In the countless interviews I’ve conducted with leaders as part of my podcast, Leadership with Heart, I’ve grown to appreciate the multitude of leadership styles my guests bring to the table. I’ve learned through these dialogues that no two people lead in the same exact way, and that it’s these differences that make the workplace such a nuanced and complex ecosystem.
Within that environment, I often find my clients struggling to develop their own unique leadership style. And with a growing body of literature and thought leadership out there, it’s harder than ever to cut through the noise and carve out a meaningful path for yourself.
So how do you begin to discover and refine your personal leadership approach? In this article, I share six tips that can get you started on that journey.
- Reflect on what makes your perspective unique. Right out of the gate, I recommend conducting an in-depth dive into yourself. Assess your personality, examine your dominant character traits, identify your core values and morals, determine your most comfortable communication style, etc. Because our behavioral traits will always influence how we make decisions and interact with those around us, it’s crucial to pay attention to how they manifest (consciously or subconsciously) in a work environment.
- Identify your weaknesses. Knowing where your overall skill set is lacking can help you better leverage your team’s strengths as a countermeasure. Moreover, being fully transparent about your shortcomings can inspire your team to improve themselves, as well.
- Build a culture of feedback. In all honesty, you will never know how effective your personal leadership style is if you fail to solicit feedback from your peers. Gauging your performance on a frequent basis and in a constructive manner will help you adapt your strategies in real time, and make your team members feel valued and respected.
- Take notes from leaders who have inspired you, but don’t copy too closely. Take stock of leaders you’ve connected with in the past, and consider what they did to truly impact your life. However, in my opinion, there is nothing worse than a poor imitation of another caring leader. Of course, we as humans learn from observation, and you should always be looking to others for inspiration and motivation when crafting your unique approach. But avoid emulating others too closely, or it may come across as inauthentic and disingenuous. After all, your leadership style should be your own.
- Learn from past leadership mishaps—others or your own. Conversely, reflect on instances of poor leadership. What went wrong? What did they do (or didn’t do) that negatively influenced the outcome? As with many things in life, learning what not to do may be as productive as learned what to do.
- Put yourself in new (and potentially uncomfortable) situations. Discomfort is one of the most effective self-discovery tools in the caring leader’s arsenal. Take on a project outside of your wheelhouse, talk to someone you wouldn’t normally connect with, or sit in on a meeting in a different department. When honing your leadership style, venture outside your comfort zone to discover how you instinctually react in moments of growth.
With all that said, it should be noted that introspective questions like these should be returned to every so often. Our leadership styles are always evolving with the times, and changing as we learn new information. As such, a critical element of honing your leadership style is remaining flexible and open-minded enough to adapt it as needed, so you can ensure your approach maintains relevance in a rapidly progressing world. If you welcome these adjustments as the necessary learning opportunities they are, you’ll find you’ve created a leadership style all your own before long.