Have you ever been asked to describe your leadership style – perhaps in an interview?
I’m sure you have. And if you’re anything like me, I suspect you found that a difficult question to answer or left the interview wishing you’d said something different.
I’ve been reflecting on this question recently and have come to believe it’s pretty misleading. It’s a loaded question that forces us to describe a singular, fixed style.
And as is the case with most personality profiles or psychometric assessments, this puts us in a box, even if the facilitator says, ‘this isn’t about putting you in a box.’ I don’t know about you, but I don’t like being put in a box myself, and it can be very unhelpful to view our colleagues as being a particular type of person (be that an ‘INTJ,’ a ‘driver,’ a ‘sunshine yellow’ or whatever else it may be.).
I recently interviewed General David Petraeus – Former US Army Four-Star General and Director of the CIA- for episode 57 of the podcast (go ahead and listen to it here) and watched a particularly insightful interview with him as part of my research. In the clip, he shares his response to the ‘how would you describe your leadership style’ question.
His answer was along the lines of ‘…tell me about the situation, the person I’m dealing with and what you want me to achieve…and then I’ll tell you my leadership style.’
When I heard this, I suddenly realized why I’ve always struggled to answer that question. It’s because I don’t have a leadership style. Instead, I have a variety of approaches (or styles) that I tailor to the situation or person in front of me.
But what about consistency, I hear you say!
Well, consistency comes from being clear on our overarching leadership philosophy and principles. It also comes from being clear on our purpose and core values.
These are the things that will ultimately guide our behaviours, decision-making, and actions, which in turn provides consistency for those we have the privilege and responsibility to lead. They also allow us to flex our style while still being congruent and authentic.
So we can be 100 percent true to our principles and values while flexing our style to suit the situation and person, or people, in front of us.
As for me and my leadership style… I’m a Flexitarian – that’s a term I just made up, by the way!
And the principles that guide me are;
- We must serve to lead.
- We are always a leader, regardless of the situation or who is watching.
- Leadership is not about what you do; it is about who you are and the values that shape us.
- Honesty and integrity are at the core of great leadership.
- Protect and care for those that you lead.
- Leadership is about others, but it starts with us (secure your own mask first).
- Leaders do not need to have all of the answers.
- Strive for mastery.
- Leadership is about balancing the needs of the task at hand and the people we are responsible for.
- Articulate the vision.
These are my principles, but what are yours?
Add your comments below as I’d love to hear what sits behind your leadership style.