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When it's time to adapt your leadership style

Written on May 9, 2024

By Jessica Salerno-Shumaker, OSCPA senior content manager  

While you might feel confident in your leadership style, circumstances can change and it’s helpful to recognize when you need to modify the way you lead to achieve your goals.  

“When you're in a situation where you recognize the need for a different style change, then you have to pull away from thinking about styles in a framework,” said Celia King, lead consultant at Arrants McSwain Leadership Coaching Services. “We teach the framework of congruence, which is getting what's happening internally to match what's needed externally for you.”  

And before looking to adapt your leadership style, King said you must be comfortable with how you currently lead. You should be able to articulate it to others when asked, and there are a wide variety of resources available, such as Myers-Briggs, that you can use if you want to understand your style better.  

The need to adapt might come from a variety of factors. Maybe you’re starting at a new company, beginning a large project you don’t have experience with or tackling a role with more responsibility. King suggested asking yourself these questions when considering how you might need to adapt your style: 

  • How do you connect with the team that you're working with individually? And collectively?  
  • Do you have a clear intent on how to move forward? 
  • How are you going to manage the pressure and energy of the group?  
  • Trying on a different style because you think that’s what’s needed might come across inauthentic at first, King said, which is why she said congruence is so important.  

“Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not,” she said.  

Instead, focus on what the situation needs and how your own skill set can help address those needs. She said finding new challenges means growth and give yourself space to learn new skills while building on the ones you already possess.  

A competent leader can admit when they don’t know something, but also pledges a follow-up that they will figure it out or work with someone who does. Leaders often feel they need to have all the answers all the time, which isn’t the case, King said. 

“Don't put that kind of pressure on yourself,” she said. “That's not realistic. And then that's what sets you up for false confidence. But when you get stuck, use your skills and resources to help get unstuck.” 

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