How to develop your leadership style

A great leadership style can make people appear more competent than they truly are, and a poor style can drag down a superior skill set. 

So how can you go about improving your leadership style?

Social markers can be expressed through language, nonverbal communication or context setting. Your choice of markers determines how others view you.

Some most commonly used markers or signals in the workplace to express status and make up your leadership style.

The signals we send to others about our status fall into two categories: power and attractiveness. Powerful markers are associated with expressions of confidence, competence, charisma, and influence but also arrogance, abrasiveness, and intimidation.

Attractiveness markers are related to expressions of agreeableness, approachability, likability but also diffidence, lack of confidence, and submissiveness.

The more consistently we express ourselves using the same markers, the more distinctive our style becomes.

Change the frequency or mix of these markers, and others’ impressions also change.

The set of markers that you default to in neutral situations or when the social context is unclear is your natural style. 

Most people’s natural style falls into one of five categories along a spectrum: powerful, lean powerful, blended, lean attractive, and attractive.

Leaders often need to tweak their style multiple times in a day. Most successful leaders create a blended style. You can achieve a blended style by following several steps.

Know thyself.

To balance powerful and attractive markers, start by figuring where you fall on the leadership style spectrum.

If you’re unsure where you fall on the spectrum, keep a list of markers in front of you during various interactions and check off the ones you use.

Experiment with various markers.

After you know where you stand on the spectrum, start experimenting with markers to try to move toward a more blended style. 

Rehearsing with a friend, mentor, or coach can help make the new behaviors more familiar.

Successful leaders are true to who they are while continually making small adjustments depending on the circumstances.

Read the room.

How to know when to lean powerful and when to lean attractive?

Gaining the ability to “read the room” is part of fine-tuning your leadership style. You should assess the markers you’re receiving from others before deciding on your approach. 

Lean powerful with more-senior people, and lean attractive when talking to more-junior people.

Dynamically integrating a broader range of powerful and attractive markers in everyday interactions can make a big difference in how we are perceived. The result is a true blended style that enables leaders to become powerful enough to be heard and attractive enough to be followed.


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