Very few people know their own leadership style -- or strengths and weaknesses, for that matter. But that's a mistake.
From leading a company to hiring workers, you necessarily must know what you're good at and what, if anything, you need help with to properly meet your company's goals. I'd argue that your leadership-development efforts may be more valuable for achieving startup success than building business skills.
But, of course, leadership skills aren't always innate. So for new entrepreneurs, especially, expect to put in a fair amount of work. To assess where you are, and to unlock your full potential, there are many courses available, as well as seminars and gurus. But a good place to start is a book on the subject, like the new one from John Mattone, Intelligent Leadership.
Mattone has a wealth of insights, based on years of helping Fortune 500 leaders overcome their self-imposed limiting leadership habits. He identifies and distinguishes between nine distinct leadership traits that I see in all entrepreneurs, to some degree. The most effective entrepreneurs know their own dominant traits and how to build a team that has what she isn't good at covered.
Here's what to look for in yourself and the people you bring into your company:
1. Helpers. Mature helpers are considerate and genuinely the most sensitive and caring of all the leadership types. They are excellent mentors and coaches, but have a strong need to be admired and respected in return. Strengthen this trait by being more conscious of your need to be liked, and don't be possessive or controlling.
2. Entertainers. Entertainers gain the respect of others with drive, determination, hard work and the ability to win people over. But they can become fixated with appearing successful, showing more style than substance, or undermine themselves by exaggeration, inflating their importance, or trying to win or one-up all the time.
3. Artists. Artists are perhaps the most creative and innovative leaders. They tend to move people deeply, and bring out the most in people. As they become more mature, they draw less inspiration from themselves and more from others. Improve your artist side by avoiding negativity, procrastination and focus on self-discipline.
4. Thinkers. Thinkers like to analyze the world around them and may prefer thinking to doing. Mature Thinkers quickly understand problems, can explain them to others and make sound and logical decisions. Strengthen this trait by not jumping to conclusions, seeking advice and working cooperatively with others you trust.
5. Disciples. Disciples are able to form strong and cohesive work groups, but sometimes appear incapable of action without permission of an authority figure or belief system, and don't seek out leadership positions. This trait can be strengthened by accepting accountability, reducing reaction to stress and cutting ties to authority.
6. Activists. Activists are good at lifting the spirits of team members and managers and are usually optimistic and confident. They tend to bury themselves in activities, but can be impulsive and select quantity over quality. Improvement efforts would include listening more to people, thinking about details and learning to say no.
7. Drivers. Drivers are the most openly aggressive leaders, who enjoy taking charge and can make things better with their immense self-confidence. Unfortunately, they may feel the need to dominate every situation and make every decision. Mature ones act with more self-restraint, let others win and work with others.
8. Arbitrators. Arbitrators tend to be the most open of all types. What you see is what you get. They find ways to bring people together and ways to involve everyone. To be a better Arbitrator, you need to be more assertive, more open, share your feelings and work on developing your listening skills.
9. Perfectionists. Mature Perfectionists are capable of being highly noble leaders, with their deep sense of right and wrong and ethical principles. They are usually highly critical of themselves and others, and often frustrated by reality. To improve, they need to learn to relax, listen to others and remember that no one is perfect.
In all cases, to reach your highest leadership potential, you have to stay true to yourself, rather than trying to conform to other people's images of the best you. If you truly commit to learning more about yourself and becoming the best that you can be, while possessing a great attitude, you will discover that all challenges are really the seeds of opportunity.
How many of these leadership traits have you mastered, and which have been too tough to crack? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.
Martin Zwilling is the founder and CEO of Startup Professionals, a company that provides products and services to startup founders and small business owners. The author of Do You Have What It Takes to Be an Entrepreneur? and Attracting an Angel, he writes a daily blog for entrepreneurs and dispenses advice on the subject of startups.