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Creating your leadership non-negotiables, presented by WIL Alberta Chapter

Article contributed by Penny Izlakar with the WIL Alberta Chapter

Have you ever thought about what your leadership non-negotiables are? As in – who do you want to be as a leader? I hear the “what’s your leadership style” more and more during candidate interviews and feel it’s an important question for leaders to answer authentically.

First, let’s start with what I mean by leadership style. Leadership style is the methods and approaches you choose to lead, coach or manage others. While there are many leadership styles, according to the Ivey School of Business, there are thirteen styles one can choose from:

  • Autocratic, Authoritarian, Coercive, or Commanding

  • Affiliative

  • Bureaucratic

  • Coaching

  • Democratic, Facilitative, or Participative

  • Laissez-Faire or Delegative

  • Emergent

  • Pacesetting

  • Servant

Second, by non-negotiables, I mean a leadership style that does not resonate with me. Therefore, if put into a position where asked specifically or situationally to compromise how I show up as a leader and use a style I am uncomfortable with (e.g., coercive or commanding), I will treat that as non-negotiable and take appropriate action to address it.

When I was first defining my leadership style, it helped me to consider it from the view of an employee. I looked back on my career development and found the leaders I respected (and remember) the most – those that pushed me to take risks and ultimately made me a better version of myself — a leadership tactic I use today. I’m not a micromanager; I drive my teams to develop solutions to problems and empower them to build those solutions. I also ensure they get opportunities to present their ideas to the larger leadership team, so they get credit, build their network and are seen as valuable to the company, not just me.

However, sitting down and articulating your leadership style and non-negotiables is tough, so I’ve put together these five steps to help you build yours so that when a potential candidate asks about your leadership approach – you can share it authentically.

Step 1 – Complete self-assessments to determine your go-to leadership style

There are many free or inexpensive assessments you can take; my favourites are:

  • Myers-Briggs (free)

  • Clifton Strengths (free)

  • EQI-2.0

  • Saboteur (free)

While no assessment will give you all the information, each will help you identify what is natural to you while highlighting some areas you may need to work on. If you’re looking for more tips on gaining self-awareness as a leader, check out one of my previous posts on Are you Listening for more ways to dig into your leadership style?

Step 2 – Make a list of the key attributes you look for in a leader

Grab your favourite brainstorming beverage, a piece of paper and a pen and make a list. Consider using a mind-mapping tool if you are not a pen-and-paper person.

  1. Make a list of all the attributes you look for in a leader.

  2. Once you have finished your list, start classifying them.

  3. Look at each category to see how they land or resonate.

  4. If you are not fully committed to the categories you have defined, let them percolate and return to them (remember, the leadership journey is not a one-and-done exercise).

  5. When you return to your list, tweak the ones you need clarification on to align with your vision.

Step 3 – Build out a diagram to capture each of your leadership categories

I like to use a honeycomb diagram for this step, but you can use whatever diagram you prefer. One that helps you see how each category fits together and why each is necessary for your authentic leadership style is one of the non-negotiable ways that I show up for myself as a leader. Once I plot my categories, I write beside each one how I’ve shown up (or not) in the past. Sometimes this step will look more like data points than a growth plan, which is OK. Just stick with it; before you know it, those data patterns will make sense.

Step 4 – Build a change management plan for you

Once you understand where you are starting from, by working through steps 1-3, you can build a plan for yourself. I love using an organizational change management (OCM) framework for this step, and I have developed an OCM plan that I call my True North (thanks to one of my previous mentors – Dwayne Conrod). You will take the patterns and categories you identified in Step 3 and build them out further into the following:

  • Your leadership vision

  • 3–5-year roadmap on who you want to strive to be as a leader

  • What actions (development) do you need to take to live up to your non-negotiables

  • Build a stakeholder engagement map to determine where you need to show up• Determine if you need to adjust your communications approach

Step 5 – Test your non-negotiables and tweak as you see fit

Growing as a leader is an ongoing process. As you read books, take courses and experiment, you should revisit your list, categories and True North plan to see where you need to elevate or change your non-negotiables or leadership style. Be confident to change things up if it’s authentic to you and how you want to show up. It’s always OK to learn from the past and work to do things better in the future.

I hope these steps will help you start your journey to finding your authentic leadership style!

Enjoy the ride!

Leader. Efficiency Finder. Mentor. Leadership Advocate. Penny Izlakar


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