Heads Up

A common issue I come across for leaders is knowing which leadership style is best.  Sure, we all have a natural preference – mine is to coach people – but that doesn’t mean we’re not capable of using other approaches and, as humans, we can be incredibly good at changing our behaviour.  The problem is most leaders don’t have the knowledge they need to do this well.

The impact this has is that you don’t get the most out of teams because you are not being the leader they need at any particular time.  It doesn’t mean you can’t be, as usually you just need to know how to decide which leadership style is best.

When I worked at John Lewis – as a trainee on their leadership programme – I had a manager who oversaw my training and who I met with regularly to discuss my progress and next steps for development.  I loved these meetings because this manager coached me, and as someone who had been out of university for a few years and had qualified and worked as a teacher, coaching was a brilliant approach to use with me.  I used to bound out of those meetings fully energised and excited about what I was going to be doing next to develop further.  However, one of my friends on the course was straight out of university and she found her meeting, with the same manager, incredibly frustrating, saying ‘I wish they’d just tell me what I need to do instead of coaching me!’.  She needed more direction at this stage, as we all do sometimes, but the manager hadn’t realised this and hadn’t flexed her leadership style to suit the person she was dealing with, therefore the impact she had on me and my friend was very different.

Quick tip:  To help flex your leadership style, you need to know what your preference is, because that will be the one you are likely to default to.

  • Think about what you enjoy doing most: directing, mentoring, coaching or delegating (be careful with this one, see the blog on delegation)
  • Ask some colleagues which they think you’re best at

About the Author

Sonia Gill is founder of Heads Up, specialising in supporting Head Teachers and School Leaders create an outstanding school culture. https://ukheadsup.com