There is never a better place to start than trying to get a better understanding of yourself and your leadership style. Even if you have never taken any leadership courses or formal leadership profiling tests, you already have a foundation for your leadership style rooted in everyday interactions.
Think about how you interact with people at a party, do you seek out the people you don’t know in the room or do you tend to stay with the people that you already have a connection to? If you’re comfortable initiating conversations with strangers you may find matrix team working easier than others, in contrast if you tend to focus on people you have a connection with you may be someone who is good at developing their networks and focusing how you invest your time and resources tightly.
There are many different ways to be a leader and many different leadership theories and styles and thousands of books written about them. It isn’t a case of one being right and the others being wrong, it’s rather about finding a theoretical framework that helps you understand your own leadership approach, what your strengths and weaknesses are and mitigate some of your potential blind spots.
Using a self-assessment tool can help you get a better sense of your own approach. These tools tend to involve ranking different statements about how you approach teams, delivering work and setting pace and vision. An example is this free leadership style test which can help you get a more in-depth look at the styles that fit you, and the styles that may require some improvement.
Whenever you take these tests it is important to remember that they are just reflecting your potential preferences and highlighting things that may come easily to you and other styles and approaches that will take a bit more effort. One of the benefits of these self-awareness tests is that they give you a greater understanding of how you react under stress, as this is usually when we slip back into our most comfortable ways of working, it is also when we are most likely to make mistakes because of this ‘reverting to type’, but if you are aware of your preferences you can mitigate them.
Take a leadership building course.
Once you have a sense of your strengths and weaknesses as a leader, it can be helpful to take a leadership building course. There are many courses out there, so do your research before signing up. If you can reach out to people you admire and ask for personal recommendations of courses they found useful. Good courses will have plenty of content in their materials on alumni and if you ask will be happy to connect you to previous participants.
These courses can help provide additional resources and expert advice to help accelerate the process of becoming a strong, confident leader, they can also help you start to develop a leadership networking group and provide opportunities for you to benchmark your style and approach against others. It’s important to try and find courses that are multi-disciplinary and will give you a broad experience base working alongside other people from very different backgrounds and experiences.
Use the networking coffee breaks to test out your approach to engaging people from different backgrounds and don’t be afraid to throw yourself into the exercises that are part of the course. You will only get the full value of these kind of experiences if you are your authentic self and participate fully.
Keep a Journal
A helpful strategy in all aspects of life is to keep a detailed journal. There are many benefits to this strategy, including organizing thoughts and keeping notes, but it is incredibly beneficial for reflection.
How you keep the journal is up to you, some people keep very detailed accounts of their days, others take more of an action note approach. One of the key things is to focus on your emotions and experiences rather than the factual events.
After a few weeks of journaling, you will be able to look back and see patterns of thinking, as well as resolve issues that once seemed to elude you. Journaling can offer fundamental change and insight, and all for the cost of a notebook and dedicating a bit of time.
Have open conversations with people you trust
As you start to explore your leadership style it is important to create a small group of people you trust to give you honest and open feedback and provide a safe space for you to explore some of the emotions and reflections you are discovering as you go through the process.
Finding a mentor can be a great way to connect with someone who can give you honest and impartial feedback on your leadership style and approach. When you have found a mentor it is important that you respect their time and really focs your discussions on where you want to learn and explore.
However you start your leadership journey keep self-care at the heart of your approach and remember that every journey has ups and down, and each step teaches you something new whether you realize it at the time or not.