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Leadership

The Ultimate Guide to Discovering Your Own Leadership Strengths, Skills & Style

July 16, 2022

As a leader, you may often feel like you have no idea what you’re doing. However, you have an innate leadership style – built from your beliefs, values, skills and strengths. ‘Knowing what you’re doing’ isn’t something a leader may ever feel, but understanding how to discover and deftly wield your leadership style is absolutely attainable – and essential to success as a leader. 

Leadership style, strengths and skills – if you think these things are fixed, you’d be entirely wrong. Otherwise, why learn about leadership? Why try to learn and grow? Your current leadership style, unless you have spent a while intentionally honing it, is a reflex generated from what you’ve experienced or learned about leadership in the past. 

The sign of a great leader? The ability to “read the room,” to see your people, empathize with them, and tailor how you use your combination of strengths and skills to their unique benefit. 

See, each team is entirely unique and each team has unique goals. Your leadership is the conduit to get them there. Knowing how to use, shape and stretch your unique leadership style to support that team from point A to Z requires a foundational understanding of your own ‘Point A.’ 

discovering your leadership style together

What is leadership, anyway?

The first step to uncovering and understanding your leadership style begins with a foundational understanding of leadership itself. And before you move on, thinking you’re past Leadership 101, wait a second!

We have to make sure we’re both using the same definitions here. Leadership exists because humans crave growth, movement forward, and stretching the status quo. 

Leaders drive change, and because our world can always improve, there is always room for new leaders. Every leader matters. 

How, exactly, do they drive that change? On a fundamental level, what exactly do they DO?

  1. Leaders perceive the need for a better tomorrow. If you’ve ever thought, ‘It shouldn’t be this way,’ or, ‘Things would be so much better if…’ – that’s you’re leadership functioning as the canary in the mine. It’s your sensor going off.
  2. Leaders identify the goal, the way things should be. Leaders can perceive what’s wrong in the here and now, but they can also see at the very least a glimpse of what COULD be.
  3. Leaders take responsibility for the creation of a strategy, the path forward. They facilitate and collaborate with others to identify all paths forward that are available, efficient, effective and profitable. They seek to align resources with action to achieve the goal.
  4. Leaders select a path forward and work with others to determine and assign action steps, projects and objectives that support the goal.
  5. They do all this while managing, inspiring and collaborating with other humans. Not a task for the faint of heart!

What are leadership strengths?

Your leadership strengths are the proficiencies, talents, behaviors and skills at which you are particularly adept. These are things that come naturally to you, like a reflex. Your leadership strengths are at play when you feel confident, sure, excited, passionate, and ‘in the flow.’

As a leader, you’ll have a varied profile of strengths spanning core leadership and management competencies like:

  • Communication
  • Providing direction
  • Delegation
  • Coaching and mentorship
  • Supporting
  • Decision making
  • Organization 
  • Planning
  • Problem solving 

How to discover your leadership strengths

To discover your strengths as a leader, it’s important for leaders to learn to listen to and understand themselves. While using personality and strengths tests are great tools to utilize, it’s important to start first with your own introspection and discovery. 

The best way to begin your strength exploration and study is to practice: 

  1. Self reflection and study that begets self-awareness. Start to examine the way you show up naturally. When situations arise or you interact with others, what behaviors come as a natural reflex? And, when you get lost ‘in the flow,’ what strengths are you utilizing, what zones of genius are you working in, and what powers are you wielding?
  2. Interview close friends and family. These humans are the closest to you and they have a unique opportunity to give you some tough love if needed. Ask them what they see in you, what strengths they appreciate about you, and ask them what problems they typically see you as a resource for solving.
  3. Use tests like the DiSC assessment and StrengthsFinder. However, only employ assessments after you’ve done your own personal assessment and analysis.
  4. Start over, again and again. Keep an open document as you journey through this self-discovery process and start to review and reflect on what you’ve found. 

Leadership strengths journaling prompts

Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you begin to practice self-observation and self-awareness:

  • What roles do you naturally play in a team setting? What does this say about your own strengths?
  • If what we focus on grows, how can you begin to focus more on your own strengths and build them up?
  • What can be the “shadow” of your strengths, and how can you utilize your strengths in more positive ways?
  • How can you better manage and GROW your strengths?
  • How can you release expectations or needs around your weaknesses?

What are some examples of leadership skills?

Leadership skills include being able to motivate others, communicate effectively, manage conflict, and build relationships. They’re important for any job, but especially for those in positions of power. These leadership skills are essential for success in business and life. Learn what they are and how to develop them.

Self Awareness

Being self-aware means knowing yourself well enough to understand where you need improvement. It’s not just about recognizing your strengths and weaknesses; it’s also about understanding your motivations, values, goals, and personality traits.

Empathy

A leader must be able to empathize with others. This skill helps leaders build trust and relationships. Leaders who are empathetic tend to be more effective communicators because they’re able to connect with people on an emotional level.

Accountability

Accountability is one of the most important leadership skills. It’s also one of the hardest to master. If you’re not sure where to start, try asking yourself these questions: What do I need to learn today? How will my actions affect those around me? Am I willing to take responsibility for my mistakes?

Listening to Understand

You can’t lead people unless you understand them. That means you must first gain an understanding of who they are and why they act as they do. This requires listening carefully to what they say and observing their behavior. Once you’ve done so, you’ll be able to empathize with them and relate to them on a personal level.

Communication

In order to communicate effectively, you need to listen well and speak clearly. Listening involves paying attention to what others are saying and responding appropriately. Speaking well includes being clear, concise, and direct. It also means not interrupting others when they’re speaking.

Why are leadership skills important?

Because leaders lead humans, and humans are dynamic and multi-faceted, leaders must be uniquely adept at a wide range of skills as well. Specifically, leaders need to be able to manage logistics, nurture human relationships, and develop innovative concepts.

Leadership skills can be categorized under three main umbrellas – Administrative, Interpersonal and Conceptual – and help you function as a multi-faceted leader. You may find that because of your strengths, certain areas come more naturally than others. This doesn’t mean that you lean fully into those stronger areas, but you should focus on developing all skills equally.

Administrative skills

These are the skills needed to create structure and organization when managing people & resources as you attempt to carry out your company’s mission and goals. These skills include time management, organization, delegation, and clear communication.

Interpersonal skills

These are the emotional skills needed to understand, empathise and communicate with other humans – like emotional intelligence. These skills include being perceptive, active listening, managing conflict, and coaching.

Conceptual skills

These are the visionary and innovative skills executives are paid to hone and practice, but they are crucial skills for leaders at every level. These are the ability to ideate and work with concepts and vision. Conceptual skills include problem solving, strategy, vision casting, and goal setting.

17 ways to practice and hone your leadership skills

Leadership skills can be acquired, honed, and developed even from the ground up through regular practice and intentionality. Here are several ways you can intentionally put yourself in situations to practice leadership skills regularly. 

  1. Read everything you can get your hands on
  2. Practice following 
  3. Practice listening and following your intuition
  4. Tackle conflicts head-on with an attitude of optimism
  5. Seek input and constructive feedback regularly
  6. Put that feedback into practice and action
  7. Create a leadership development plan
  8. Conduct regular self-study and observation while you lead
  9. Study the styles and actions of leaders you admire
  10. Find a mentor
  11. Find a mentee
  12. Practice collaborating on a project with others – and try letting them take the lead
  13.  Delegate everything you can
  14. Grow your network and practice meeting new people – and staying connected
  15.  Practice problem-solving 
  16.  Speak into others and encourage them regularly
  17. Stay researched and knowledgeable of industry and world developments

What is a leadership style?

Our styles are so dynamic because they’re built within our subconscious – they come out through our actions and behaviors. There are many different categories of styles, and if you do an internet search you’ll find some of these general styles feel in alignment with you. 

The thing is, every style is different because every human is different. Just like no two Enneagram numbers are the same – there are similarities as well as differences – because the environments, educations, experiences, worldviews, beliefs, values, expectations that frame our personalities and beings are so different. 

7 components of our leadership styles

I believe there are seven components that come together to create our leadership styles:

  • Leadership philosophy (which we will talk about in a bit)
  • Core strengths
  • Weaknesses
  • Communication styles
  • Internal motivation (what drives you)
  • And, inner/outer expectations (what standards you hold for yourself vs. others) 

What kind of leadership styles are there?

The right leader can motivate employees, inspire others, and guide the company toward success. There are many, many different leadership styles that work best in the modern workplace, but here are my top five go-to leadership styles for reference.

The Autocrat – the lead, and final, decision maker

An autocratic leader will make decisions based on his own beliefs and values, regardless of what other people think. He might not listen to feedback or advice from others. This style of leadership works well when there is only one decision maker, such as a CEO or owner of a small business.

The Collaborator – the partner in getting the right things done right

A collaborative leader listens to input from others and takes into account their ideas before making a final decision. She encourages her team members to share their opinions and ideas so everyone feels included. This type of leader is good at building relationships and trust among employees.

The Individualist – the prioritizer of independence and accountability

An individualistic leader will often make decisions based on his or her personal values and beliefs and encourage her team to do the same. He or she might not listen to other people’s suggestions or advice because he or she has made up his or her mind about an issue. The individualist encourages her team members to function in the same way – prioritizing complete independence, trust, and accountability. 

The Mentor – the guide who helps you develop and grow

A mentor is someone who guides another person through life. They help their mentees learn new skills, gain confidence, and become more successful. In return, mentors receive something back from their mentees. This could be knowledge, skills, or even just appreciation.

The Coach – the challenger who sees and speaks into your potential

Coaches encourage people to take risks, set goals, and develop themselves. They also provide feedback and support when needed.

Steps to discovering your leadership style

The first step to discovering your leadership style is to understand your own leadership philosophy – or, your beliefs as to why leadership exists and matters in the first place. A leadership philosophy is a set of beliefs and principles that strongly influences how you interpret reality and guides how you react to people, events and situations.

Here are a few questions ask to uncover your leadership philosophy:

  • Why are leaders needed? 
  • Why are you needed? 
  • And, what is the nature of humans’ relationship with work? 
  • Leaders only exist where work needs to be done – why? What do you think this says about humans and work? 
  • What perception do you have about work?
  • What is the purpose of work?
  • Can it give us joy?
  • Or, does it come from joy?
  • Do you think humans like work or dislike work, and why?

It’s always interesting to look at our beliefs about work and leadership, because it’s not something that many of us often do – if ever. It’s important to note that there are no right or wrong answers here. 

The action of defining your leadership philosophy is to help you understand the why and the motivation behind the way you show up as a leader – or, your leadership style. 

Questions to help you map out your leadership style

Your leadership style is the manifestation of your beliefs and values, the outward expression of what you believe to be true about human nature and what you believe to be true about the purpose of work. 

Looking over what you’ve observed about yourself, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How would you summarize your leadership style?
  • What do you love about how you lead currently?
  • In what areas do you want to evolve? How will you intentionally do so?
  • How do your beliefs affect the way you show up as a leader?
  • What is your vision for the future, for the good of this world?
  • What strengths bring you joy and an overflow of passion?
  • How and WHY do you naturally inspire others?
  • Given my strengths and approach to work, how do my team members experience me? What might they assume to be true about me that isn’t? How might that impact performance and team relations?
  • What are some blind spots I may not see that could affect the effectiveness of my leadership?
  • What strengths can I deepen and hone? How can I use what I now know about myself to serve my team members in more impactful ways?

23 books to help you master your leadership style

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I'm Kaylan, leadership educator, podcaster & speaker

What are you searching for?

Reading suggestions

Crafting a 90-Day Onboarding Plan

Job Postings that Attract Top Talent

Mapping Your Leadership Style