Finding Your Signature Leadership Style

Three tips on how to evolve a leadership style that works for you and your team.


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There's no single definition of what it means to be a great leader. In 2000, Daniel Goleman published a Harvard Business Review study that uncovered leadership styles and examined their effect on office culture and bottom-line profitability.

Goleman concluded that there were six types of leaders:

Coercive leaders demand immediate compliance.

Authoritative leaders mobilize people toward a vision.

Affiliative leaders create emotional bonds and harmony.

Democratic leaders build consensus through participation.

Pacesetting leaders expect excellence and self-direction.

Coaching leaders develop people for the future.

So how do you find your personal style? According to Tim Fortescue, a senior coach and account director at Own The Room, there's no one box that you should put yourself into. Styles can mix and anyone can grow to be an effective leader. "Great leaders come in all different molds," he says "I think it's something anyone is capable of adapting themselves into."

Through Own The Room, a company that helps people refine their presenting and leadership skills, Fortescue has worked with everyone from top executives to entry-level hires. It's no surprise, then, that he's seen a lot of different leadership types along the way. He spoke to The Venture about how people can find and develop their own signature style in becoming a productive leader.

Related: Five Tips To Communicate Better As A Leader

Get a Head Start

You don't need to be in a leadership position to start developing your unique style, Fortescue says.

"Probably the best way to practice running an organization before you have a team under you is reflect on who you are and what your values are, and [live] them in your daily life," he explains. "Defining those things early sets people up for success."

As soon as you're in a position of leadership, you'll likely have to start making tough decisions right away. That's why it helps to have a clear idea of what's most important to you. Plus, your staff will appreciate your clarity and ability to never second guess yourself.

Be Clear About Your Expectations

Remember: you will likely have to adapt your leadership technique based on the situation you're in. For example, if you're in a crisis environment, a strong voice may be the most effective approach.

On the other hand, if you're working on a long-term project that you want your team to be invested in, you may choose to take an approach that focuses on team building and giving staffers a feeling of ownership. Whatever the case, an important thing to do right off the bat is to communicate your expectations to your team. If your staff knows what you want out of them, that will give you the freedom to find the technique that best fits the situation, and have it be effective.

Fortescue finds that setting some non-negotiable boundaries is key in holding team members accountable. "I'm as flexible as I can be when it comes to individual style," Fortescue says. "But in terms of standards and certain structural orders, that's where I hold firm. I think that allows for people to play to their strengths."

Know When To Let Go

If you've ever had a boss who holds the reins too tight, you know it can lead to a frustrating work environment. No matter what style you adapt, there are times when the most effective thing to do is to let go. Fortescue recommends that figuring out the right moments to give your team some freedom is an important leadership exercise. "In order to be successful as a team, you have to let your players have autonomy, be themselves, explore, try and fail," Fortescue says. "Once they know where their boundaries are, then letting them go is the key to success."

Fortescue acknowledges that giving your team that kind of freedom can be a bit scary, particularly if you're running a small business, but he suggests taking the leap of faith. "More often than not, I've found that people surprise you with the good work they do when you give them autonomy, as long as they understand what the expectations are," he says.

First published by Chivas The Venture on

The Venture is a global social enterprise initiative searching for extraordinary startups and new ideas that use business to create positive change. If you have a GCC-based social enterprise or an idea for a social enterprise, enter The Venture #WinTheRightWay to potentially win your share of US$1 million. Entries close on 30th November.

Related: How To Turn Your Startup Dream Into Reality

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