How would you describe your leadership style?
Many business and nonprofit leaders, as well as educators and business coaches, believe that clearly understanding our personal leadership journey and its key influences improves our ability to lead effectively with energy, passion and focus. When the 75 members of the Advisory Council of the Stanford Graduate School of Business were asked the most important capability for a leader to develop, for example, their answer was nearly unanimous: Self-awareness.
As a business owner or manager, thinking deeply about how your life experiences have shaped your approach to leading and then writing a succinct Statement of Leadership can help you understand your leadership style — and how you might change it, if necessary.
How do you start drafting this Statement of Leadership? Three pillars of discovery provide the foundation for how we lead: how we think (mind-set); how we feel (heart-set); and how we behave (skill-set). Depending on your personal style and approach, you may choose to start at any one of these perspectives and ask yourself discovery questions:
• Cognitive discovery (mind-set). How do you think about leadership or what is your mind-set relative to leadership? What leadership models have most influenced you, and on which do you base your approach? Have leadership or other books influenced your style? Which ones, and why?
What about public leaders, historical figures, friends or acquaintances that you admire, have researched or emulate? Perhaps a mentor or former boss?
Author Daniel Goleman (“Leadership That Gets Results”) believes there are six leadership styles — coercive, demanding compliance (“Do what I tell you”); authoritative, mobilizing people toward a vision (“Come with me”); affiliative, creating harmony and building emotional bonds (“People come first”); democratic, forging consensus through participation (“What do you think?”); pacesetting, setting high performance standards (“Do as I do now”); and coaching, developing people for the future (“Try this”).
Recognize any of these leadership styles in yourself?
• Emotional discovery (heart-set). Reflect on your own feelings as a leader and how your heart impacts your leadership style and philosophy. What are your basic values? Are you passionate about leading, and leading well? What is your personality style? For example, have you taken personality or leadership-style assessments such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator or Emotional Intelligence?
How do you relate to people in general? Do you lean toward being extroverted or introverted? Are you a patient listener? Do you tend to focus first on people or tasks? Did life experiences with authority figures emotionally shape who you are and how you lead?
• Behavioral discovery (skill-set). What actions do you take as a leader based on the skill-set that you have developed over your career? If you recorded yourself during a typical day as a leader and reviewed your comments and actions, what would you see? What are the visible expressions of your beliefs about leadership (the cognitive underpinnings) and your feelings about leading (the emotional influencers)?
Before you start writing your Statement of Leadership, consider: Are you writing about the leader you are now or the leader you want to be? To avoid this pitfall, it might be helpful to draft two Statements. You should write one that reflects your current leadership style. Then, after more consideration, you can write one for the leader you want to become.
You can use several different approaches to writing your Statement of Leadership. Some people prefer to use examples to describe their leadership style. Some tell their personal story. Others develop an overarching theme and cite supporting material, quotes or pictures. No matter how you choose to write it, make it authentic and true to your leadership style.
This process can help you identify the key areas which you wish to address in your development — and how you plan to make the changes needed to become a great leader. This is an opportunity for you to work with a trusted peer, boss or coach to formally lay out this plan.
Write your Statement of Leadership today. There is no time like the present to start becoming the leader you want to be!
Chuck Williams is dean of the College of Business at Butler University. Jerry Toomer, executive partner and adjunct professor at the COB, contributed to this article. For more information on the College and its “real life, real business” approach to business education, visit www.ButlerRealBusiness.com or e-mail Chuck at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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