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How to identify and develop your leadership style

Dressing for success

Leadership Style

Moving from management to leadership is possibly one of the biggest and hardest steps you can take in your career.

It demands a huge shift in mindset and approach. And a change in leadership style (and I don’t just mean wearing a more expensive suit!).

Many people, particularly those entrepreneurs who have built a business from scratch, find it a real struggle to let go of day-to-day operations, to delegate, to trust other people to manage delivery, to move out of their comfort zone.

But if you don’t focus on the future, if you don’t take a more strategic approach, you could find the business moving in a direction that is unexpected and undesirable.

It’s time to take control.

To do so, you need to understand and develop your leadership style. How do you currently approach decision-making, people management and service delivery? How do you need to adapt and change that approach in order to make the transition from manager/entrepreneur to leader?

Over the years, as a manager or entrepreneur, you will have developed your own style when it comes to managing people, delegating tasks, making decisions etc.

Perhaps you like to consult with your staff before making a decision. Or maybe you prefer to have full control over a task or a decision?

The model below shows the four key leadership styles. Which one do you prefer?

Leaders-Orientation-Model

Your preference for a particular style will be in part determined by your personality. Are you controlling, democratic, persuasive or caring etc? Are you an introvert or extrovert?

For instance, someone who is an introvert and is also controlling, highly conscientious and detail focused is likely to take a directive or delegative approach to leadership.

None of these styles is wrong or better than the others.

But there is a time and a place for each one.

Being an effective leader means you know when a particular leadership style is appropriate and when you need to do something differently.

For instance, if a decision is needed urgently, then consulting with the whole team may not be advisable. You might need to be more directive.

But, given you have a natural preference for a particular leadership style, how do you move beyond that to adopt a different style? And how do you choose the right style for the right occasion?

It takes self-awareness, flexibility and humility to change your style and behaviour. It’s not easy. That’s why it’s best to do it with the help of a coach or mentor. They’ll help you get a better understanding of the way you naturally operate and help you learn new approaches.

The key steps to developing as a leader are:

1. Identify and understand your natural preferences

You may have already spotted your natural preference from the diagram above. But there are also a number of personality tests and situational judgement tests available that can help you identify exactly how you prefer to operate in more detail, e.g. the Global Situational Leadership Questionnaire.

As you develop your awareness of your preferred leadership style, consider:

  • Which situations is it appropriate for?
  • Which situations demand a different approach? E.g. is it time critical? Does your team have the skills/information to perform the task/make the decision themselves?

The trick is to spot when you need to do something differently. Help yourself to do that by:

  1. asking for feedback
  2. exploring with your coach or mentor – when is this style appropriate / or not?
  3. spotting those circumstances when you should use a different approach.

It’s also important to understand your leadership ‘derailers’. What are the triggers that will lead you back into your comfort zone? For instance, when you’re stressed are you tempted to let yourself get dragged back into the detail? The Hogan Development Survey is a good tool for this.

2. Learn about the other leadership styles

Investigate the other leadership approaches you could take. Make contact with leaders in other fields. Look at people who have different styles and who do it well and unpick how they do it – and in what circumstances.

3. Practise using different styles

Look for opportunities to try different styles. E.g. could you delegate the launch of a new product to someone in the team who knows a lot about it?

Are there opportunities for you to work with people who have a different style, through mentoring or job shadowing etc?

Make sure you tell people that you’re practising different styles so you get feedback and support.

4. Help your team to help you

Sometimes, when leaders decide they need to delegate more, they can be a bit all or nothing about it. They go from being very directive in style to suddenly handing everything over to the team. Which can leave that team floundering.

It needs to be a gradual process of change. Help your team get up to speed with that you want from them, make sure they have the right skills and the right information, set clear objectives and targets and agree regular check-ins. Ask for feedback too.

This will help your team to build their capabilities and confidence as well as helping you build your trust in them to deliver.

Check out Strengthscope’s new book Optimise Your Strengths for more on how to identify and develop not just your strengths but also the strengths of the team around you.

Developing as a leader does not happen overnight. It takes time, self-awareness and effort. Understanding and learning to adapt your natural leadership style will help you make the first steps towards becoming an effective and successful leader.

Suits you sir/madam!

P.S Did you know that wearing a smart suit leads to higher levels of abstract thinking? Or that high heels make for better decision-making? 

Neither did I. Perhaps you really can dress for success!? Now where did I pack my power suit…

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