The Art of Strengths Coaching

L is for Communicating Your Leadership Style To People

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Good leaders communicate how they will behave as leaders. Why? Team members like to know what to expect. Otherwise they can spend months trying to understand the leader’s behaviour and expectations.

Let’s explore some steps you can take to clarify and communicate your leadership style to people.

You can clarify
your leadership style

Imagine you lead a team. If you wish, try tackling the exercise called My Leadership Style. This invites you to clarify and then communicate:

The things you will and won’t do as a leader.

The dos and don’ts for working well with you.

The consequences of your style.

Be very honest when completing the exercise. This is about your actual leadership style, not your aspirations.

Remember, there are not necessarily good or bad styles. But there are consequences.

Below is the exercise. This is accompanied by an example of what one person wrote when communicating their leadership style.

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One person gave some of the following examples regarding what they would and would not do as a leader.

I Will:

* Provide a clear vision for the team, but give you freedom, within limits, on how you get to the goal.

For example: I will agree with you on the outcomes to achieve and the support you need. I will expect you to proactively keep me informed, but I won’t micro-manage you – unless you fail to deliver.

* Be full of energy in a morning, maybe ring you before 8.00.

For example: I am a morning person, so I am quite energetic early on and want to make sure everybody is clear on what we are aiming to do that day.

* Get to the point quickly in conversations, rather than do social chat.

For example: I tend to be impatient, so I want to get to the headline.

* Talk quickly, but sometimes not check out that you have understood what I have said.

For example: I often have a vision in my head about what we should do, but sometimes forget to tell people, even though I think I have communicated it.

* Protect you from unnecessary interference from my bosses – but expect you to deliver on your promises.

For example: I will provide air cover so you do not get overloaded with information from above, but I expect you to take responsibility and also be good at managing our key stakeholders.

I Won’t:

* Always look at you directly when you are speaking.

For example: I will look at you when we start the conversation, but then may look away when trying to make sense of the information. Don’t take this personally. I am listening.

* Be good at giving praise.

For example: I set the bar high for myself and other people, so the times I do give praise are when somebody performs exceptionally.

* Get involved in lots of social events.

For example: I will also go to bed early on off-sites, rather than sit around talking into the early hours.

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One leader described the following Dos and Don’ts regarding the best way to work with them.

Do:

* Be professional.

For example: be on time for meetings, encourage your colleagues, see things from the customer’s point of view, keep your promises, be contactable between 8.00 and 18.00.

* Prepare properly for one-to-one sessions with me.

For example: at the start of the session explain what you want to discuss and what you want from me.

* Be honest.

For example: let me know bad news quickly. It’s good if you can outline the possible options for moving forward. But don’t hide bad news if you have not yet thought of a strategy.

* Accept that we work for an American company.

For example: this will not always be easy, but we are adults and understood the deal when we joined.

Don’t:

* Be unprofessional.

For example: don’t be late for meetings, don’t do your emails during the meetings, don’t treat your colleagues badly.

* Put your own agenda before that of the team.

For example: don’t pursue your goals at the cost of other people, don’t compete with your colleagues – we are here to help each other.

* Waffle.

For example: don’t avoid getting to the point, don’t wing it.

You can communicate your
leadership style to people in your team

Find an appropriate time to share your leadership style with your team. I have often invited leaders to do this during a super team workshop, but other times can also be appropriate.

Providing it is communicated properly, the response is normally positive. People like to know how you operate, so it’s good to make the implicit explicit. They can then take a stand towards how they work with you.

A typical reaction came from one team member who told their leader:

“We have been working together for 5 years, but this document sums you up, warts and all.

“For example, it took me 6 months to figure out that you have a memory like an elephant, even though you seldom write anything down. At first I thought you weren’t paying attention during our conversations, but later you could recount every detail.

“Now I tell new starters to ignore your body language, which can be a bit disconcerting. They need to know that you notice every detail about them and the conversation. Some people find this intimidating, but most eventually get used to you.

“I wish somebody had told me your rules when I first joined the team.”

You can develop
your leadership style

One leader explained how they intended to build on the pluses and minimise the minuses of their style. They explained:

“The pluses of my style are that: a) Because I am so focused, it is likely that we will reach our goals; b) Self-managing people will thrive; c) Everybody will learn.

“The possible minuses are that: a) Sometimes I will fail to give positive strokes, even though I know I should; b) Not everybody finds it easy to work with me.

“Building on the pluses, I will continue to provide direction and give people the tools they need to do their jobs. Aiming to minimise the minuses, I will spend one hour with each person every two months.

“Ahead of the meeting, I will ask individuals to send me an email describing: a) The specific things they have done well during the past two months; b) The things they think they can do better in the future – and how; c) The plans they have for the next two months and the practical support they need from me.”

Good leaders recognise the consequences of their style.  They build on the pluses and minimise the minuses to lead the team to success.

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