“We need more leadership!”
How many times have you heard that exclaimed in your organization? Usually, it’s when:
Yes, leadership is definitely needed when any (or all!) of these challenges emerge. Yet, what exactly is leadership and how can it help?
Well, let’s start talking about leadership by first distinguishing it from management.
Simply put, leadership isn’t management. You manage things, you lead people. A manager holds a place on an organizational chart and they’re responsible for processes, efficiencies, budgets, staffing, goals, and procedures.
Managers are very important in organizations because their ability to organize and stay focused on key performance indicators delivers business results.
But just because you’re a manager, doesn’t mean you’re a leader.
Leaders are different. You don’t need a title to lead. You can be a leader and not be a manager. True leadership is about doing two things well: influencing outcomes and inspiring others. In fact, the best organizations have leaders at all levels – individuals willing to influence and inspire whether they’re only responsible for leading themselves or are responsible for a whole team.
So, when businesses cry for more leadership, what they’re really stating is they want more employees to step up, influence the direction the organization is headed, and contribute to an environment where everyone feels empowered, engaged, and energized to perform to their potential.
Real leadership isn’t just the opportunity for a few, select key individuals. It’s a responsibility for everyone in an organization. Naturally, this begs the question, what does leadership look like?
How you influence and inspire is completely dependent on you and your natural leadership style. Each and every one of us has unique strengths, tendencies, and preferences that are reflected in how we behave each and every day.
As an example, some of us influence and inspire through humor, while others feel more comfortable being reserved. Some of us are more logic and fact-oriented, while others are more “people” people.
There’s no right or wrong style. There’s your style. That’s the style you should focus on developing and growing comfortable with.
Here’s a useful exercise that will help you become more familiar with your authentic leadership style:
A great amount of self-awareness can be gained by pausing for a moment and reflecting on how well we know ourselves, and how much information we can gain from channeling a perspective of someone close to us.
The more self-aware we are, the better able we are to self-manage. This is really important. Just because we’re most comfortable one way – our way – doesn’t mean that it’s always the best way to lead in the situations we find ourselves in.
There will be times when our sense of humor isn’t necessary, like when we’re about to deliver feedback to a team member on a very serious subject. Or there are times when our change-averse preferences aren’t going to add value to our business that’s going through a massive transformation.
Self-awareness doesn’t mean that we have to be static. It means that we know ourselves, we can read the environment that we’re in, and we have the opportunity to flex our style toward what the situation requires. Consider your natural leadership style as your home base. You can be agile with your style when the situation demands you to be, but you can always go back home.
As you become more self-aware, you’ll begin to see that while your leadership style is unique, it does share commonalities with other styles. There are five different leadership styles, in fact, that have been identified to exist within organizations. Below is a description of each:
You’re naturally going to feel more comfortable in any of these five styles. A strong leader, though, knows that different situations require different styles. Their awareness of the style they’re most comfortable in, and their ability to be agile, contributes to their success in their environment.
As you consider your leadership style and your work environment, it’s natural to wonder what’s best for your organization?
The simple answer is that it depends. While your authentic leadership style has a place in your organization, it’s also important to know you can flex to meet the situation – not the organization.
There will be times with your work when you need to be direct; there will be times when you’ll need to be hands-off off. There will also be times when you need to develop your vision and seek to empower people.
The best way to understand how to lead through different situations is to commit yourself to building your leadership skills by understanding the different competencies that will allow you to flex. These skills are vast, but include:
We spend so much time building up our job-related skills to be relevant in our career field. When we commit our time to developing our leadership skills, we find ourselves in a new arena of growth – one where we’re effective at leading ourselves, leading others, and being focused on the success of the greater teams around us.
Want to learn more about specific leadership skills? Explore more of www.sparkslead.us to receive resources from the New York Times best-selling business book SPARK: How to Lead Yourself and Others to Greater Success.
Angie Morgan is an executive coach who works with high-performing leaders to help them achieve next-level results. After her service in the Marine Corps, she co-created the leadership development firm Lead Star and co-wrote the New York Times best-selling books SPARK and Leading from the Front. Her third book, Bet on You: How Leaders Win with Risk, will be out in spring 2022.
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