How to Tap Into Your Personality to Find Your Leadership Style

Greg Wasson Walgreens

You don’t have to be well known to be an influential leader. Most people haven’t heard of Greg Wasson, the CEO of Walgreens in the USA but he runs the worlds largest retail chain and influences millions of people every day. via Walgreens

Every great leader develops his or her own unique style to inspire, guide and influence other people. I recently came across Forbes’ 100 Best Quotes on Leadership, which shows how many approaches there are to making a difference. Leadership by example is one of my core traits so I can identify with the first quote by Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu:

A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim is fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.

Of course, not every person works this way. Many of the most influential figures in history have been anything but passive or invisible in their methods of leadership.

Be Wary of One-Size-Fits-All Leadership

As you seek advice on building your leadership skills, remember that quick-fix tips are usually as useful as last weeks lotto numbers. Watch out for advice that pigeonholes your style or sums up ‘good leadership’ into a set of basic methods that are ‘guaranteed to succeed.’ Using those go-to tricks can sometimes be helpful, but a lot of people see through surface tactics. Especially after reaching out to the same people repeatedly, your audience will start to realise you’re using a generic and unnatural set of communication techniques.

Human intuition is a powerful detector!

Learn to dig deeper

Instead of following any textbook leadership model, building your own style is the best route. When you learn to leverage your deeper motivations and traits as a leader, those skills will last a lifetime. You will build real confidence and connect with people on a powerful level. Your methods will tap into your deepest goals, rather than just distracting you from nerves or getting you through your next speech.

Building your own style also helps you stay fresh and interesting. Your leadership skills will be coming from a deep and personal place that is constantly evolving. You may even be surprised at how you grow.

Tap into your core personality

Susan Cain

Susan Cain examined the effectiveness of introverts. via Susan Cain on TED

Knowing your core personality traits is one of the first steps toward becoming an influential person.

I’ve never stopped learning about my own personality as a leader. My approach to life and my day-to-day behavior are always changing, but there are some core traits that I’ve noticed consistently through the years.

For example, one big part of my personality is my inner introvert. I’ve learned to use this to my advantage, finding ways to connect to people through deep one-on-one conversations and building relationships based on inner reflection. There’s a big myth out there that naturally introverted people don’t make great leaders. I always had my doubts about that stereotype, considering my passion for leadership. Reading Susan Cain’s bestselling book Quiet really put it in a concise way. Leaders come in a variety of personality types. Don’t discount your own style just because it is not like other people. Introverts make great leaders too.

Whether you consider yourself naturally introverted or extroverted, I highly recommend reading that book to anyone who is unsure about their potential to influence others.

My sense of humour is another core personality trait that’s defined my leadership style. Making people laugh is one of my favorite ways of connecting and building personal relationships. Tapping into that core trait has helped keep my communication techniques genuine and convincing.

Other aspects of my personality include my Australian nationality, my relationships with friends and family, and my deep passion for human interaction.

I recommend going through this process of self-discovery before taking any further steps toward building your leadership style.

Know your values

Your values are closely related to your personality, but they aren’t exactly the same. It’s important to consciously acknowledge what you value most in life. This process helps you solidify your goals as a leader and gives you a foundation for your life’s work.

What are the absolute most important things to you in your life? Are you passionate about helping people in need or improving the environment? Are you dedicated to making a name for yourself in the business world? Maybe you’re hoping to become a world leader in architecture or design?

However basic or complex your personal values may be, they will become the core motivation for the leadership style you develop. The sooner you can know those values, the sooner you can become the type of leader that you most admire.

Identify and research your role models

Speaking of leaders you admire, researching one or two inspirational figures can be a huge help in your quest toward successful leadership. In my experiences as a workshop leader and presentation expert, I’ve spoken to hundreds of people about their role models in life. Some people look up to world-famous leaders like Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Richard Branson. Others will identify personal role models like a parent or a high school teacher.

Whoever your role models may be, remember that they also had to build their own leadership style through trial and error. By researching their life’s work, you can gain precious insight without having to make their same mistakes.

Read an autobiography, study interviews or watch speeches from the leaders you admire. If they’re closer to you, ask them questions in person or look at old photographs to remind yourself of their most admirable qualities.

Use your life experiences

When I was in my early 20s I worked on a Summer camp in America. Part of the bonding process for the counselors was to go white-water-rafting. Our boats were filled with people from all over the work and we had to work together. We were given helmets, life vests and paddles and plunged into a pretty terrifying whitewater river course. While it was frightening at first, the feeling of working as a team and overcoming each stretch of rapids was bonding.

I often remember that early experience when I face challenges as an executive speaker. The lessons I learned about teamwork, as well as personalities under pressure, have been invaluable to my development as a leader. That rafting trip has also provided a very useful metaphor that I can use in my communication, and connect with people by sharing real-life experiences.

To become a truly honest and convincing influence on others, it’s important to reflect on your life experiences and use them to build your leadership style. It’s what makes you a unique person, and helps you stand out as a person with legitimate advice that’s grounded in experience.

Practice your style

So now you’ve identified your core personality traits and values, observed your role models, and gotten in touch with your life experiences. The next step is to practice your leadership style and develop it through real-life scenarios.

There’s no better way to become an effective and genuine leader than to get some actual experience on the job. Start thinking of ways to interact with real groups of people and test your ability to influence others. Consider volunteering for a group cause that you care about, or simply applying your personal theories about leadership to your existing career. Remember to push your boundaries and step out of your comfort zone.

Seek honest feedback

The final step, which many people forget to take, is to seek honest feedback on your style. This doesn’t necessarily mean you should pass out surveys at work or hold a focus group. You don’t even need to use the word ‘leadership’ when asking others for their feedback. Just remember to maintain a two-way path for communication, and stay open to comments and constructive criticism from the people you work with.

I’ve found that unintentional and even non-verbal feedback is actually the most useful. While I interact with other I always try to pay attention to their body language and level of engagement. I also look out for whether people I have spoken to decide to take action or not. When people seem truly engaged or take action after interacting with me, I take that as a sign that I’m doing something right.

I encourage anyone who hopes to make an impact on the world to follow the above steps. By building your own personal leadership style, you’ll see that people will become far more responsive and willing to follow your example. That way you can live a life that’s truly meaningful, and achieve the goals most important to you.

If you want to develop the leaders within your organization and your own skills as well, contact me and we can develop a program that is right for you.

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