Everyone has leadership potential

Everyone Has Leadership Potential

“As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.” - Bill Gates

Just because something feels uncomfortable doesn't mean you can't or shouldn’t do it. Leadership and the skills needed to be great at it can be just that, uncomfortable and potentially scary.

For most of us to be thought of as a ‘leader’ is an aspiration, however we sometime get put off by the amount of work needed to achieve this status. But if you can push through the discomfort and scary moments and do it anyway, you may just enable yourself to achieve your greatest leadership triumphs.

Pushing outside of your comfort zone is no easy task. The best way to get started is to love and embrace that natural leadership style that you bring to ‘work’ with you each day, with all of its strengths and its glorious flaws. And never look at another person and say "I wish I were more like them" or "they are a much better leader than I am." Instead, tell yourself that you simply approach things differently, and you have strengths where they have areas for improvements.

Pushing outside your comfort zone and doing the really tough stuff gets a lot easier when you appreciate what you already have got going for you and acknowledge that you're no worse off than anyone else. Then you just have to go for it and embrace the discomfort as part of the process personal growth. Every single time you try something new, it will get a little easier and before you know it, you'll be doing things that you never would have imagined yourself doing before.

The 7 most common leadership styles (and how to find your own)

At first glance, we may think that some leadership styles are better than others. The truth is that each of the following leadership styles has its place in a leader's toolkit. The wise leader knows how to flex from one style to another, just as the situation and circumstances demand.

The 7 most common leadership styles tend to be viewed as a continuum, ranging from autocratic at one end, to laissez-faire at the other, with a variety of styles in between.

1. Autocratic Style – Do as l say.

Generally, an autocratic leader believes that s/he is the smartest person at the table and knows more than others. They make all the decisions and accept little input from team members. This command-and-control approach is typical of leadership styles of the past, but doesn’t sit well with most teams today.

That's not to say that the style may not be appropriate in certain situations. For example, you can dip into an autocratic leadership style when crucial decisions need to be made on the spot, and you have the most knowledge about the situation, or when you're dealing with inexperienced and new team members and there's no time to wait for team members to gain familiarity with their role.

2. Authoritative Style -  Follow me.

The authoritative leadership style is the mark of confident leaders (aka visionaries) who map out the way and set expectations, while engaging and energising followers / team members along the way. In a climate of uncertainty, these leaders give a clear vision for others to view. They help them see where the company is going and what's going to happen when they get there. Unlike autocratic leaders, authoritative leaders take the time to explain their thinking: They don't just issue orders. Most of all, they allow people choice and latitude on how to achieve common goals.

3. Pacesetting Style – Do as l do!

This style describes a very driven leader who sets a racing pace. Pacesetters set the bar high and push their team members to run hard and fast to the finish line.

While the pacesetter style of leadership is effective in getting things done and driving for results, it's a style that can hurt team members. For one thing, over a long period of time even the most driven employees may become stressed working under this style of leadership.

Should you avoid the pacesetting style altogether? In my view … No. If you're an energetic entrepreneur working with a like-minded team on developing and announcing a new product or service, this style may serve you well. However, this is not a style that can be kept up for the long term. A pacesetting leader needs to let the air out of the tires once in a while to avoid causing team burnout or mutiny.

4. Democratic Style – What do you think?

These leaders share information with employees about anything that affects their work responsibilities. They also seek employees' opinions before approving a final decision.

There are numerous benefits to this participative leadership style. It can engender trust and promote team spirit and cooperation from employees. It allows for creativity and helps employees grow and develop. A democratic leadership style gets people to do what you want to be done but in a way that they want to do it. It ensures that the ‘team’ feels that they have been part of the decision-making process but without the responsibility of the final call.

However, this leadership style can also hinder the decision-making process and ability to move forward. The need to always ask for everyone’s opinions and checking that all are happy before moving forward can playout badly for meeting deadlines and also your level of authority as viewed by the team.

5. Coaching Style – Have you considered this?

A leader who ‘coaches’ views people as a talent-pool ready to be developed. The leader who uses a coach approach seeks to unlock people's potential. Leaders who use a coaching style open their hearts and doors for people. They believe that everyone has power within themselves. A coaching leader gives people a little direction to help them tap into their ability to achieve all that they're capable of. Individuals or teams take responsibility for the whole process of decision making and delivery with the promote and guiding ear of the coach.

6. Affiliative Style – People come first.

Of all the leadership styles, the affiliative leadership approach is one where the leader gets up close and personal with people. A leader practicing this style pays attention to and supports the emotional needs of team members. The leader strives to open up a communication line that connects him or her to the team. Ultimately, this style is all about encouraging harmony and forming collaborative relationships within teams. It's particularly useful, for example, in smoothing conflicts among team members or reassuring people during times of stress.

7. Laissez-Faire Style – The complete opposite to the autocratic style.

Of all the leadership styles, this one involves the least amount of oversight. You could say that the autocratic style leader stands as firm as a rock on issues, while the laissez-faire leader lets people swim with the current. On the surface, a laissez-faire leader may appear to trust people to know what to do, but taken to the extreme, an uninvolved leader may end up appearing incompetent. While it's beneficial to give people opportunities to spread their wings, with a total lack of direction, people may unwittingly drift in the wrong direction—away from the critical objectives of the project. This style works well if you're leading highly skilled, experienced employees who are self-starters and motivated. To be most effective with this style it is key to monitor team performance and provide regular feedback.

So how do you choose the right leadership style for you (and should it always be the same?)

Knowing which of the leadership styles works best for you is part of being a good leader. Developing a signature style with the ability to stretch into other styles as situations dictate, will certainly help enhance your leadership effectiveness and overall successes.

1. Know yourself.

Start by raising your awareness of your dominant leadership style. You can do this by asking trusted colleagues to describe the strengths of your leadership style. You can also take a leadership style assessment.

2. Understand the different styles.

Get familiar with the repertoire of leadership styles that can work best for a given situation. What new skills do you need to develop? Watch people and review which style works well in different circumstances. Remember that this also includes who else is in the ‘team’, the dynamics of the team plays a big part in how a leader works best.

3. Practice, practice and more practice.

Be genuine with any approach you use. Moving from a dominant leadership style to a different one may be challenging at first. Practice new behaviors until they become natural. In other words, don't use a different leadership style at every opportunity. Stick to a few and practice, practice, practice. People can smell a fake leadership style a mile away—authenticity rules.

4. Develop your leadership agility.

Traditional leadership styles are still relevant in today's workplace, but they may need to be combined with new approaches in line with how leadership is defined for the 21st century. Today's business environments are fraught with challenges due to changing demographics, technology and employee expectations of a diverse workforce. This will call for a new breed of leader, one who is an amalgamation of several of the leadership styles talked about here.