisions, although this is done in a way which involves people in the decision-making process.
  • An empowering style is the opposite of a directing approach, allowing teams to take responsibility and develop ownership.

Your leadership style is likely to be influenced by your view of people. For example, Professor Douglas McGregor famously developed his theory suggesting there are two types of managers:

  • Theory X managers: view the average person as being lazy, poorly motivated and basically disliking work.
  • Theory Y managers: view the average person as working willingly and well, as long as they understand and are committed to what they’re doing.

The extent to which you lean towards Theory X or Theory Y will impact on your own leadership style, and the way you lead your team. Having a well-rounded overview of your leadership style is a good start  but the more you can zoom-in on pinpoint the facets of your style, the better. Once you have a clearer idea of what kind of leader you are, and why, it’s easier to identify:

  • Your strengths
  • Your weaknesses
  • Your communication style
  • Opportunities to bring about further success to yourself and those under your guidance
  • How your leadership position has come about and what you can do to preserve
Discovering which type of leader you are

Chart detailing all Myers-Briggs personality types

Personality tests like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator have become increasingly popular tools to help us discover more about our personal traits. While not a leadership style tool as such, introspective questionnaires such as this offer insights into how we see the world and act as a result. Fortunately for budding leaders, there are numerous similar tools which are free, helping you to put a name to your style, or at least identify its main attributes.

There are also free leadership style tools available, to help your initial thoughts about your preferred way of leading. These are not necessarily all conclusive or even particularly accurate, but they do offer food for thought. But what to do with the results? So, you ran a leadership style test and it told you that you’re is one of the seven primary leadership styles:

  • Democratic
  • Coaching
  • Affiliative
  • Laissez-Faire
  • Autocratic
  • Authoritative
  • Pacesetting
Think about your leadership style

Tailor your leadership style to fit your team situation with our e-guide

With each of these styles comes positives and negatives. Maybe you’re too bossy, perhaps you don’t appear committed or accountable enough, and maybe you get flustered under pressure. Or, perhaps you set a good example and people respect you, maybe you live the mission of the company, and it’s argued that you are someone trustworthy. Think about your results and reflect on these five key areas:

  • Effective communication
  • Motivation and inspiration
  • Commitment to meeting goals, needs, and deadlines
  • Managing challenges and setbacks
  • Using your authority wisely

Thinking about your leadership style in relation to these five areas will give a good general understanding of the way you are currently leading. It will help you identify your strengths and weaknesses, along with potential development areas for the future. Building on your strengths and weaknesses may take detail, data, and actionable advice, some of which may be hard to come by or hard to hear, so be prepared for a tough journey.

Is it too late to choose a new style?

There is no one correct style, for use on every occasion. Effective leaders are able to influence performance by switching between styles, depending on the situation. Some would argue that we are stuck with our leadership style, as it reflects our fundamental personality. Whilst this may be a strong influence, it is still possible to change the way we lead. It will take some self-belief, introspection, open-mindedness, perseverance, and of course a willingness to change! But do you need to change? Only if things are going badly and you’r not leading well or to your full potential. In reality, you might not need to overhaul your style, but simply play to your strengths and address your weaknesses head on.

Leadership Resources

For more leadership resources look at our great-value guides. These include some excellent tools to help your personal development plan. The best-value approach is to buy our Leadership bundle, available from the store.

We’ve bundled together these five e-guides at half the normal price! Read the guides in this order, and use the tools in each, and you’ll be well on your way to achieving your personal development plan. (6 guides, 167 pages, 27 tools and 22 insights, for half price!)

>> Return to the Leadership Knowledge Hub

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