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Finding Your Leadership Style

by Kevin Eikenberry on January 14, 2013

in Leadership, Leadership Communication, Learning, Personal Development

FindingHere is some very good news for you.

There is no perfect leadership style, which means there is more than one way to lead effectively.

Why is this good news?

Because it means you, yes you, can become a highly effective leader.

Read that again and let it sink in.

Whatever your past experience, whatever your relative success or failure as a leader, you can become a self-assured, highly-effective leader of others.  And it doesn’t require that you become someone else or “play a role” to do it either, because there is no perfect leadership style.

There is however, a leadership style that matches you – your strengths and weaknesses, values and beliefs, personality and tendencies.  A big part of your personal leadership development process is determining this style and then developing in that direction. Notice the process doesn’t end with finding your style – it starts there.  Once you understand yourself enough to determine your style, then you can begin building your skills, practicing and more.

But this article is written to help you with that first part – determining your style.  Here are some steps in that process.

Seven Strategies

To determine your unique leadership style, you must start by knowing yourself.  These first three strategies will move you down this path.

  • Consider your values.  The best leaders lead from their most deeply held values. Leading from your values means that your behaviors, choices and actions will be guided by those values.  All of this is a foundation of your personal leadership style.
  • Know your personality traits.  Your natural style will grow from your personality traits – how you are wired. Introverts can be leaders, as well as extroverts.  Action oriented people can lead, as can disciplined planners and researchers.  These natural tendencies (and many more) are an important foundation for your style.  Take time to learn more about this using one of the many fine assessments.  Any of these assessments, well administered and with good understanding and coaching can help.  Here is the one we use.
  • Validate strengths, recognize weaknesses. Take your personality preferences and tendencies and put that together with past experiences and learning and you are moving towards your strengths and weaknesses.  It is important that you know both strengths and weaknesses, as collectively they help inform your style.  Take the time in reflection, through 360 Assessments and other strengths-based tools to learn more about your strengths and weaknesses.

Once you begin looking at who you are, you can begin looking outside of yourself to round out your leadership style. Here are some ways to do that.

  • Learn from, don’t emulate.  Look to leaders you admire.  There is much you can learn by observing others.  Doing this after you have begun to understand your own style is far healthier for your development, lest you fall into the comparison trap.
  • Get feedback.  Once you have a style in mind and know what you want to achieve, get feedback.  Don’t just ask people, general things like “how am I doing as a leader?”, but using your personal style picture, ask questions about those specifics, to learn how you are doing, and how you can improve.
  • Give yourself time. The steps described here won’t be completed in a lunch break, an afternoon or even a weekend.  Give yourself some time to take the steps suggested.  Be patient with yourself and listen to your intuition as well.  Intentionally determining your natural leadership style is time well-invested, so give yourself the time to do it well.

Last, but almost first, is the biggest strategy of all.

  • Keep learning. Just because you are leading from who you are doesn’t give you an excuse to stop learning, or allow you to deny your weaknesses.  The best leaders are always learning – they are strengthening their strengths and shoring up their weaknesses too.  Their constant learning focus is perhaps the biggest similarity between successful leaders across any particular style.

If you want to find your style, build your skills, and become the leader you were born to be, register for our free gift here.

photo credit: Hamed Saber via photopin cc

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Gary Winters January 14, 2013 at 6:26 am

Hey, Kevin. Thanks for the inspiring blog, especially the part about knowing your personality traits—all personality traits, even introverts, can be leaders—and giving yourself time. I’d say, though, that considering your values is the most important. I think a leader who strays from what he feels is right won’t be very effective—and dishonesty often is revealed quickly.

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Aaron Hoos January 14, 2013 at 1:40 pm

Thanks for the great post, Kevin! You’ve addressed something I’ve been thinking about for a while!

Here’s something I would add to your excellent list: I’ve found that my leadership style is heavily influenced by the people I’m leading. On projects where I’m leading completely inexperienced “newbies”, I end up taking more of a mentor role, while on projects where I’m leading highly experienced professionals, I end taking more of a visionary/director role.

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Kevin Eikenberry January 15, 2013 at 8:09 am

Aaron – as mentioned in my reply to John – you are completely correct.

Kevin :)

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John Wade January 14, 2013 at 2:40 pm

Hi, Kevin

Interesting blog. I certainly agree that leaders need to be true to their inherent style…whenever possible. I wonder what you think to the proposition that sometimes, or oftentimes perhaps, ‘followers’ need differing leadership styles.

That might depend on a number of external or even internal issues, depending on inter alia the personality type of the follower (MBTI); the circumstances surrounding the particular issue (Situational Leadership); the ‘missing’ characteristics of a team (Belbin); and the context of the challenges facing the individual and organisation (Argyris)

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Kevin Eikenberry January 15, 2013 at 8:08 am

John – thanks for your comment. Without doubt, leaders must be flexible to approach and strategy, be it communication/behavior styles (MBTI), development level (SL), etc. All of this needs to sit inside our natural style. Once we know our style, we are better able to flex to meet the needs of others. Without that self-awareness, in my experience, the ability/willingness to flex is drastically diminished.

Kevin :)

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Fredrik Arnander January 15, 2013 at 5:45 pm

Hi, thanks for your post. I have also looked into various leadership styles and suggested three perspectives: Entrepreneurs (idea-driven), Managers (admin & efficiency) and Leaders (people). Do have a look at my website, http://arnander.com/2012/12/entrepreneurs-managers-leaders/

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vigneshwarr January 15, 2013 at 11:11 pm

Thanks for the post.The seven strategies are really inspiring .Everyone can learn a lot from this one.Learn from don’t emulate is a wonderful strategy which helps everyone to become a good leader

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JOE SIRICO January 16, 2013 at 5:55 pm

All well and good suggestions but there is a point missing, in my opinion. You need to also recognize the style of the company that you are with. Many organizations have a style and deviation from that style may not give you the opportunity to lead. Luckily I fit where I am but know others who just did not fit. You need to find the organization where you can be happy and at ease where you are. It may not always be rosy but those who do not fit may wind up unhappy and nonproductive. You have to be happy where you are. Sometimes there will be a cultural shift and non-leaders may become leaders and vice-versa. Just a perspective.

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Bruce Wisener January 24, 2013 at 12:54 pm

Did you ever notice that the best leaders you’ve known tend NOT to follow the recipes that you read about how to lead? You’re exactly right that your leadership style comes from within and should be based on principles and what you’re good at. Nice post.

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Kevin Eikenberry January 24, 2013 at 2:03 pm

Bruce – thanks for the comment. The best leaders lead by principles, not prescriptions.

Kevin :)

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Stacie Walker March 26, 2013 at 5:13 pm

Kevin,

I have officially fallen in love with your blog. You are an excellent writer. Very simple, to the point, and valuable. Thank you for providing the element of inspiration while new businesses build their organization.

To Your Success,
Stacie Walker

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Kevin Eikenberry March 26, 2013 at 8:18 pm

Thanks Stacie..

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