Stunningly Practical Ways To Find Your Authentic Leadership Style

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We previously looked at 12 prominent leadership styles and six leadership frameworks to lay the foundation for understanding their usefulness and limitations. In today’s edition of Leading Choices we look at ways to find your authentic leadership style and cover part two in the three-part series on leadership styles:

Part 1 – Definition of Leadership Styles and Frameworks and When They Work Best

Part 2 – How to Find Your Personal Leadership Style (and Remain Authentic)

Part 3 – Creating Your Leadership Brand (And Share It In Job Interviews)

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Why Finding Your Leadership Style Matters

If you have been turned down for a leadership role or promotion because you were “lacking gravitas” or have been told you are “missing important tangibles” without further elaboration, you know something is missing. If your manager or peers are not able to specify what they are missing, they will not provide much guidance for you to change your trajectory. They may not be intimately familiar with different types of leadership styles to have the verbiage to express what they are looking for.

In a previous post, I laid out 12 different types of leadership styles and six different frameworks. These have distinct characteristics, benefits, and challenges. Without understanding your personal leadership style and aligning your communication around it, you will not provide a consistent impression that gives others a clear orientation of who you are as a leader. As an HBR article states in talking about the signals we send with every interaction: “The more consistent we are in our signals, the more distinctive our style becomes.” (Source:

Finding Your Authentic Leadership Style - types of leadership styles

Finding your leadership style is part of your leadership development, in addition to building your leadership skills. 

Knowing your leadership style can help you become a better leader and determine the most appropriate leadership approach for a given scenario. Whether you are managing a big or small team, your style heavily influences how your direct reports see and interact with you. And it affects how well your team works together to accomplish your organization’s goals.

Knowing your management style helps you understand yourself and strategically transform your behavior to aid you in becoming a more effective leader.

How to Find Or Develop Your Leadership Style

Before you feel pressed to select a single leadership style, understand that great leaders employ a mix of leadership styles as appropriate for their team and given circumstances. You will, however, find that you are having a general preference for specific styles that will apply to you in most scenarios.

Your leadership style can be determined based on four factors, according to leadership expert John C. Maxwell. They include:

Character: How do you respond under pressure? Do you show up strong and confident or crumble under stress?

Vision: What do you want your team members to know about what you value and believe in?

Values: Are you consistent in your values and beliefs? Does everyone know where you stand on issues like integrity, accountability, trustworthiness, fairness, etc.?

Results: How do you measure success? Is there a clear way to assess performance?

Let’s take a look at the options you have to discover your leadership style.

Steps To Identify Your Leadership Style

Before you jump to taking assessments and quizzes, prepare yourself to be minded for growth. That means you have to be prepared to learn, open to facing the uncomfortable together with the flattering truth, and commit to investing in yourself. This does not necessarily mean financially, but prioritizing time and mental presence toward the process.

Familiarize Yourself With Common Leadership Styles

Review the most common leadership styles and familiarize yourself with them. Observe others and try to identify their leadership style – or a mix of styles. Great leaders hardly ever employ a single style but have learned to navigate between a few of them applied in context.

Observe yourself in different scenarios: What type of traits emerge in different scenarios? What signals are you sending to others? 

Take notes as you begin to explore further.  

Knowing Yourself: Self-Awareness and Leadership Assessments

It is astounding how inclined many leaders are to turn to assessments and reviews as their first starting point. These have great merit, but can’t replace knowing yourself.

Part of knowing yourself is gaining clarity about your values, strengths, challenges, and ambitions. The value of knowing yourself is having the ability to articulate more effectively who you are and how you interact with the world around you. It will give you the verbiage to express how you lead, and what type of organization you prefer to work with.

Values are important because they inform your decisions and responses. In addition, they often inform your assessment of what is or isn’t acceptable, resulting in the signals you send to others. Your outward expression is a reflection of your preferences, values, and beliefs. It is what others get to see and forms their reality, or as they say “perception is reality.” 

USC’s Leadership Quiz

As a quick starting point, you can take a two-minute leadership style quiz from the University of Southern California. You will see a result based on six leadership styles with a short, one-paragraph profile:

  • Servant
  • Front-Line
  • Transformational
  • Metamodern
  • Postmodern
  • Contrarian

DISC Assessment

DISC example by - Authentic Leadership Article
Image courtesy of

The DISC model was created by Dr. Robert B. Thomas and Dr. Raymond J. Dolan. The DISC Model is a psychological test used to identify strengths and weaknesses in individuals. It has been widely used in business settings since its introduction in 1979.

The DISC assessment includes five dimensions: Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, Compliance, and Conscientiousness. Each dimension consists of three scales, labeled A, B, and C. These scales represent the degree to which an individual exhibits behaviors associated with the particular scale. For example, if someone scores high on dominance, they are likely to exhibit dominant behaviors. If someone scores low on compliance, they are more likely to comply with rules and regulations.

There are several versions of the DISC assessment available online. One version is called the DISC Profile. This version allows users to explore their own results as well as compare them to others. Another version is called the DISCOVERY assessment. This version allows users access to a database of over 1 million people who have taken the DISC assessment. Users can search for other people who share similar characteristics or traits.


PrinciplesYou example - personality assessment - find your leadership style
Image courtesy of

The PrinciplesYou assessment was developed by Ray Dalio and Adam Grant. PrinciplesYou was built to help people learn what they are really like. This free assessment is based in part on the Big Five personality assessment (also called the 5-Factor model), an extensively researched and respected personality theory. The PrinciplesYou assessment is backed by best-in-class psychometrics and augmented by Ray Dalio’s business insights.

The result is a comprehensive report that helps you to understand yourself and others better and to learn how to apply yourself more effectively in different scenarios. This can be applied to work with different personalities on your team and provides guidance to help you improve communications and optimize performance. Your report will provide a great foundation to develop your personal leadership development plan.

Hogan Leader Focus

Used by 75% of Fortune 500 companies, Hogan’s Leader Focus® assessment helps leaders understand themselves and their team members better. It is designed to help managers improve their communication skills, build trust, and increase productivity.

Hogan’s Leader Focus Report covers six “Leader Focus Dimensions” – shown in the summary below.

An experienced leadership coach can work with you on using the results of the report to create a personal development plan. Reach out if this seems a good fit for you.

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)

This is an assessment tool developed to measure preferences for how you think and behave. There are 16 personality types, each with four different combinations of preferences.

You can also use the MBTI to determine which type you are. provides a short assessment that turns out a fun-to-read profile with options to dig deeper into categories like leadership, career development, personal development, and so forth.

MBTI summary - Authentic Leadership Style article

Gallup StrengthFinder

The Gallup StrengthsFinder® is a comprehensive tool that measures your personality and preferences across four key areas: Strengths, Values, Personality Traits, and Interests. A bestselling book was released in 2011 based on the findings of this assessment, called StrengthsFinder 2.0. The key message of StrengthFinder 2.0 is that we all possess many strengths but most of us don’t know what they are. The book provides a detailed analysis of each area of strength. You will learn about your top 5 talents, how they relate to your values, and how work connects with personality.

Leadership IQ

The Leadership IQ test assesses leadership potential through a series of exercises. It takes approximately 20 minutes to complete. The Leadership IQ clusters leadership into only 4 areas (versus the 12 commonly known leadership styles described in the previous article).

Leadership IQ’s four leadership styles are (1) pragmatists, (2) idealists, (3) stewards, and (4) diplomats. Leadership IQ defines these styles as follows:

  • Pragmatists are driven, and competitive, and they value hitting their goals above all else.
  • Idealists want to learn and grow, and they want everyone else on the team to do the same.
  • Stewards are dependable, loyal, and helpful, and they provide a stabilizing and calming force for their team members.
  • Diplomats are the affiliative force that keeps groups together and typically build deep personal bonds with their employees.”

Each leadership style is then defined by four dimensions: (a) feeling, (b) structure, (c) directiveness, and (d) challenge.

Source:, Example of a Pragmatist Leadership Style
Image courtesy of LeadershipIQ

Taking the self-assessment quiz and reading through the profiles may give you an additional discovery tool to find your leadership style or mix.

What’s interesting about the research results presented by Leadership IQ is that leadership styles differ by function in the organization, but also show that a diplomatic leadership style is the most commonly applied across all departments.

Styles by Function via LeadershipIQ - Authentic Leadership Style article
Image courtesy of LeadershipIQ

Fingerprint for Success

This free psychometric assessment test measures 48 different motivational traits that influence the way we communicate and make decisions at work and in our day-to-day lives. It is an insightful tool for self-discovery. The Fingerprint For Success assessment report highlights your top five motivations, blind spots, and other lesser motivations which influence your day-to-day decisions. You can then use your results to benchmark yourself with proven success factor models based on 20+ years of research on human dynamics.

How To Remain Authentic As You Adjust Your Leadership Style

Leaders who remain authentic have integrity and are viewed as trustworthy. They do not pretend to be something they are not. In order to become more authentic as a leader, it is necessary to understand your own leadership style, your strengths and limitations, and your environment. This requires introspection and reflection to develop awareness that becomes part of your process in deciding how you plan to lead.

In addition, leaders must develop their ability to adapt to different situations. Leaders who are able to adjust their leadership style according to the situation at hand are seen as more effective than those who stick rigidly to one style. Leadership agility is often learned over time as different challenges require flexible responses.

Intentional leaders have learned to apply multiple leadership styles as they navigate organizational demands – while remaining authentic to their leadership core. (Corinna M. Hagen) Click To Tweet

So, how do you remain true to your leadership style, sending consistent signals, while adjusting your style in context?  To remain authentic, you need to know your core or uniqueness and apply it to all scenarios, even when you adjust parts of your style to fit the context. This uniqueness should be used to build stronger organizations.

Sometimes, remaining authentic may require changing positions as not every style or style mix fits well with every organization’s culture. Other times, it may require you to call shots that seem inflexible but bring out the best in others. 

To identify your leadership core, identify what makes you unique in the combination of your style of communication, skill set, experience, point of view, and strengths. Then, use these qualities to guide you in your decisions and communication.

As you adjust your leadership style, remember to keep your leadership core intact. If you lose sight of your core, you risk losing authenticity.

Summary of Finding Your Leadership Style

Finding your leadership style will help you to: 

  • be intentional in your leadership communication
  • be consistent in the signals you send, 
  • be able to strengthen your leadership brand,
  • have the verbiage to explain your leadership style to others, e.g. during onboarding or during executive job interviews. 

You have many options available to explore and identify your leadership style through the study of frameworks and common styles, observation, self-reflection, self-discovery with assessments, coaching, and 360 feedback. 

Once identified, your leadership style does not function in isolation but is subject to context, e.g. team dynamics, expectations of your leaders, unique challenges, and the communication involved. 

Continuous self-observation will help you to improve your leadership by asking: 

  • What traits do I display in different scenarios?
  • What signals am I sending to others?
  • Where are the gaps in how I define my leadership style and how others see me? 
  • What do I need to change as a result to close the gap?

In the next edition, we’ll cover part three and answer the question of how you can build your leadership brand and answer the question about your leadership style in job interviews. 



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