How does your actual leadership style fit you?  Do the people you supervise think you are genuine and sincere? Does the culture of your organization match your approach and philosophy on management?  How often are you asked to act in a way that doesn’t align with your personal values?

The Challenge

I’m a fan of Bill George’s work in the realm of Authentic Leadership. I like the approach because it encourages leaders to reflect, to understand themselves and to grasp what motivates them.  It starts with the essential piece of self-knowledge and moves to a unique approach to leadership.  Many people I work with have already done significant reflection and really do know themselves.  However, some newer or less reflective leaders do not.

More typical in my work, are people who have an accurate self-concept, but who don’t apply that knowledge in a meaningful way.  They adopt a leadership style that doesn’t match their personality or skills.  This happens because that’s the way they think it “should” be done, or the culture of their organization doesn’t reward their style. Managers–particularly if they are promoted from within–often assume the persona of the person who filled the role before they did.  This rarely goes well

Sometimes the issue is that the managers don’t understand why they are being asked to approach management in a certain way.  On the flip side, especially for newer managers, holding people accountable in any way is truly challenging.  These managers will not be able to do their best work until their styles align with expectations, or they find a fit in a department or organization that more closely matches their approach.

The Reflection

There are so many options to build self-knowledge.  At True North, we love using Everything DiSC to help leaders understand themselves more deeply and build better working relationships.  But businesses don’t always have the time to do something that in-depth.  One activity that I have been using recently in workshops and in consulting to encourage reflection revolves around motivators and stressors.  Just take a few minutes to write down things in general that motivate you.  Then create a similar list of things that stress you out. Now, do the same thing with specific job tasks that you perform regularly.

Finally, take a critical look at those lists.  What are the big things that stand out?  Are the things that stress you out related to not leading or managing in a style that matches your personality and skills?  Are they related to trying to fit your style into a culture that doesn’t match? I often find these two challenges are at the heart of leadership stress.

Now What?

If your style isn’t a match for the organization or department you are working in, you’ll need to decide if you want to adapt or if you want to look for a better fit for your skills and style.  It should be a conscious decision to find a culture that matches your approach and values around leadership and management.

Now, what if you find out that you aren’t leading in a style that matches your personality or skills?  What should you do?  Make a change.  I  suggest leaders and managers make small changes over a period of time in relation to their approach.  Why?  Drastic changes lead to unnecessary conflict or uncertainty.  Create a plan for changes you plan to make and implement them over an appropriate time period.  That period will vary based on the culture of the organization, the nature of the change you want to make, and the team of people you work with.

Jerritt Johnston is the Owner of True North Consultants, which promotes organizational, individual and team growth through challenging, fun and relevant activities and processes.  True North is an Authorized Partner for Everything DiSC®and The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team™