As you travel along your leadership journey, you’ll get a sense of where you’re naturally inclined and where your strengths lie. Do you tend to communicate well? Does your presence put people at ease? Do you have an innate ability to assess problems quickly? Do you use humor to connect with your team members?
Identifying your strengths requires self-reflection and analysis, as well as feedback from trusted peers. But, the process isn’t complete once you’ve identified your innate affinities and traits. Next, you need to recognize the areas you need to train and develop.
For example, 73% of the population is uncomfortable with public speaking. Many people can simply avoid giving speeches or presentations, but leaders are called to speak in front of audiences all the time. A leader who struggles in this area should consider investing time and energy into developing their comfort, experience, and skill.
As they say in cycling, you have to train your weaknesses and race your strengths. Maximize your skills in the areas where you’re most talented and put those skills into action, but don’t neglect the areas in which you could stand to grow.
What Are the Different Leadership Styles?
While leadership can take many different forms, positive leadership styles are rooted in the fundamentals of leadership. These fundamentals consist of:
- Building and improving relationships
- Improving the system and environment in which team members work
- Giving team members an opportunity to grow and improve
Negative leadership styles, on the other hand, tend to step away from these important fundamentals. Positive and negative leadership styles include:
The command style
Someone who uses the command style of leadership might be the type to hop onto a table and issue direct, clear orders. They might say things like, “Hey, everybody. This is where we need to go. We need everyone onboard and working together. Let’s get moving!” A commanding leader is both decisive and bold.
The empathetic style
Leading with kindness and caring isn’t just a choice but a strategy. A leader who operates empathetically is able to connect with their team members on a deep level, using a shared experience or joint understanding. They then use that mutual connection to positively influence their team members’ world.
The inspirational style
An inspirational leader brings their people to a mutual understanding of a shared purpose. They speak truth and give hope, extolling the virtue of the shared purpose. Leaders who are skilled in this particular area also need to ensure they have logistics in place to support the inspiration over the long term.
The negative approaches to leadership
Negative leadership styles exercise power by devaluing and demoralizing people. They set aside the fundamental leadership principles in favor of quick results.
The manipulative style plays team members off each other. Manipulative leaders try to get ahead by using tricks, lies, flattery, and false promises. This can work for the short term but over time, it loses its power. Once people figure out that you’re manipulating them, you lose your influence and their trust.
Many leaders use raw, positional authority to bully team members into delivering desired results. They say, “You will do this, because I am the leader.” But people don’t stick around for long when their leader doesn’t value or respect them. Fear is a poor motivator, because people will comply for as long as they need to, then leave at the first opportunity.
Situational Leadership Strategies
“If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.” — Abraham Maslow, psychologist
You’ve likely seen this quote before. Consider that using only one leadership strategy is a way of limiting your available tools. If you only have a driver in your golf bag, it isn’t going to serve you well when you need to make a two-foot putt.
Society likes to view things in singular terms to make them simpler to label and identify. People can then point at a specific leader and claim one skill or quality is responsible for all their success.
This ignores that an effective leader is rarely doing only one thing at a given time. They’re constantly adjusting their strategy to respond to current conditions and move their organization and team toward long-term success. They ask themself, “If this is the course of action, what happens next?”
Putting it into practice
Imagine you walk into your office, only to be greeted by a team that seems fatigued and in low spirits. At that moment, there are a few different ways you can choose to address the situation.
Perhaps you choose an inspirational leadership strategy, attempting to get spirits up by reminding everyone of the larger vision. Or, perhaps you turn to a more empathetic strategy, giving everyone a day off to recharge. A negative strategy would be to start yelling and threatening your team members, using fear to motivate them into action.
When there are multiple options at hand, an impactful leader examines how their strategy, within the context of each specific situation, supports the fundamentals of leadership. They ask themselves what their people need at each moment, while keeping an eye on the long-term health of their organization.
In the End, It Comes Down to Values
Leaders inspire confidence in others when they’re confident in themselves. They don’t claim to know everything, but they trust their values and their core beliefs. When skilled leaders are challenged, they might switch leadership strategies, but they return to their core beliefs. You must know where you will stand when there’s nowhere else left to stand.
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Author, Speaker, and Change Agent.
Chris leads a dynamic team of passionate change agents who are dedicated to partnering with organizational executives to create cultures that inspire, engage and ignite the best in people. Our work is dedicated to harnessing the power of culture to equip leaders, build amazing teams and align operation practices to delighting the customer and drive breakthrough results.
Tim, with his extensive background in education and management, is a great part of our Fired Up! team dedicated to inspiring teams and leaders. At Fired Up!, our work is dedicated to harnessing the power of culture to equip leaders, build amazing teams, and align operation practices to engage organizations and drive breakthrough results.