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How to Define Your Leadership Style

Updated: Feb 17

A few weeks ago I was working on a business communication idea and I shared it in an online community I belong to comprised of fellow authors, speakers and entrepreneurs. I asked for specific advice on the wording and phrasing for my idea. In the comments, I received lots of great feedback until one stopped me in my tracks. 

 

One of the owners of the group commented and instead of providing the feedback I was looking for, he challenged my entire business premise and essentially “worried for me” that focusing on women would limit my potential. (Full stop - I know that focusing on women boosts ALL of our potential, including his.)

 

30-year old me would have straight up panicked about his advice. I may have paused and questioned my entire journey to date. Because he had more experience and success, I may have doubted myself and halted my progress to research all the ways he was right. But not 43-year old me. What changed? I am clear in my leadership style because I know what I stand for.

 

As a leader, if you don't know what you stand for, 

what will you settle for?

 

Defining a leadership style built on what you stand for is the first concept I work on with new 1-1 clients. Why is it so important to be clear about who you are and what you stand for as a leader? There are three core reasons:

 

Discerning Well-Meaning Advice

As a woman in the workplace today, surely you have heard no shortage of opinions or well-meaning advice. It can be tempting to go along with other people's ideas for you, especially if that person is further along or well-regarded. Or, the advice appears to be in your best interest. 

Does this advice move you closer to the type and style of leader you want to become?

 

Making Hard Decisions

In your life and work, you will be faced with hard decisions such as: Hiring and firing employees, moving forward or quitting projects, taking and leaving jobs, starting and ending relationships. When you have a defined leadership style based on what you stand for, you can clearly discern: 

Which decision will leave the legacy I desire? Even if others disagree, what will I feel good about?

 

Communicating With Others

Your leadership style and brand is essentially the sum of the touch points that people have with you: Teams chats, emails, virtual and in person meetings, even seeing your name or your face. If you overheard people talking about you, what three adjectives would you hope they use? 

When you communicate to others, do people experience you in a style that aligns with your values?

 

🔥 Defining and communicating your leadership style brings you clarity. It helps you be clear on your best yeses or noes no matter what is popular, culturally appealing, or demanded of you. Keep reading for tips to define yours and put it into action.



Closing the Confidence Gap: If you don't know what you stand for, what will you settle for?

In your life, and especially as a woman in the workplace today who will make and influence many decisions, so many things will look right. There are just so many yeses and noes in a day. Knowing your leadership style and the values you stand for gives you the discernment—not between right and wrong but between what looks right and what is right. 

 

Essentially, defining and communicating your leadership style is built on knowing what you value (what you stand for) as a leader. Here are some questions to ask: 

 

 

1. Who is a leader I admire? What are 3-4 words I use to describe them? 

  • The qualities we admire in others give us clues to what we value in our own lives.


2. What qualities must be present in my work to make it meaningful and sustainable?  

  • Beware of “shoulds” here - some people have a non-negotiable of a collaborative environment while others want independence.


3. If I overheard people talking about me, what 3-5 qualities do I hope they mention?

  • What would I be most excited to hear about myself? Not because culturally I “should” act that way, but because the quality is deeply true for me?


4. Where do I feel angry or resentful right now? What is missing from that situation?

  • Anger and resentment are often clues that a value for you has been crossed. (i.e. resentment toward consistent group work could be a clue that you value independence)


Try this next: When you narrow your leadership values words down to five, do an audit of your leadership style and decisions. 


  • Consider: Are people experiencing you in alignment with your desired style? How will you know?

  • Evaluate: Are you making decisions that honor what you stand for as a leader?

  • Ask for feedback: Communicate the desired leadership style you want to exude and ask trusted colleagues for ideas to move you closer to the type of leader you want to become.

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