Have you ever been caught off guard by a really challenging question? Not one of those difficult and uncomfortable parenting questions from your inquisitive child that I can only imagine gets your tongue tied. Instead a question so simple it’s complicated. What is your leadership style? Most leaders have been asked to describe their own leadership style in some setting. Whether it’s by a staff member or during an interview this can be a complex topic to discuss. In fact it probably raises a series of additional questions. What type of leader do they want me to be? What should I say? What’s the wrong type of leader? What is the trendy or hip response? What was Steve Jobs leadership style? Is there even a right answer?
Like those uncomfortable parenting questions, it only takes being asked this question once in an unexpected moment to understand the importance of being prepared to discuss such topics. Understanding your leadership style will not only help avoid those awkward situations, but it will also allow you to better understand your strengths and weaknesses as a leader. This knowledge will be invaluable because it will allow you to be a more proactive and effective leader. Your strengths should be used regularly to make strategic decisions and conversely you should find ways to offset or minimize your weaknesses.
The logical decision that many people take is to research leadership styles. Some would turn to their local bookstore where an entire section is now likely dedicated to leadership books. Others may ask a mentor or trusted colleague for recommended reading. Many others would use the internet to conduct their research. Regardless of your method, leadership styles are a topic that could provide several years’ worth of reading material. Celebrities, politicians, and motivational speakers all have books that are sure to answer your questions. They cover topics like Transformational, Participative, Authoritarian, Servant or Laissez-Faire leadership. Do any of these apply to you?
If you are like me it’s hard to characterize yourself as any one of these styles. You probably have characteristics of several if not all of them. Another logical place to turn when trying to determine your leadership style is to take a leadership or personality assessment. Perhaps a series of questions will help you define your leadership style. Could it be that simple? For some this may be the case, but for me I continued to have characteristics closely matching several different types with no clear distinction.
So like many I created a well thought out response to the leadership style question. I incorporated a combination of several different styles; some key buzz words like collaborative and action oriented but it still didn't feel right. It seems like I should have a clear answer. It wasn't until I was given the book The Mentor Leader by Tony Dungy that I gained clear understanding of my own leadership style. Mentor leadership focuses on the development of an employee or team members strengths and works best with the individual knows that the leader has a sincere concern for their improvement and success. An emphasis is based on relationships and the development of future leaders. Finally I found a leadership style that I could relate to! I can answer the question, I am a Mentor Leader and I’m excited to share this topic with you in the coming weeks.