In our research and consulting, we have seen that style is a significant differentiating factor in the reputation and career success of leaders. The good news is that style isn’t like personality—it can be intentionally altered. 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.
- It’s important to understand that style is distinct from personality. The latter is immutable; it’s who you are on the inside. Style is best described by what you do, how often, and when.
- Through our own academic research and a combined 30 years of proprietary research, including engagements with more than 12,000 leaders in our executive coaching practice, we have identified the markers most commonly used in the workplace to express status. (See the exhibit “A Guide to Leadership Markers”) Together, they make up leadership style.
- The signals we send to others about our status—or lack thereof—fall into two categories: power and attractiveness. Neither set of markers is inherently good or bad. Powerful markers are associated with expressions of confidence, competence, charisma, and influence but also arrogance, abrasiveness, and intimidation.
- The more consistently we express ourselves using the same markers, the more distinctive our style becomes.
- Leadership Presence. We all have a particular set of markers that we default to in neutral situations or when the social context is unclear. This can be called our natural style. We behave more powerfully relative to our natural style when we feel we have the status (for example, we are the more senior, educated, experienced, technical, or connected person in a workplace interaction). We behave more attractively relative to our natural style when we are the more junior or less-experienced person.
- Most people’s natural style falls into one of five categories along a spectrum: powerful, lean powerful, blended, lean attractive, and attractive. Few people favor the extremes, instead leaning to one side or the other. A truly blended style is rare and involves an equal use of both power and attractiveness markers. A blended style can be best summed up as having “presence.” Leaders who are praised for their polish and gravitas have a deft ability to adopt the right markers to suit the situation.
Category 1: A new, better world for everyone
[genioux fact extracted from HBR]
Authors of genioux fact
How to Develop Your Leadership Style, Suzanne J. Peterson, Robin Abramson and R.K. Stutman, Harvard Business Review. From the Magazine (November–December 2020).
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Suzanne J. Peterson is an associate professor of leadership at the Thunderbird School of Global Management and a partner at CRA, a leadership consulting and advisory firm.
Robin Abramson is a partner at the leadership consulting and advisory firm CRA and the cohead of its leadership practice.
R.K. Stutman is the managing partner of the leadership consulting and advisory firm CRA and founder of the Admired Leadership Institute.