The world needs leaders. Sometimes we all need to be inspired, persuaded and guided. We all have leaders in our lives, and navigating that relationship requires experience and effort on both sides.
But there are a lot of definitions for the word “leader.” There’s a certain archetype that’s traditionally associated with leaders: bold, brash, confident, loud, extroverted, unafraid to take charge and command a room. While there are truths to this, it is by no means the whole truth. Finding your own capacity for and style of leadership is one of the keys to your professional development, even if you have no desire to be one yourself. Understanding what it takes to helps other grow and achieve is an invaluable experience, whether you apply it yourself or simply use the information to work more comfortably on a team.
Let’s take a look at two very different styles of leaders: one that reinforces the stereotype, and one that quietly but confidently works against it.
The Type A (a.k.a. Me)
Growing up in my family, everything was about competition. The drive to work hard and be the best was instilled in me from a young age. Even a simple drive home was competitive; I had to pass my dad on the way. That competitive drive and passion has served me well throughout my career, and it has helped me develop my own leadership skills along the way. I learned to persuade and challenge potential clients and my employees as I developed my own businesses. I might be the loudest voice in the room, but only because I want to get everyone engaged, and I feed off the interaction and ideas of others.
I work and lead from the heart, and my heart is passionate and outspoken.
There are certainly benefits to this style of leadership. It tends to be easier to attain visibility and command respect, and it is ideal when a team is in need of rousing. But there are pitfalls as well. Overpowering your team is not the path to success; you have to learn to lead without dominating. Otherwise, the best ideas could easily get drowned out.
The Type B
It is, however, a myth that only the outspoken, driven, competitive, loud people can be the leaders in life or their organizations. For the more conservative among you, it’s just as important to understand how to lead those around you, even if they don’t realize it. More introverted leaders guide and nurture the ideas of their team, providing inspiration by letting the team’s own ideas take the spotlight. Quiet passion is still passion, and it can be just as powerful as a guy like me with a bullhorn. Sometimes more so.
Ultimately, leadership is about inspiring others to be better, which in turn makes you better. Whatever your chosen path to that end—be it loud, quiet, or a combination of the two—cultivating leadership skills makes us all better professionals and better people.
Image Credit: Kevin Dooley