Discovering Your Leadership Style
We are surrounded by different models of leadership – historical leaders, business leaders, political leaders, leaders of social movements, and even leaders in the movies that we watch and the books that we read. We may be influenced by these leaders in many ways, but the most impactful leader in our lives is actually ourselves. Whether or not we consider ourselves to be “leaders”, each of us has our own distinct leadership style or philosophy that helps to guide what we value, how we make decisions, and how we interact with others. Discovering and defining this personal leadership style helps us to better understand ourselves and others and gives us the chance to learn and grow through leadership practice.
What is a Personal Leadership Style?
There is no one ‘right’ way to practice leadership or to be a ‘great’ leader. Everyone has a different understanding of leadership and how it impacts their lives. Your personal leadership style can be understood as the practices, actions, and values that you have as a leader. Your own philosophy is a collection of many different personal life lessons and experiences that you have developed over time. In this way, leadership styles are firm but also flexible, because you can always learn new lessons and have new experiences that could shape how you operate as a leader.
Work With What Feels Right
Finding your personal leadership style is about a real struggle to understand what works for you and what doesn’t. As a leader you have to decide what lessons and “rules” you have for yourself as a leader. Basically, what you will do and what you won’t do as a leader. Be selective with what you adopt into your personal leadership style so you can focus on what you think is ‘best’ and begin to develop or strengthen skills in those areas. Your leadership style will grow and develop through different challenges and successes over time. When calling upon your leadership philosophy to make decisions, you must go with what has worked in your past experience and what feels right in your present situation. You will develop a firm resolve and confidence in your leadership style the more you use it advantageously.
Expand Your Knowledge
There are so many theories and models of leadership that can enrich our understanding of our leadership style as well as give us opportunities to develop new lenses or skills to implement into our leadership practice. Try a few on to see how they fit into your life. It’s okay to collect elements from different theories that you like, but don’t lose sight of what is at the core of your leadership style. Explore some of these theories in more detail to determine which ones resonate with you the most. Here are just a few to get you started:
Situational Leadership – Leaders must adjust their style to meet the current needs of their followers or group.
Adaptive Leadership – Leaders are adept at navigating others through challenges and thriving on change.
Servant Leadership – Leaders want to serve others first.
Participative Leadership – Leaders invite input from all of their followers.
Transformational Leadership – Leaders and followers motivate each other to achieve extraordinary things.
Actions Speak Louder than Words
A leader without followers is just a person on a walk. Your personal leadership style must be created and sustained by you, but it also must be able to effectively interact with and engage others. Pay attention to how you act as a leader because that will reveal your true nature. While it is important to reflect on your leadership style, it is far more crucial to be able to uphold everything you value through conscious action. Know when to lead and when to follow. Modeling the way through purposeful and thoughtful behaviors will give substantive meaning to your personal leadership style that others will want to follow.
Leadership is a Process, Not a Destination
You may find your leadership style does not get the results you hoped for, or that there are better ways to achieve the ends you desire. In these cases, it is critical that you can reflect on your personal leadership style and adjust aspects of yourself accordingly and in line with who you are authentically. Change can be negative or positive depending on you how approach it. Being able to integrate new understanding into your style is critical to your growth and development as a leader. If you decide to work against change, you create an uphill battle for yourself. If you can embrace change, you can use it to your benefit. Understand the change, adapt, and work through it instead of fighting it. This will lead to an evolution in your leadership as you make breakthroughs based on your lessons and insights.
Be Confident in Your Leadership Style
Those who have a strong personal leadership style are confident in themselves and their actions. They are able to make decisions that align with their core values and philosophy so that they can make an impact. Leaders who are sure of their leadership style do not see themselves as superior, instead they are humbled by their experiences and actively work to better themselves and serve others. Confidence takes time, and must be earned. You will gain confidence as a leader if you can integrate your leadership philosophy into all aspects of your life – your community, your team, your family, and especially when no one is looking.
Our leadership styles are a reflection of our personalities, our experiences, our education, our passions, and our aspirations. They are what make leadership such a fascinating and enriching field to study, to practice, and to teach. Enjoy this process of self discovery and be willing and eager to surprise yourself along the way!
Your personal leadership style in practice will determine what you are able to achieve. Your leadership will only grow through practice. Get started by answering these questions to reflect on and develop your personal style of leadership:
- What types of leaders resonate with you? What do they do that sets them apart?
- What life lessons have stayed with you over the years?
- What kind of a leader are you? [Ask yourself and others]
- What are your guiding values or principles?
- Do you lead or follow more often? Why?
- How do you lead the groups you are involved with? [What do you say and do]
- What theories or models make the most sense to you?
- What is your personal leadership style? [Explain it out loud]
*Meet the Author*
Joe Pazmany works with Leadership Inspirations developing training methods and experiential content while he completes research for his Doctorate in Organizational Leadership.