How to identify your leadership style

16 Oct 20

In the ongoing COVID-19 crisis there have been many lessons learned about what good leadership can look like. Here are some ways you can identify your personal leadership style and adapt it to meet different situations.

Key takeaways

  • Work out your personal style by paying attention to your habits
  • Learn and adapt as you go through different circumstances
  • Work in partnership with others
  • Plan your strategy for the long term


How can you identify your leadership style?

We each have our own style when it comes to being a leader, depending on our own character. Some tend to be more authoritative, while others are more collaborative; some prioritise efficiency and getting things done, where a different leader would place more emphasis on delegating and training. All of these traits can be strengths, and are valuable qualities in a leader.

You can identify your leadership style by paying attention to your tendencies and priorities. When a new problem arrives on your desk, what is your first instinct? Understanding your own style will help you to be more effective and work out where you need to take a different approach.


How can you learn and adapt your style?

Identifying your leadership style is the first step; you then need to think about how to adapt it in different circumstances. Focusing too much on efficiency risks undervaluing your team members and not allowing opportunities for development and growth, while focusing too much on training could risk a huge loss of efficiency!

Build in time to reflect on how things are working, even as it can feel counter-intuitive when dealing with many immediate priorities. This will enable you to think about how to operate more effectively and identify situations where you need to resist your first instincts. As new crises emerge, they require adaptability and creativity to find innovative solutions, as we have seen across the public sector as we tackle COVID-19.


Why is partnership important?

Leaders need good relationships with others in order to get things done. Having good partnerships with other people is a key part of being prepared for whatever might come, so that you can rely on one another under strain. As leaders set the direction for a team or organisation, they need to help people to follow it.

Your leadership style will determine how you work in partnership with others, and therefore how you might need to change your behaviour depending on the situation. You may need to be more collaborative, recognising that you need to be guided by others’ expertise and experience. An urgent problem may instead call for you to become more authoritative, to make decisions quickly and trust that they are carried out.


Why should you think about the long term?

Part of reflecting and learning is thinking about the future. Crises such as COVID-19 present opportunities for transformation by disrupting business as usual and forcing us all to find new ways of doing the things we used to do. When going through a crisis, set aside time to reflect on how you have adapted your style, and think through the things you want to retain.

Challenging times force us out of our comfort zone, as leaders and as individuals, because we have to take on new responsibilities or make hard decisions. This also presents us with an opportunity to grow and adapt, and to face the future prepared for whatever may come next.


Questions for you:

  • How would you define your leadership style?
  • How can you invest in partnerships and improve communication?
  • What are the lessons you want to retain from this crisis?


Further reading:

  • Leadership Matters publication
  • CIPFA’s Leadership Development Programme
  • CIPFA CFO Leadership Academy

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