Can You Change Your Leadership Style?

Many corporate leaders and employees have the right intentions, but it can be overwhelming when you consider how everything is affected from leadership styles, to organizational structure, to employee engagement, to customer service an marketplace. ~ Simon Mainwaring

It’s not hard to lead when things remain the same day after day. You have your own style, and it’s worked for you so far. But what happens when things get shaken up a bit? If you have to change your leadership style, can you?

Why You Might Need to Change Your Leadership Style

Let’s say that you’re suddenly dealing with a group of new hires, and they’re just not as competent as the people you’re used to working with. If your nature is to let people do their own thing as long as they get results, can you really do that now? Or are you going to have to start telling them what to do?

Alternatively, you could be noticing a shift in the people you’ve worked with for a long time. Perhaps they’ve become less productive, and it may have nothing to do with you. Has the nature of the job changed? Have they had to accept a wage cut or a reduction in benefits due to poor economic conditions? Or is it something as mundane as the fact that they’re collectively sick of a long period of horrible weather and they’re sluggish?

In the final analysis, it really doesn’t matter why productivity is down. Whether it’s new hires or suddenly under-performing older staff, it’s your job to lead, and you may have to change your style in order to do it effectively.

You’re Stuck in Your Ways and Don’t Think You Can Change

It’s very unlikely that you can’t change your leadership style. It’s important to understand the difference between style and personality. Your personality is probably pretty entrenched – for example, a person who’s friendly and outgoing is not likely to be able to morph into the type of person who prefers keeping a low profile. Similarly, people who are quiet and shy often have to really force themselves to behave in an outgoing way because it’s not in their nature – not part of their personality.

Style is a whole different matter. Like style in clothing, style in leadership is developed under the influence of external factors – it’s not innate. You almost certainly incorporate certain elements of your personality into your leadership style, but that style isn’t etched in stone. In fact, if you and your team aren’t on the same page for whatever reason, you’re probably going to have no choice but to tweak your style for the overall good of the group.

Identify Your Style Before You Try to Change It

Before you can change your leadership style, you need to have a good grasp of how you’re leading right now. Think about how you like to work.

1. Authoritative Leaders

Do you create a vision of how things ought to be and then instruct your people as to how you want it implemented? If this sounds like you, you’re an authoritative leader.

2. Democratic Leaders

By way of contrast, democratic leaders seek feedback, frequently ask for suggestions, and then get down in the trenches and work along with the team.

3. Laissez-Faire Leaders

Laissez-faire leaders hire people they feel are qualified to do the job, and then let them do it with minimal instruction.

Choosing Your Style

Changing your style is going to require quite a bit of practice, and a lot of commitment. For example, if you’re an authoritative leader, you’re going to have to loosen the apron strings, and you’ll probably need to do it gradually – it’s not realistic to think that you’re going to completely change overnight. You might start, for instance, by having your team report to you just once a day instead of twice or three times. Conversely, a laissez-fair leader might ask for a weekly progress report if he or she has never done that before.

What Next?

If you find that your team isn’t responding to your leadership the way they once did, you need to find out the reason. If you determine that it is your style, you can change, but it will require some effort.

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