Updated: Apr 4
New managers often fall into the trap of trying to mimic popular leadership characteristics. Here's how to identify and use your talents to craft your leadership style.
Leadership style is as unique as the person holding the title. As a leader, you get to craft your own style. Research has found that you'll be most effective when you build on what you're already great at.
What do leaders do?
Leaders lead. That's it.
You only get to be a leader to the extent that others are willing to follow. So, the better question is: "Who do people want to follow?"
Cultural research provides amazing insights into how leadership is perceived worldwide, with direct implications for every leader.
A leader's effectiveness is contextual; in other words, how you lead a remote team of software engineers distributed across America could be vastly different than how you lead a construction safety team in a Korean shipyard.
There are no universal ideal leadership styles; however, people want their leaders to be morally good and lead them somewhere worth going.
The GLOBE Project has found the "most universally desirable" traits that people expect in their leaders are:
acting with integrity,
having a compelling vision,
and being performance-oriented.
Unfortunately, these constructs can be expressed wildly differently from one culture to the next; cultural differences don't just appear across country boundaries but also across demographics, social groups, and even within the same family!
A Leader's Actions
It's relatively simple to observe what is appropriate in your organization: look at who is currently in leadership and listen to what people say about them. Are they admired? Then they have probably aligned their actions with the cultural expectations. Are they gossiped about and derided? Then their actions likely fly in the face of the social norms and cultural expectations.
As you craft your leadership style, consider what is praised, rewarded, and desired in your context. Find the good and align your action to that.
A Leader's Vision
Good leaders define where it is they are leading people (their vision), then adjust their behavior to align with the preferences of those they lead.
Many leaders are in their position because people respect and trust them, but a leader without a vision is nothing more than a figurehead.
Everyone has a vision. Do you need help mapping out your vision? Check out our free Vision-to-Action worksheet and guide.
A Leader's Development
You will be allowed to continue to lead to the extent that you continue to grow personally. This means your development as a leader is never complete.
If you meet the baseline criteria of what a good leader does and have a vision, you can now hone the complex management skills, starting with your strengths.
Strengths are not personality traits. Rather, it's a nice way to describe professional tendencies. For example, do you spend more time maintaining harmony, leading the charge, or observing and thinking?
Gallup's CliftonStrengths is a great tool to help identify what you're great at. The reports they provide are the perfect launching point in creating a development plan. It's also the first step in the Rev 0 New Manager Coaching program.
What is a leadership style?
Your leadership style is unique to you. You already have one, though you may not know how best to use it.
Before you craft your leadership style, it's helpful to know what you're working with. I like the CliftonStrengths assessment. Though it actually measures your talents, not your strengths. Those talents only become strengths through the time and effort you spend honing them. In other words, the CliftonStrengths assessment provides you with a priority list.
Focus on honing your top talents first.
CliftonStrengths has identified Four Domains and Thirty-Four Themes:
Your leadership style will be grounded in your top strengths because it's where you already feel the most comfortable.
There is no "perfect blend" of strengths. These aren't the 34 secret spices of leadership. There are wildly successful leaders with wildly unique combinations of strengths. The common theme successful leaders share is that they focus on their strengths and are intentional in their personal growth.
When you get to use your strengths at work, you will be more satisfied, more engaged, and more effective. This creates a virtuous cycle: when you enjoy what you do and get to do what you're good at, you keep wanting to try again and keep growing, even in the absence of external rewards.
What to do with weakness?
If you can only have one priority, make it about your strengths.
There are thirty-four strength themes. You only have five top-five strength themes, which means you have twenty-nine lower strengths (they aren't technically weaknesses in Gallup's vernacular).
For the most part, you can ignore your weaknesses. Honing your top five strengths is a significant achievement, one that most people never accomplish. Your weaknesses are someone else's strengths, so as a leader, it is incumbent upon you to partner with other people dedicated to mastering their own strengths (which are different than yours.)
What you may find as you hone your strengths is that your weaknesses become that much less important because you're operating at a high level.
Master your top five first. Then ask me how to improve a weakness.
You have what it takes to be a great leader.
Identify your strengths, hone them, and never stop learning.
If you are new to management, now is the perfect time to establish your foundation. Learn more about our fundamentals of management program.
If you know your leadership style and are ready to put it to work, we would love to be your coach. Contact us to learn how we might collaborate.
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Rev 0 LLC is not associated or affiliated with Gallup, GLOBE, or any of the authors referenced; we just like their work.