Do you know your leadership style?

August 6, 2018

Do you know your leadership style?

When you search the phrase “leadership styles” on the Internet, you get a lot of hits.  There is a lot of information on what that means, how many there are, and which are the best.  There are suggestions on how to determine your style.  But do you really have a leadership style? Do you really only lead one way?

How we lead is one of the topics we cover in our Rising Stars Women’s Leadership Boot Camp.  Too often, in thinking what it means to be a leader, we look at leaders we admire and try to emulate them. At Ignite Succeed, we don’t really buy into that.  Let me explain why.

Emulating leadership styles

Let’s say that in choosing who I want to lead like, I look to the past and choose Abraham Lincoln or Queen Victoria.  Or I choose someone more current day, like Angela Merkel or Colin Powell. Each of these leaders (and many others I could have chosen) have individual strengths and skills that make them strong leaders. But the thing is, those were their strengths and skills, developed in their culture through their experiences. The strengths and skills work for each of them based on their individual personalities, beliefs, and values.

I didn’t grow up during the American Civil War or in 19th century England.  I didn’t grow up as a German woman or as a black man. My life experiences and opportunities, my culture and challenges, are vastly different from those leaders, just as your experiences, opportunities, challenges, and culture are different from mine. Does that mean that we can’t learn from history? We absolutely can.  But we must  always put things in a personal context. We need to look at how we lead based on our individual strengths, skills, experiences, values, goals, and intentions.

Leadership and emotional intelligence

To individualize leadership styles, we use the framework that emotional intelligence guru Daniel Goleman has outlined in his book Primal Leadership. Goleman defines six styles of leadership based on 25 emotional intelligence characteristics.  These six styles create a leadership toolkit from which leaders choose depending on what they are trying to achieve.  For example, if a leader needs to rally a team to make a big change, the leader needs to inspire the team to follow, to achieve, to rally round.  Goleman identifies that as a Visionary leadership style.  He outlines five specific emotional intelligence skills required to use that style effectively: inspiration, self-awareness, self-confidence, empathy, and transparency.

Goleman’s six leadership styles — visionary, democratic, coaching, affiliative, pace-setting, and commanding — are divided into resonant and dissonant styles.  The four resonant styles (visionary, democratic, coaching, affiliative) are ones that employees feel positive about, they resonant with them.  The two dissonant styles (pace setting and commanding) can have a negative impact on employees, that is, cause dissonance, if they are used improperly. Pace setting, for example, is used to drive a well-developed team toward a short-term goal. It should only be used for short durations or you risk burning employees out.

How leadership styles can fail

I remember working for a pace-setting boss.  It was the go-to style in his limited toolkit. There were never any down times. Everything required working at a frenetic pace, and everyone stayed at a virtual point of exhaustion.  I didn’t stay in that job too long because I didn’t want to live my life at that pace. That leader was missing some of the key characteristics of the pace-setting style: empathy, collaboration, and communication. Don’t get me wrong. I am goal driven, an achiever, and like to excel.  But I also want the opportunity to learn new things, stretch my skills, and have new experiences.  It’s hard for those things to happen under a pace-setting leader.

Understanding when to use each of these leadership styles, and even more, knowing which of them come naturally to you and which don’t, is a great way to strengthen yourself as a leader. For the styles that don’t come naturally to you, you can work to develop the underlying emotional intelligence competencies that will enable you to use that style effectively.

This is an important piece of our boot camp and of our manager training workshops. We love watching the lights go on in people’s eyes as they begin to understand where they are and where they want to go as leaders. Reach out to us if type of information would make you or your employees stronger.  We have a boot camp in September, or we can bring this training to you.

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