What Kind of Leader are you?

Written by Paul Major on

….or should you be?

There are many ways to lead an organisation and, whilst there are definitely some wrong ways, there is no definitive right way. Search the Internet and you’ll find a plethora of styles ranging from autocratic to laissez-faire and a range of tests designed to tell you which one you most closely match. They’re useful tools but they won’t answer your real question which is “What kind of leadershould I be?”. To understand that, you need to know which leadership style best suits you and which best meets the needs of your organisation.

Why? Because the worst mistake you can make is to be an inauthentic leader, someone who tries to adopt a leadership style that doesn’t match their strengths and weaknesses and which they can’t maintain. We can all adapt and play a role for a while but few of us can do it successfully day in, day out – and particularly not in times of stress when your organisation needs you most. Worst of all, if your people think you’re not being authentic, they simply won’t trust you.

So how do you figure out which leadership style suits you best?

Like A Boss Custom

It’s About You

First get to know the dominant characteristics that shape your personality and recognise how your personality and behaviour changes in different situations. Understand your values too. They come from deeply held beliefs that strongly influence our behaviours in ways that may not always be obvious to us. Your values and personality play an incredibly important role in how you make decisions, handle relationships and perform under stress, and thereby define your leadership style.

Don’t just rely on self-awareness. Any mirror we hold up to ourselves is always a distorted one, no matter how honest we think we are. Everyone has blind spots.

Instead invest in gaining a real insight into how you prefer to process information, communicate and interact with people around you. Use some of the great diagnostics and insights available to support you in developing this awareness and growing your own leadership capability.

It’s About Your Organisation

Next understand the kind of leader your organisation needs. It’s a hard truth to acknowledge but the leadership style that best suits you isn’t necessarily the one your organisation most needs. A highly collaborative leader might not work well in a very directive organisation. Similarly an autocratic leader will probably disrupt a collaborative organisation in which employees want a high degree of autonomy.

Your organisation’s needs aren’t fixed; they are context-sensitive. They may change over time and you may need to adapt your leadership style accordingly. In The Godfather, Michael Corleone dismisses his father’s trusted and faithful lieutenant Tom Hagen with the line “You’re not a wartime consigliere, Tom. Things may get rough with the move we’re trying.” You may need to be a different type of leader depending on the situation and what you are trying to achieve – maybe temporarily, maybe permanently. Consider this carefully and know where your boundaries are. As you develop your awareness and behavioural skills as a leader, your ability to “shape shift” according to your organisation’s needs will increase – but never adopt a style that you aren’t capable of sustaining. Instead, make sure your leadership team includes people with a range of leadership styles to whom you can delegate if necessary.

Bust the Myths

There are two great myths of leadership. One is that leaders are born. They are not. They are a continual work in progress, shaped over time by experiences, experimentation, failure and feedback. Your leadership style isn’t a set of clothes you can just slip on and expect to fit perfectly. Over time, you’ll understand what works and what doesn’t, what makes you feel comfortable and confident. Most importantly, you’ll know what makes you effective, authentic and congruent with your organisation’s needs.

The other myth is that management and leadership are the same thing. When we attain a position of leadership, our “technical skills” (accountant, engineer, sales) are no longer what will make us successful. We need to learn a new set of skills – let’s call them “behavioural skills”. Too often, people don’t make the necessary learning investment in this area as they believe they were promoted because of their technical proficiency. That may have been why they were made a MANAGER but has no relevance to their ability to LEAD.

Take Action

While there is no single right answer to the question “What kind of leader should I be?”, shouldn’t you invest the time and effort discovering which of the many possible options is the best one for you and your organisation? Isn’t that the best example of leadership?

Here at Changemaker, we support organisations and individuals in delivering sustainable and lasting change. When supporting leadership development, we work with the human being, supporting leaders in becoming the best version of themselves that they can be, capable of leading change and transformation in an authentic, rewarding and ethical manner. If you want to learn more about us, take a look at our website www.changemaker.org.uk or email us at info@changemaker.org.uk.