Let’s face it; few of us are actually born leaders. Most people need leadership development and experience to develop critical leadership skills—and they often didn’t receive that while perfecting their technical expertise. Thus, many managers find themselves in roles for which they’ve had little preparation; they certainly haven’t given any thought to identifying their personal leadership style.
The way to build a strong leadership platform involves three initial steps:
- Identify your leadership style
- Refine your communication skills
- Be aware of your strengths and challenges—especially what prevents you from being the leader you want to be
We’re going to focus on leadership style in this piece (thus its title), starting with taking a look at the three primary types of leaders. These designations were made in 1939 by a group of researchers led by psychologist Kurt Lewin—and they remain relevant today.
- Authoritative or autocratic. These leaders have clear expectations, but there is a big gap between them and the people they lead. Their teams are seldom asked for input, thus this is not the most effective leadership style.
- Delegative or laissez-faire. These leaders provide little guidance to those they lead, something that often results in frustration. This is the least productive leadership style, because it doesn’t address people’s needs for predictability, consistency and accountability.
- Participative or democratic. These leaders provide plenty of guidance to those they lead, and they encourage participation in the decision-making process. While the leaders still have the final say, their team members are more engaged and motivated than those with less collaborative leaders.
What would people say about you? Here are some questions to ask yourself along the way to identifying the leadership style that will work best for you:
- Are you strategic or tactical? A big-picture person or someone who’s more detail oriented?
- How do you relate to the world? Are you more introverted or extroverted?
- What is your hierarchy of needs? Is it important that people like you or would you rather wield power and influence?
- Are you comfortable making decisions? What motivates you?
- What do you want your legacy to be? How do you want to be remembered?
- How much power and influence do you have right now—and where would you like it to be?
- Are you comfortable as a mentor and coach?
- Do you focus more on outcome or process?
- Are you a visionary or someone who focuses on being agile to address current challenges?
- Are you proactive or reactive?
Knowing the answers to those questions will help you be purposeful as a leader starting from day 1, something that can be quite difficult without the proper foundation. Being authentic is always a good place to start, as walking the talk and being open to constructive feedback will go a long way toward creating an environment of success and leading people toward a mutual goal.