Being Intentional about Your Leadership Style
As a founder, CEO or leader, it often feels like leadership skills and style should be something you find comes naturally. And if you feel you lack an innate sense of what these mean or how to engage them, you might doubt yourself and your abilities to lead your business or team. While being an entrepreneur, an innovator, a thinker, and a creator are the key skills to founding a successful organisation – leadership is key to being able to scale sustainability. Even the most experienced and practised leaders meet with leadership challenges throughout their career at different stages of growth and development
Honing and developing a style of leadership which is authentic to you and engages your team with the right amount of vulnerability is a tricky balancing act and one of the many tensions you hold and need to lean into as a leader.
There are a number of different doctrines on styles of leadership. Seven common leadership styles are:
- Autocratic Leadership – taking full control over every decision.
- Pacesetting Leadership – leading by example, giving minimal input and expecting independence.
- Transformational Leadership – inspiring and motivating positive change.
- Coaching Leadership – supporting development and growth through real listening.
- Democratic Leadership – enabling multiple voices to partake in decision-making.
- Affiliative Leadership – creating harmony and putting people’s feelings first.
- Delegative Leadership – handing work over and having little to no input.
As a leader looking to build and improve your leadership skills, you’ll find aspects of each of the above leadership styles resonate depending on your unique situation, strengths, personality and the same unique qualities that each of your team brings. There are positive and negative aspects to all of the above styles of leadership, but the two stand-out styles we advocate are coaching and transformational.
We talk in-depth about a coaching leadership style in a previous article. A coaching leadership is a style that supports continuous learning and development through techniques including active listening, asking good questions, digging deeper, and building empathy. Growing your own self-awareness alongside your belief in your colleagues enables a learning approach rather than a ‘telling and passing information’ method resulting in strong colleague relationships.
Transformational Leadership Style
A transformational leadership style is called such because it initiates change both in individuals as well as systems and structures around it. Transformational leadership is used in a number of areas including in campaigning or political arenas, where leaders are tasked with gathering support and encouraging people to come on board with their point of view to enable real change to take place with positive results. Transformational leaders inspire and motivate through being clearly passionate and dedicated themselves to a clear vision.
It’s worth highlighting another of the styles above that comes with a warning – and that is Pacesetting.
Pacesetting Leadership Style
A pacesetting leadership style works well because the leader sets the standard and example, performing highly and demonstrating dedication and hard work. But unlike autocratic, where the leader controls all the decision-making or delegative where the leader doesn’t undertake any personal workload, the pacesetting leader strikes the correct balance of enabling team members full ownership and responsibility over their role and workload whilst offering valuable support and guidance.
This style comes with a warning because it is ideally used with an experienced team for a short specific goal or project. Used over a prolonged period of time, this style can lead to burnout. It is also a style where the leader can, at times, get too far ahead of the team or set too high expectations, which can result in micromanaging and the leader taking on the work of the team themselves. In turn, this can lead to a demotivated team feeling distrusted and frustration all around.
While honing your own particular style may at first seem important, it is always worth considering what’s going on for the people in your team at any given time, as your style needs to be able to adapt for the individual as well as the team. This makes honing a style less useful as it won’t appeal to all of the people you lead. So while honing a style that feels like a good fit for you and takes the best for your from the various styles it is important that this is flexible to allow you to adapt to each of your team members to enable you to get the most from them. Taking the time to ensure you know each of your team members as a whole person and understanding the style that will help them to perform at their best and enable you to get the best from them is well worth your while and really critical to allow you to move forward at speed if you’re scaling a business
Leading means working with people and dealing with everything that brings – and we all know this can produce any number of challenges. You could be facing an employee dealing with a bereavement, a disgruntled team member who feels dissatisfied with their responsibilities and a budget-saving exercise to merge two teams together – all in one week. It’s clear that different scenarios and situations require different leadership styles, but having a strong sense of self is equally important.
Unlocking your leadership skills
In order to improve your leadership skills self-development, growth and some introspective work is key. Important areas to look at include:
Having confidence in leadership isn’t about bravado or shouting loudly; it requires quiet consistency and certainty in your convictions and the direction you are leading your team. With all the knowledge and skills, this can still be lacking due to misplaced self-doubt or low self-esteem. Spending time examining the root of these issues and implementing practices to counter these feelings can have a positive impact on overall confidence levels and, therefore, the team culture and performance
Motivation can take a dip at work for many reasons, and leaders are, of course, not immune from this. Stressful situations outside of work or a lack of focus, direction or goal misalignment within the business could lead to a sense of complacency or apathy and build up to a lack of motivation. This can be a tricky rut to get stuck in, and we would recommend taking time to think and reflect on the bigger picture to allow you to put a plan in place to stop this in its tracks and help you to get some clarity and focus back on what’s really most important
Relationships inside and outside of work have a huge impact on how we perform, so it is key as leaders that we have the skills to create, maintain and manage healthy relationships. People are challenging and ever-changing so seeking out development in this area is the smart thing to do to ensure you can offer your team your best and get the same in return. Strong peer networks for sounding boards can also help strongly in this area
Encompassing all of the above and more, focusing on your own personal growth is one of the best things you can do as a leader. Taking time which may feel indulgent, to focus on your own goals and dreams, current situation and struggles will give you the capacity to pass that strength and wisdom onto your team and to lead strongly from the front.
Our coaching sessions are a highly effective way to give yourself the time to reflect and grow, with a key focus on the areas you are looking to improve. The work you do in our coaching sessions is focused, giving you the time to step back, reflect and really think more deeply than your normal day allows to enable you to create real clarity and focus on your most important goals and activities and the skills you need to be able to develop and lean into to deliver these and bring your team with you.
How Gearing for Growth can help
Our executive coaching is both challenging and compassionate, creating that essential space, mirror and sounding board to allow you to dig in and reflect on who your really want to be as a leader and what the business needs of you now and in the future to enable you to future proof your leadership learning journey to match what the business and team needs from you to succeed without this becoming overwhelming, detached or inauthentic.
We run two gold-standard leadership programmes that will improve your team leadership skills, help you to hone your leadership style and handle team leadership challenges effectively. Our Accelerate programme is for ambitious, emerging leaders and those transitioning into senior roles in high-growth businesses. The programme helps you develop as a leader, understand how to unlock the potential in your team, and make the right decisions in line with business goals. You’ll learn how to influence others for the good of the company, delegate to bring the best out of everybody, create leaders at all levels, and feel confident in yourself.
Our Ignite programme enables you to continually develop your skills in line with the growth of your business. You’ll learn to lead through your team well to allow you to focus strategically on the business, work effectively with investors and the board, and evolve your leadership style to be ready for your next phase of growth as you grow in confidence and ability.
Read more about our leadership programmes or drop us a line to find out which programme will best help you improve your team leadership skills.
An extremely powerful resource for Leaders to improve and develop leadership skills, improve communication, and set better goals.
Ignite - igniting leadership in founders and inspiring growth in team members. Accelerate - for ambitious, emerging leaders and those transitioning into senior roles in high-growth businesses