Understanding Your Inner Self as a Leader
When you think of the word leader, who is it that comes immediately to your mind? Or an even more important question might be, do you view yourself as a leader? Many of us will shy away and say that we view ourselves as anything but. However, there is a leader inside each and every one of us. We all, you included, have an inner self that was born to lead.
There are many ways, shapes, and forms that you can lead. Often times we get stuck on the image of a military officer taking charge and think that is the epitome of a leader. Don’t be one of those that get stuck in that thought process! We’re about to lay out the different leadership styles plain and simple.
What is Leadership Style and Why Should You Care?
According to the Harvard Business Review, most attempts at analyzing and understanding leadership style fail or go astray because the person trying to understand leadership studies perceptions of leadership, and not leadership itself.
For example, you might pick up a book on organizational planning or productivity strategies. You may try to ascertain how to be more popular or more friendly. You might study how to project empathy and warmth. You might take a course on how to do public speaking. But those aren’t core tenets of leadership.
“Some leaders have these things, but they are not of the essence of leadership,” reports HBR. “Leadership is the accomplishment of a goal through the direction of human assistants. The man who successfully marshals his human collaborators to achieve particular ends is a leader. A great leader is one who can do so day after day, and year after year, in a wide variety of circumstances.”
As a leader, your leadership style is a combination of a few factors:
Your emotional intelligence
Your personal perspectives, in part influenced by past life and work experiences
Your natural communication habits
Your success as a leader, especially in your goals of leading through empowerment, depend largely on you understanding your leadership style in order to best use it to “marshal your human collaborates to achieve particular ends.”
The Most Common Leadership Styles
Kurt Lewin was a German-American psychologist, who helped pioneer our current understanding of social and organizational psychology in North America. Back in the 1930s, Lewin led a team of researchers in one of the first major studies that looked into the different styles of leadership.
This study, and subsequent studies since then, have established that there are three general forms of leadership (with obvious interpretation and flexibility in each grouping).
1. Authoritarian or Autocratic.
In this style, the organization or team is very top-down. The leader, who sits at the top, directs everyone below him to do a certain thing a certain way, and they’re ordered to do it without being able to offer feedback, advice or pushback.
2. Participative or Democratic.
You, as the leader, bring in at least one other team member to help decide or choose a strategy or create a plan. The leader is often still the one who makes the final decision but based on the feedback and potential pushback from those she or he is leading.
3. Delegative or Laissez-Fair.
This leadership is almost the exact opposite of autocratic leadership. If you have this style of leading, you allow the people in your business or on your team to make the decisions. As the leader, you’re still responsible for the decisions that are made, but you empower those below or around you to make those decisions themselves.
What Leadership Style Are You? And Which is Best?
To discover your personal leadership style, simply ask yourself which of the approaches detailed above are most attractive to you? Better yet, look at recent decisions that you helped lead. How was that decision made? Did you go it alone, or did you bring in others to provide advice and feedback?
Those who are new to this concept often hone-in on which style of leadership is “most effective” or which one they should be at all times. However, a successful leader knows that there is a season for everything. If you want to achieve the most success as an empowering leader, you’ll know when to ebb and flow between each of the three leadership styles. The “best style” depends on context.
For example, let’s say you have a brand-new college intern joining your team. Would it be appropriate to have him or her serve on your executive board? Highly doubtful. When onboarding or training a new team member, a more top-down, authoritative leadership style would be ideal.
In contrast, a more delegative leadership style may be best if you’re working on a project in which one of your teammates is an expert on. By leaning on the personal strengths of your team, you harness their skills to get more done more effectively.
Think of it this way: Let’s say you notice that a project process isn’t working effectively. You call a meeting and tell your team, “This needs to be fixed.” That is an authoritarian leadership push. But then the team gets to offer their ideas on why the process is broken, and how they think it can be best fixed. This is where you move into a more democratic leadership style.
Finally, when it comes to implementing the new process, you may delegate it out to different members on different teams.
Remember, it’s important to understand where your natural leadership style tends to fall. Then, as you approach each situation within context, you can know when to embrace your natural tendencies, and you can also be proactive about watching for when you need to purposefully shift your leadership style in specific situations or problems.
The content in this blog article was just one part of our exclusive iAchieveToday courses entitled Self-Projection: Lead Through Empowerment. To take the full course and learn more about leadership and how you can create more impact with others, go to iAchieveToday where you can sign up for your membership. This will give you access to 300+ courses, 8 group coaching calls with experts every week, and other tools to help you get immersed in your personal development journey and create a mindset of positivity and light every day.
To learn more, click here to visit iAchieveToday