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Refining Your Leadership Philosophy & Style

March 11, 2015

SDS presentation-creationDefining Leadership

Over the past century much research has been conducted on the topic of leadership. These studies have produced many theories and differing views on the subject.  Most definitions contain similar elements; leaders, followers, a hierarchy, some form of influence, and a purpose to be served or goal to be achieved.

Because there is no one definition of leadership, the leader is free to choose the elements he or she favors in order to manage one’s situation and get results through others.  This article will prepare you to state, develop or define your own unique leadership philosophy and style.

Considering Your Leadership Style

Each leader communicates in his or her way, based on a variety of factors, including personality, role models, experience, education, training and the situation.  Each follower also has a unique way of reacting or responding to any given leader.  It’s challenging to get the leadership – follower fit just right. Leaders must work at developing their skills while better understanding their followers.  Followers often have to adjust to a leadership style that does not perfectly suit them.

Three basic styles of leadership are identified as Autocratic, Democratic and Laissez-Faire.  Autocratic leaders tend to be more authoritarian, while democratic leaders allow followers a say in what happens and Laissez-Faire leaders take a hands-off approach by empowering workers and being available for input when needed.  It’s important to consider your style, especially in light of your follower’s capabilities.

Establishing Authority & Utilizing Power with Followers

One essential leadership challenge is developing authority with followers.  One must consider authority, power, leverage and influence.   Although these words can mean the same thing at times, this article assigns each a slightly different application.


Apart from title or position, it’s a leader’s example, credibility and integrity that give him or her authority with others.  A leader with true authority is one who people WANT to follow – or trust enough to follow. Walking the walk, talking the talk and living the life – these give one authority with others.


Power can be obvious or not so.  Either way, power usually gives one some sort of advantage over, or with, others.  Power involves who you are, who and what you know, what you are able to do and what means you have at your disposal.


Leverage often pertains to things like rules, policies, procedures, laws and other protocol people must follow to get along, get things done and keep their jobs.  As a leader, it’s important to know what legal and policy leverage you have with followers.


Influence involves the relationship between the leader and any individual follower or group of followers.  A healthy relationship with one’s boss, where the employee feels recognized and appreciated, can have a huge impact on the commitment, involvement and productivity.  Influence is always a two-way street


Creating Your Unique Philosophy & Style

Taking time to consider and state your leadership philosophy is a useful exercise.  Being able to verbalize your concise philosophy gives you a point of view from which to operate.  This point of view is the lens through which you take direction, make decisions and mentor others.  In addition, it provides your followers with a frame of reference which allows them to work more effectively for you or with you.

Try this three-step approach when devising your philosophy statement:

  1. List some of your mentors, and jot down lessons you learned from these influences.
  2. Give your philosophy a short, concise title.
  3. Briefly describe your philosophy.

Here is an example you can use as a template:

Mentors: Parents, Basketball Coach, Youth Group Minister, First Boss

Lessons Learned: Do what you say you’ll do.  Finish what you started.  Be a good representative of what you believe.  Treat others the way you want to be treated.

Title: Lead by Example

Brief StatementMy leadership philosophy is to lead by example.  When I set an example, I show others my own work ethic and competence, and set an expectation for others to meet.

Regardless of your philosophy or style, you and your followers will be able to function more effectively if they understand your frame of reference and you understand theirs, and everyone finds ways to work together to accomplish the end results.   If you pass your philosophy of “Lead by Example” on to your followers, they in return are likely to pass it on to people they mentor.

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Drinon Leadership Express


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