When you think of an effective leader, what image comes to mind? It’s easy to come up with a few names off the top of your head. For me, I immediately think of Steve Jobs, Henry Ford and Oprah. What you’ll see is that my names have a theme.
They were all excellent innovators. They believed in their vision and they were always aware that the people who followed them were important to their success. You may come up with a different list. Leaders with different attitudes and approaches may inspire you.
In fact, an article published by Harvard Business Review titled “The Eight Archetypes of Leadership” by Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries, discusses the different ways people embrace their leadership style. As such, different people embrace different leadership styles and techniques that suit their strengths, but then build on those strengths to develop a well-rounded approach to leadership.
Here are three simple steps you can take today to develop a foundation of strong leadership:
1. Find the right inspiration
Developing your leadership style is tricky and takes some practice. The first step is to ask yourself what you think it takes to be a leader. How does a leader behave? How is a leader perceived in the workplace? What is the image you need to create (or change) in order to be seen as an authentic leader? Take a look at what you think a leader should be and decide if your perspective needs to be refreshed.
Who inspires you? It could be anyone, from a colleague you work with everyday, to someone you look up to as a mentor, to a highly successful businessperson who works in the same industry. Make note of the attributes that stand out to you. Is this person known for his creativity in leadership, or is she known for her ability drive a turnaround story? Find what resonates with you on a deep level and use it as inspiration for your own leadership approach.
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams
2. Evaluate your approach
Now, take a look at your current leadership approach. We all have to start somewhere, so even if you are only leading a team, as opposed to a division, small business or major corporation, ask yourself how your approach to leadership aligns with what is most important to you. Does it feel inauthentic, forced or unnatural? Are you behaving the way you think a leader should behave, or are you just following the example of other people who don’t inspire you?
For example, I worked with a small-business owner a few years ago that had a very intimidating leadership style. It was her way or the highway, and while she had notable numbers to show for her efforts – steady growth year over year, a sustainable revenue stream, and creative new products entering the market, absolutely no one wanted to work with her to realize her vision.
She believed leadership meant driving projects forward ruthlessly because that’s all she knew from her work in consulting. While that approach may have helped her in the short-term, it didn’t translate into long-term growth for her business, which is what she really wanted.
3. Embrace your inner leader
Ultimately, you want to find alignment between what you think makes a great leader and how you are currently behaving. From there, take some time to identify your leadership strengths to build a foundation for your skills and then work to add skills that will give you a well-rounded leadership approach.
In my client’s case, productivity was her strength and she could lead projects and ideas into completion with ease, but when it cut into her ability to grow a great team, she realized that she was sacrificing the kind of numbers and growth she really wanted for her business. As Kets de Vries notes, this kind of leadership style may work in certain situations for the short-term but it can ruin morale and doesn’t help build a company or business that lasts.
For my client, she found success once she identified her leadership style, developed that strength in specific areas, and then worked to build on that foundation to become a well-rounded business leader. She was able to reconnect with her ability to inspire her employees and discovered a new level of success, both personally and professionally.
The end result should always be about building the foundation for healthy and strong relationships with the people around you. That includes those who work with you, those who buy from you and those who invest in your ideas.
“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” – Steve Jobs