Career Transitions Series: Leadership Styles

October 18, 2022 in Career Transitions

Many of us think that being a leader means being a manager with direct reports, but if managing people isn’t for you, that doesn’t mean you can’t be a great leader! If you look around, you’ll find leaders at any size of company. 

Whether you’ve organized a study group in college, helped coach your little sibling’s baseball team, or trained up a new employee at work you’ve shown leadership!

In this article, let’s connect about leadership style topics that can help you find your own style or mix of styles since one size doesn’t fit all.

What leadership styles exist

In the article, Five common leadership styles, and how to find your own, Steve Hogarty breaks down a few common leadership types in simple terms.

  1. The first style that Steve shares is authoritarian leadership (autocratic) where the leader often makes decisions on their own and without input from the team. Although this can seem unbalanced and non inclusive, this type of leadership comes in handy during a stressful situation when quick action is needed.
  2. Participative leadership (democratic) is the opposite style of authoritarian where the leader takes colleague opinions into account and encourages input from employees. Many people who have a manager with this style often feel empowered. 
  3. Perhaps you resonate with intentional or unintentional delegative leadership (laissez-faire). Leaders who are intentional with this style offer a lot of flexibility by empowering employees to build their work hours and to make decisions. If leaders are unintentional with this style, they may lose control over their teams. 
  4. Have you worked with a transactional leader (managerial) before? You can recognize this style as the leader clearly sets out goals for employees and as Steve puts it, “outline the rewards and penalties associated with meeting—or not meeting—those targets.” Although this approach doesn’t work for everyone, those who are driven and result-oriented may thrive with this style of leadership.
  5. You may have worked alongside a transformational leader (visionary) before where they create energy and passion wherever they lead. Along with this, they inspire, support, and motivate team members to reach for their goals and to continuously be learning and improving. 
source: Unsplash

While reading through maybe you could picture yourself or other people you’ve worked alongside as having one or more of these styles. 

Although this list isn’t an exhaustive list of styles, it can be a great place to start.

Can I combine leadership styles?

Reading through the different styles, I had a few questions myself: 1) “Can a leader possess multiple styles?” and 2) “Can I use different styles in different circumstances?”

The answers are yes and yes!

You aren’t one dimensional so you don’t need to have only one style of leadership! Perhaps you’ve found elements of the participative style such as empowering employees to share input and feedback that you combine with your transformational style of showing empathy and encouraging team members to reach their goals. Those two don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

Using certain styles in specific circumstances is also doable! In this case, it can be especially important to know your audience. For instance, if you have a direct report who is goal-oriented, numbers-obsessed, and independent, you may bring in your transactional style to the table since you know that resonates with this person. On the other hand, you’ve also had a major crisis at work recently where you put on your authoritarian leadership hat and made some tough decisions on your own without employee input.

To get another perspective, Jennifer Herrity, Career Coach at Indeed, breaks down some more common styles of leadership and how to identify if that style resonates with you in this 14 minute video. Skip ahead to 11:13 of the video to learn more about how to choose and develop your leadership style.

Consider the kind of leader you want to be

Let’s say you’re interested in leveling up your leadership through organizing a hackathon or maybe you can’t remember a time where you showed leadership qualities, but want to start! No matter where you’re at, if there’s an interest and a drive to become a leader, it’s important to take some time and figure out what type of leader you want to be.

Review these reflections questions to help get those juices flowing!

  • Looking back at mentors in your past, let’s use grade school as an example, who were your favourite teachers? What about those teachers stood out to you?
  • Next, think about a role model you had growing up. You may remember your childhood music teacher fondly as having a major influence on you. Was it their warmth? Caring nature? Did you feel heard and important? 
  • If you’re stuck, it can help to think of a specific memory and interaction with that role model to give you a visual and a feeling. 
  • Now harness that memory and jot down a few words that come to mind! 
  • Once you have a few notes, consider if any leaders, mentors, or role models that you respected and admired growing up possess qualities that overlap with more recent leaders you admire. Think outside of work too! Perhaps you currently admire figures like Michelle Obama or Lionel Messi.
source: Unsplash

So you’ve reflected back to those who you looked up to through childhood to now and have a few overlapping qualities. Now what?

Make sure these qualities you’ve identified feel natural to you. If you’re choosing qualities that resonate but don’t feel like your personality or a current strength, you could experiment with this! Say you want to be more motivational in your approach as you lead the new company project with a small team of 3. Aim to set a goal for yourself around motivation and feel free to use the SMART method for goal setting if that’s helpful to you. 

source: UCop

For example, your new goal is to build your skill of motivating others by providing one piece of positive feedback at each group meeting over the next month. To get even more specific, you plan to prep the feedback you’d like to give your team ahead of time, will mark down when the feedback was given in your calendar, and will reflect how you felt when sharing the feedback. 

After one month, ask yourself how you feel. Is this starting to feel natural to you? Is this sparking joy? If it’s a no to both, do you still want to build your strength of motivating others? If so, there’s likely still a way to explore this strength that feels more like you!

Trying out a new approach can make us grow and feel alive and other times we find out that it wasn’t the right fit. The only way is to take a chance and experiment.

Hot tips for discovering your leadership style 

If you’re looking for a few more suggestions on how to identify the kind of leader you hope to be, Jennifer Herrity has a couple. Jennifer recommends chatting with an experienced leader whose leadership style you envy to pick their brain on how they developed their style. Another option is reaching out to your network of colleagues and friends to get their insights on how they see you as a leader. It can be helpful to get an outside perspective that you hadn’t thought of before.

If quizzes are your go-to thing, Psychology Today and Mind Tools are a few options to explore on this journey.

As you go through your next career transition, we hope you find these leadership style tools helpful.

To stay in the loop, follow us on LinkedIn and keep an eye out for future blog posts about career transitions.