There are hundreds of thousands of leadership books and a multitude of leadership frameworks, and yet effective leadership is still, at times, thin on the ground.

The Gallup group found that 82% of employees see their leaders as uninspiring, only 15% of employees are engaged at work, and only one in three employees strongly agree that they trust the leadership of their organisation.

Leading today isn’t easy.  There are competing demands, constant changes, and never-ending pressure.

It is also a choice.  Leaders face choices every day in how they lead and how they learn.  In making this choice, they either create a culture of denial and exclusion, or one of opportunity for themselves, their team and organisation.

Securing success demands that each leader steps up to find their unique style, which changes as they advance and evolve, and as the demands of their working environment shift too.

This approach isn’t ‘one size fits all’ because leadership is personal, and it’s contextual.  The action you need to take to elevate your leadership is different from what other people may need to do.  This is about creating your personal leadership playbook filled with strategies and tactics that put you in the best possible position to lead with integrity, authenticity and courage.

There are three key steps:

  1. Awareness – of yourself, others and the environment in which you are working
  2. Acceptance – of what you can and can’t change or influence, and a recognition of the ‘so-called’ leadership rules that should no longer apply
  3. Adaptation – a willingness to change and alter your leadership style, so it is fit for purpose

Generate Awareness

Being self-aware is a lifelong process and is certainly not a tick-the-box exercise. It requires a commitment to know yourself, a willingness to examine what lurks in the shadows and an openness to feedback.

It starts with the leader examining what needs to change in them – before seeking to change others.  This focus includes building awareness of their leadership style and derailers, as well as understanding what triggers them to behave effectively and sub-optimally.

Understanding what change a leader needs to make goes beyond pinpointing new technical skills.  It’s about delving into the meaning that drives their behaviour, and the mental models they apply to their decision-making.

Focus on Acceptance

As a leader, your behaviour has a massive impact on your team members. Bad leadership is contagious.

For example, when leaders mistreat their direct reports, this behaviour is often passed down the line. In a joint study, conducted by Vanderbilt University, Cornell University and the University of Illinois, of 1527 full-time employees at 94 hotels across the United States and Canada, researchers found a positive correlation between middle managers’ satisfaction with their senior managers and the line employees’ satisfaction with their middle managers.

It’s a trickle-down effect. When leaders mistreat their direct reports, this dysfunction cascades through the organisation.

Employees are motivated when they are valued and respected.  Good leadership isn’t about hierarchy and power, which means some of the old paradigms about what it means to be a leader no longer work.

Accepting this is essential, along with identifying which elements of your leadership style are hindering you from making the progress you seek.  There will be some rules you need to ditch, and others you need to reshape and retain.

Uplift and Adapt

When a leader stops trying to be the leader they ‘should’ be and starts learning to be the leader they ‘could’ be, they will find their unique leadership style.

Crafting and developing this style doesn’t happen by accident.  It takes effort and practice as you strive to be the best leader you can be every day.

Achieving that goal is hard if you don’t have clear intentions about what type of leader you want to be and what you want your leadership legacy to be.  It helps to spend time writing your leadership manifesto.  This written document clearly states who you are, what you stand for and how you want to develop as a leader.

Your leadership playbook is waiting for you to write it, so what are you waiting for?

Michelle Gibbings is a workplace expert. She is the author of ‘Step Up: How to Build Your Influence at Work’, ‘Career Leap: How to Reinvent and Liberate your Career’ and the new book ‘Bad Boss: What to do if you work for one, manage one or are one’.