Understanding Your Leadership Style

As a business advisor, I have the privilege of working with leaders across a wide range of industries. Every CEO has their own unique leadership style and often the most successful leaders employ a variety of styles to help motivate and get things done. Understanding your “natural” leadership style will help you adapt it to changing situations and personalities.

A few of the leadership styles I see most often include:

  • Being a coach – a coaching leader will focus on developing people for the future. When they speak to their team, they use phrases like “try this” or “how would you handle that”, etc.
  • Being directive – an authoritative leader directs the traffic, though hopefully not all the time. In particular, if there is a “crisis” or something that has changed or needs to change, the authoritative leader is going to take charge and move things forward.
  • Being democratic – this leadership style is all about leading by consensus. These leaders invite input and feedback from their team. This approach lets everyone, or certainly, the key people, participate in a decision or direction.
  • Being affiliative or about the people – these leaders focus on creating a strong bond and emotional component between people. They understand how excellent working relationships create an environment for trust and mutual support.
  • Being coercive – this is the individual whose attitude is “do what I tell you to do.”

Certainly, these aren’t the only types of leadership, but these are the most common. There are pros and cons to all of the styles, and whatever your default style might be, you don’t want to use it exclusively. Different situations require different styles. In order to be a great leader, you need to be able to change your style. Be aware of your natural style, and, especially, how you behave under stress. Knowing how you tend to approach challenges will help you identify what your team needs in a situation and how you can best lead through it.

You want to get your people to follow you (no matter what). You also have to be the one willing to take responsibility for things happening or not. Blaming others will not help. Holding people accountable, starting with yourself, will be a tremendous help.

Some characteristics of great leaders include humility, courage, and strength of vision. Strong leaders are good mentors, great at strategic planning, hold people accountable, put their people first and, of course, are honest, and have the highest integrity.

What is your primary leadership style? How flexible are you when it comes to adapting your style in a given situation? What works best and where can you improve? Let me know.