How to develop your personal leadership style


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In being a leader there is one core factor that will affect you and your results above all others. Your personal leadership style. We often think of personal traits as static. "I am who I am". Actually, there is plenty of room for self-management. Our core personal traits may persist but how we act them out and in what way they affect us is to a big extent formed by experiences in our life time, “who I am” is not as defined as it seems.

Good leaders have a high level of self-awareness. The main key is reflection. You have conscious and unconscious core values and beliefs together with habits and routines affecting how you show up in the world. These make a difference in how you act on things around you and how you are perceived as a leader. Not knowing about them make you vulnerable to these effects.  That is why creating awareness is one of the core competencies of a leadership coach.

Who do you want to be?

How is your personal leadership style affecting you today? What impact does your personal traits have on the way you act as a leader? There is no right or wrong and a single trait is seldom uniquely good or bad to a leader.

Being strongly introvert can make you avoid social gatherings and to you co-workers wrongly seem as if you don’t care. But it can also make you an excellent silent observer apt at noticing the small differences in climate in a group.
Being strongly extrovert can make you jump into sharing your thoughts in meetings, forgetting the silent ones who may have a lot to contribute to your project if given space. But it may also be what makes you an energetic and charismatic source of inspiration.

The thing is to use the knowledge of how your traits are affecting you and make conscious decisions on whether that is something you find useful and want to have as a strength or something you want to do differently. Traits may be hard to change but actions you can choose. An introvert can choose to act as an extrovert in contexts where it is helpful and the other way around. It will cost some energy, more in the beginning, less as you go along and it becomes a habit, but it may be well worth it.

 Similar to how our traits affect our behaviour so does our inner belief system. The values that you hold wants to come out in action. It will cause you inner stress when acting against them. That is why truly identifying yourself as a leader and exploring your belief system around it is very helpful. Carrying beliefs on leaders that clash with a core value of yours can make you act in contradictory ways. I.e. beliefs about leaders as sole decision makers clashing with core values of co-operation; sometimes you unconsciously act on your inner belief of co-operation, sometimes you act as the sole direction giver you think you should be. None of them is wrong, in fact they may both be very effective when chosen wisely but in unconscious act outs it gets quite confusing to be around.

That is why an important step of developing your personal leadership style is to make choices on who you want to be as a leader. How do you want to be perceived? How does that kind of person act? Being aware of who you want to be will help you pick what to strengthen and what to change in your personal leadership style.

Since you are now working on parts of your belief systems that might not all be conscious you are vulnerable to your unconscious beliefs overriding you. It is in this stage helpful to have a trained partner like a coach listening and identifying the dissonances in your reasoning and telling you when it seemingly doesn’t make sense. “You where saying you want this but then you do that – how does it connect?”. This will help you see what unknown factors you are challenging and be able to face them in relevant ways.

How to get there

Having the awareness you are ready to start acting on it. Pick situations in your everyday life and ask yourself: How would the leader I want to be handle this? And then go try. See how it works, observe your own reactions, learn from thoughts, actions and feedback and go again until you find your comfortable way of being who you want to be.

It can be awkward to challenge your old habits and/or belief systems but step by step you will get there. Be in it and it will affect you. As one of my clients struggling with taking his space said “fake it til you make it”. As you do act in new ways things will start changing around you and give you new perceptions which will in turn change your experiences and beliefs.

It is in this stage very helpful to work in babysteps. That way you will be able to notice the changes early, see if it is leading you the way you want to and choose whether to keep it up or do adjustments. Just make sure adjustments are based on results, not your inner belief system objecting – it will be objecting because humans intuitively like status quo and you are challenging that by adding change in your life. Partnering up with a coach holding you to your goals could be a good idea.

Personal leadership styles – The never ending story

 As a leader it is very helpful to have access to a wider spectra of yourself to be able to adapt leadership style to situation and be right to more people more often. In different stages of your leadership career you may be facing different needs to change and develop. In fact every good leader stays on a learning journey throughout life.

Society, people, common beliefs and business models – everything changes. As a leader you need to stay ahead of that. Working your personal leadership style can help you stay true to yourself and at the same time allow influences to be tested against your core and choose wisely on how to react on them. Being aligned and updated without being blown away by temporary trends.

Make sure you keep setting time aside to reflect on what is going on around you and within. The thing about developing your personal leadership style is that it is a personal journey. Books, mentors, networks, movies, education, articles is all there to inspire and give you insights but the journey is yours to make and the choices are yours. Leadership coaching is one way of having a professional speaking partner in doing so. You don’t need anyone to tell you what to do but you may find it useful to have someone holding you to your word and challenging your beliefs from time to time.

How you want to lead, how to express your personality in a leadership style, what culture you would like to grow and in what context, those are your choices to make over and over again in a never ending but truly fascinating journey.