What is your leadership style? It’s typically been a frequently asked question at interviews for senior positions. But more and more, as businesses embrace a more vertical and less top-down structure, it’s a question being posed to non-management candidates as well. Whether you’re currently interviewing, or simply interested in developing your leadership style, it’s worth asking yourself what kind of leader you are.
First: Accept you are a leader, or can become one
Perhaps your first thought is, ‘But I’m not a leader’. If so, that’s as good a place as any to start considering the question. Putting aside the notion that a leader is synonymous with a supervisor or someone who is invested with the nominal authority to tell others what to do, a leader can take many forms. If you work as part of a team, manage projects or are in a position to influence decision making at any level in the organisation, then you do have an inherent capacity for leadership in your own individual way.
We’ve all known managers who were not good leaders, and have worked with people who, whilst not technically the boss, seem to either set the tone for others or somehow manage to get things accomplished that the boss has not. Whatever your job description or responsibilities, you are in a position to affect outcomes or behaviours in a positive way. Below are some examples of different types of leadership – which sounds most like you?
The Task Leader
Thinking about your strengths in a job role, would you consider yourself most adept at managing processes or projects? Reflect on what your biggest accomplishments in the workplace have been. Bringing a complex data project online whilst meeting deadlines and budget targets might suggest you’re a task-oriented leader, for example. You can define goals, put structures and timelines in place, track progress and measure outcomes. This is the kind of leadership that delivers tangible results.
The Creative Thinker
Have you had success at initiating new project ideas? Or finding creative solutions to problems? Achieving team goals through flexible, inventive thinking is an invaluable asset. Creativity is not limited to certain professions: every type of enterprise needs innovative thinkers, as well as leaders who can nurture creativity. As businesses face increasingly complex challenges in today’s world, more than ever they must be agile and responsive. This is why the Creative Thinker – someone with the innate ability to visualise solutions to complex problems –plays a crucial role.
The People Person
Some people have a natural ease with others; they’re born conversationalists, coaches, or public speakers. These ‘influencers’ are essential, for example, when making presentations to management to achieve buy-in (and budgets) on a new project. But it’s important to note that the ability to inspire and lead through personal interactions is not only for extroverts. Even quiet leaders can set the tone for the team by demonstrating integrity, empathy, and accountability. These qualities are what inspire others to work to a higher level to achieve shared goals. The emotional intelligence of this type of leader means they may have excellent conflict resolution skills, or they can ‘read’ a co-worker and encourage their efforts to perform better. Indeed, this category is perhaps the best case of ‘leading by example.’
There are many valuable resources online to help you define what kind of leader you are – and to help you develop further. You may first wish to do a search for articles and blog posts about leadership theories and styles; there’s been so much interesting research done in this field that is well worth a read.
Many companies use their own personality profiling tools, such as Thomas International, to help you identify your own capabilities. Check with your HR department to see what resources they may have, and read our article here.
Finally, have a look at some online tools. We quite like this one at Mindtools.com.
What qualities should a good leader possess to motivate and inspire you? Is one style more effective than another, depending on the context? What’s the best way to develop leadership skills? I’d love to hear your feedback.