Your leadership approach: where does it come from?

Stone bridge

Think about the way you conduct a meeting, talk to an employee, delegate an important task: This is your leadership approach, but where does it come from? Why do you do the things you do? Let’s examine:

I argue your leadership approach is mainly fueled by five drivers:

1.   First boss(es): The way s/he approached work and leadership;

2.   Society and culture: That’s what one does;

3.   Your parents: The way things worked at home;

4.   Personal resolution and reflection: What you think and feel is good and right;

5.   Training: Specific tools and approaches you trained and reflected upon.

But how much of this is truly known to you? Often, we just go with the flow and continue the practices we know.

But this can be dangerous. As John Maxwell says: “When you are average at something, practice does not make you perfect, it makes it permanent!”

Therefore, I recommend taking a step back from time to time to analyze whether your approach is truly right for you and is delivering the desired results.

How do you do this? Here’s a 4-step approach I recommend to my clients:

Step 1: Identify one key area

Write down one important and/or problematic area of your leadership actions and highlight how you approach it.

Let’s take the example of delegation of work. This area comes up regularly in my consulting and coaching practice. Many managers have issues with delegation while at the same time they are over-loaded. The reasons can be plenty fold: Trust, needing control, expectations of what one needs to do, experience,….

Step 2: Assess beliefs and strategies

Focus especially on what kind of beliefs/approaches/statements are coming up in your head about this key area.

We continue with this example: you need to delegate an important presentation or report. Do you recognize one of the following thoughts?

_____”I have no problem to delegate”

_____”Well, I give some clear instructions, and then I check the first piece of work”

_____”Only good if I take care of it. I will review everything. Let’s cross the Ts and dot the Is”

_____”Now way I can delegate anything to this employee”

_____”Another sentence?”

There is no right or wrong here. And it depends on the situation.

But if after having identified your leadership approach you are not happy, I recommend you to try out another strategy.

Step 3: Replace belief/strategy with new belief/strategy

Take one area of your beliefs/strategies and replace it with a new belief or strategy.

You could, for instance, use the 80% rule to try a new way of delegating: “For the next four weeks, I will delegate everything without question where I know that I can live with the results even if they are only up to 80% according to my standards.”

Step 4: Assess and reconsider

Test it for 4 weeks and see what happens and evaluate. Put yourself a calendar invite for a personal review, and write down “Re-assess 80% strategy” or whatever new belief/strategy you have.

Keep testing it further and continue to learn about yourself and question yourself. If all works fine: great! Then move on.

If not, replace and try something new. Or go back to the old strategy. Add new ideas from time to time. Keep whatever is working for you. Throw out beliefs/strategies that are not working any more.

That process makes you grow as a leader.

Review on an ongoing basis

Explore your leadership style. Make your beliefs and strategies connected to leadership visible and examine them. Adapt your strategies, test them and evaluate your changes. Keep repeating this process until you found a leadership approach that works best for you and your team.

As psychologist C.G. Jung says: “Until you make the unconscious conscious it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”

I believe the same to be true for our leadership style.

Lars Sudmann is an expert on high-performance leadership in global corporations. You can contact Lars to work with you as change consultant, executive coach, keynote speaker & workshop facilitator for your next event.

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