There’s a I use when talking about leadership style: “leading from your core.”
We’ve all heard the word “core”: core strengths, apple core, core functionality, etc.
The word “core” was first used in the early 14th century and means “heart or innermost part of anything.” Whether it has French (“coeur”) or Latin (“cor”) roots, it means “heart.” (Yes, I’m an etymology geek—I looked it up.)
I use the phrase “leading from your core” to mean understanding who you are as a leader: your style, strengths, hot buttons, goals…and then leaning into it.
Often, we see someone else having success and wonder if their way is better. Or we learn about a new approach and want to try it out.
There is nothing wrong with exploring other options in your leadership approach.
However, when we move forward without holding it up to a mirror first, we’re taking a big risk it will backfire.
Here’s an example. I worked with a manager years ago who was everybody’s friend. Jim had a quick wit and made jokes all the time. His style was very casual. Nothing was a “big deal” to him.
My style is calm, a bit more serious, and friendly. I can’t tell a joke to save my life!
What if I was looking for a better relationship with my team and tried to imitate Jim’s style?
If I came into the office and started joking around with everyone, what would happen? Things would become awkward very quickly and I’d lose the trust I’d built up with my team.
The truth is, you can’t fake who you are. Even if you’re meeting someone for the first time, subconsciously they can tell something is “off.” You won’t be able to build that trusting relationship you need to succeed as a leader.
But there is good news: all leadership styles can work, and work well!
The key is consistency.
It’s stressful when we walk into someone’s office and don’t know “who” it is we’re going to find. We can’t mentally prepare. When we can’t anticipate, we automatically become on guard.
So, as a leader, if I’m consistently calm and friendly, then my team learns this is normal for me and can relax because they know what to expect in any given interaction.
Finally, if I’m consistent, it doesn’t matter if my team member’s style doesn’t mesh with mine. Because if we know what to expect from someone, we can prepare the best approach for a good encounter.
And it’s much easier to be yourself than someone else, don’t you think?