Just as we all possess unique characteristics which shape our personality, we also have our own unique style of leadership, and regardless of whether or not we’re leading, our influence tends to be more positive and effective when we behave naturally.
Yet our personality is not rigid and singular, it’s multi-dimensional, adjusting to the environment in which we find ourselves in i.e. when required, we have the ability to display different facets of our personality. For example, most of us tend to conduct ourselves in a job interview differently than how we do at home.
The same should apply for when we’re leading, both on and off the sports field. Whilst it’s true that the most effective leaders behave authentically, they’re also capable of adapting their method of leading. In other words, they have the skill to flex their leadership style when appropriate.
Three Main Styles
There are many various ways to lead, with no one mode being superior or inferior to the other, but essentially leadership styles can be split into three broad classifications…
Autocrats are determined, forthright, and stubborn, and are easily recognisable as being the leader. They display high levels of confidence and enjoy the focus of public attention.
Their traits include boldness, reactive decision making, a desire to be seen, and a committed and stubborn, ‘lead from the front’, attitude.
They’re sometimes viewed as egotistical and opinionated, which can lead to disharmony, but if they show that they value others, and maintain the team as their main priority, they can be very good leaders.
The People’s Champion
Leading by example, and making others feel good about themselves, are hallmarks of The People’s Champion. They are relaxed, likeable, and extremely good listeners.
They tend to be action-oriented, so therefore undertake tasks themselves rather than delegating jobs to others. When it comes to decision-making, they consider the interests of all those concerned, trying to reach consensus.
However, because of their sociable and harmonious nature, they may find it testing to enforce accountability, finding it difficult to hold others responsible for behaviours and outcomes which are below an acceptable standard.
The Quiet One
Quiet One’s are thoughtful and reflective, often being highly motivated and decisive. With an introverted disposition, they have a preference for conducting operations in the background.
They’re less concerned with how others perceive them, and often do not seek leadership roles, but they can prove to be excellent leaders.
As a result of their relentless drive, they may find it difficult to accept that others don’t possess this same high level of motivation. Others may also find it difficult to understand them, which can lead to frustration on both sides. Yet when they do make the effort to keep communication channels open, this style of leadership can be highly effective.
Flexing our preferences
We all have a leaning towards a particular style, although not necessarily possessing all the characteristics of this style of leadership. To varying degrees, most of us will have a mixture of the three.
All things being equal however, we will have a style that is most comfortable for us. This should be where we spend the majority of our time, where we can be our most authentic self.
Yet those who only use this singular mode, will ultimately be less effective as leaders than those who have the ability to flex their style when needed.
Take these three examples…
Leadership style preference: The Autocrat
Your team has just come off the pitch, having lost a tightly contested match. It’s a relatively young side and they have given their best effort, yet ultimately have been outplayed by better, more experienced opposition. Everyone’s disappointed, including you.
Your normal style is to bluntly voice your opinion, in front of everyone, whether that’s positive or less so. Yet, as an experienced leader who has been in this position many times before, you recognise that this situation requires a different approach. These players don’t need any critical feedback now, so you wisely dip into the style of The People’s Champion, pointing out all the good things they’ve done, lifting the mood, and making them feel better about the situation. You can provide developmental feedback for another time, once emotions have settled and they’re ready to absorb and learn from this experience.
Leadership style preference: The People’s Champion
The behaviour of the club’s most talented player has increasingly become more disruptive, and it’s beginning to negatively impact on everyone else, players and support staff alike. You’ve just been informed of another troublesome incident, and have therefore decided to confront the player. This is not the time for being sociable, so you act more like The Quiet One, gathering evidence in the background, privately discussing the matter individually with people whose opinions you trust. Once you’ve analysed the situation and devised a strategy, you send the player an ‘invitation’ to discuss matters in the privacy of your office.
Leadership style preference: The Quiet One
After a long, and emotionally draining, campaign, your club wins the Championship. It’s a magnificent achievement for a group of players who were classed as underdogs at the beginning of the season, and everyone is understandably ecstatic. This is a time for celebration, and to enjoy the moment and each others company, so you behave like the The People’s Champion, throwing yourself into the festivities, and making every one of them feel special and proud.
“Be yourself – more – with skill.”
– Rob Goffee & Gareth Jones
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