Leadership Insight: How to Adapt Your Leadership Style
on November 15, 2022
By Jeremy Stolz, President, VGM & Associates, VGM Fulfillment
Leadership is one of those words that feels like it should be easy to accomplish. As you undoubtedly know already, it is anything but. People define leadership in different ways. Each leader has their own style, and employees require different types of leadership depending on their work style. So truthfully, great—or even good—leadership is a complex, everchanging venture.
During my 20+ years in leadership, I have done a lot of things right—and many more wrong. I didn’t have it all figured out (I still don’t) when I started leading people. I certainly thought I did, and that only held me back. What follows are some lessons I’ve learned that I believe will help you with your own team. You’ll find tools and techniques, leadership insights, a few laughs, and a bit of advice that will hopefully help you avoid learning the hard way on what not to do.
Depending on the source, there could be anywhere from four to 11 common leadership styles. For example, Indeed notes 10 styles, included below, and each style has its pros and cons. It can be helpful to see the different styles at your disposal, but I recommend not overthinking it. You probably have enough on your mind without trying to figure out exactly which category you fit best.
Common Leadership Styles
It took me time and a lot of trial and error to find something that works for me. I’ve adjusted my leadership style over the years. And while I can still adjust it to fit certain situations and team preferences, I’ve settled into a general style that serves me well in most instances.
My leadership style looks like this: try to be as open, honest, and transparent with communication as possible by setting goals and good strategy with the team. Then, keep them informed on where we are at with our goals and vision.
There are elements of a coach, democratic, transactional, and maybe even a few others all rolled up into the philosophy. So, again, don’t overthink it. If you find a philosophy to help guide you in your leadership growth, go with it. It’s OK if it doesn’t fit neatly into someone else’s definition.
Tools and Techniques to Help Find the Right Roles
My intent is always, whenever possible, to get people doing what they’re best at and trying to put people in roles where they can excel. People will perform better, serve customers better, and ultimately, stay with the company longer if they are happy in their roles. There are a few key tools or techniques I use to make sure I am finding the right roles for my teams.
1. Play to their strengths
CliftonStrengths (formerly StrengthsFinder) is a tool we use at VGM to help identify employees’ topbattributes and how they can work best as a team. The CliftonStrengths has four main themes (relationship building, influencing, executing, and strategic thinking) that really help me understand how the people on my team can work best together.
I keep a cheat sheet of my teams on my desk, not to help me make decisions, but to be a reminder of how each person on the team brings something special to the table. There is no one size-fits-all approach to leading a team. Each person needs to be approached differently and needs something different from me. The faster I can recognize these differences as a leader, the more effective and impactful I can be.
2. Observe and Listen
Observing and listening are two additional techniques I rely on to help me in placing people in the right roles. You must observe a lot to truly identify where people are strongest. You need to watch how they handle problems, how they are in front of customers, how they treat their coworkers, and how they operate in stressful environments. Part of being a good observer is being a good listener. Your eyes and ears are vital tools in identifying how people operate.
3. Don’t mistake proficiency with leadership potential
One mistake people make is assuming that because someone is good at something, they will be good at leading a team in doing the same thing. Taking someone who is good at sales, for example, and putting them in charge of salespeople doesn’t mean they’ll be a good leader. This is the same for a clinician, researcher, marketer, and the list goes on.
Many times, the one thing that makes a person good at their job is what can hold them back from being a great leader. It comes down to watching how people treat others. For me, I admire people who are compassionate and can handle themselves in a professional way when things are stressful and chaotic.
4. Understand your team’s value
Getting people in the right roles is only part of the equation. I’ve also learned that I can’t do this alone. This is much more than just me. This is why the idea of having a team who does what they are best at, meeting specific business needs, and having everyone contribute to the objectives and goals, works best.
Communication and leadership are much bigger than just one person or one leader. This is where leaders can get stuck or max out their careers—when they start thinking that they are more important than they really are. When this happens, the team takes a backseat to whatever the leader’s personal goals and objectives are, and the team can no longer thrive. It is the job of leader to provide a clear vision and set of goals, and when we get sidetracked or distracted, to nudge us back on track.
What Not to Do as a Leader
Advice for Growing Leaders
Leadership Is a Process
- 10 Common Leadership Styles (Plus How To Find Your Own). indeed.com. Updated May 17, 2022. https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/careerdevelopment/10-common-leadership-styles
- CliftonStrengths. gallup.com. Published Aug. 3, 2022. https://www.gallup.com/cliftonstrengths/en/252137/home.aspx
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