Q&A: Developing your leadership style
Alison Masters, the newly appointed CEO of Silver Agency, discusses honing one’s leadership style and why EQ is essential to being a good boss.
How would you describe your leadership style?
Alison: I’m not sure I have a leadership style per se as I'm always learning, but I try to foster an environment where individuals feel trusted, empowered and valued; a happy team is a productive team, and a productive team is good for business. I like to develop real relationships; find out what people enjoy doing, what motivates them and what I can do better to help support them. At the same time, I believe individuals need to take responsibility for their own self-improvement; that is, find ways to hone and broaden their skills and keep abreast of the latest developments within our industry.
A firm believer in having a good work/life balance, I implemented flexible working when I first started at Silver; I am an advocate of working hard but having fun; working as a team but also making time for the things you love to do to outside of work.
Should a leader's style adapt to the team they are leading or the dynamics at the time?
Balancing a team of highly experienced individuals versus those starting out in their careers means you make adaptions to individual needs and requirements, so being able to flex your leadership style accordingly is key. There are also other factors to consider, such as the culture and tenure of an organisation that you inherit, and how to work with the dynamics of the team; building on strengths and addressing weaknesses, to help the business improve and evolve.
How important is emotional intelligence in being a good leader?
The value of emotional intelligence in the workplace cannot be underestimated; for me it can make the difference from a business that is doing reasonably well to one that is flourishing and realising its full potential. Emotional intelligence is key to leading teams, both for the leader personally and for the people being managed. Understanding how you’re feeling, how the team are feeling and ensuring the emotional good health of all, is vital to making sound and rational decisions that benefit everyone – and so in turn, the business. It’s great that there is a bigger emphasis on this in organisations and it’s one that I have noticed as a positive change throughout my career.
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What methods have you used to improve your leadership skills?
As a big fan of continuous learning, I’m always looking for ways to improve my leadership skills be it through reading books, networking or learning from others. That said, for me, nothing beats real-life experiences as a trigger for personal growth.
I’ve experienced managing teams of various sizes across large and small organisations and different structures and cultures, this continues to influence how I approach and adapt to situations on a day-to-day basis. Also, reflecting on how I've been managed and how previous peers have managed their team, is a continuous point of reference. Sometimes you don’t realise how valuable these experiences are at the time - it’s only when you’re faced with a certain situation or scenario, and you look back and reflect, that they show their worth.
What advice would you give to a new leader on analysing their personal leadership style?
Be authentic; everyone is unique so allow time to find your own style. It’s great to have a mentor or take advice from books and articles, and these can help you develop, but they won't create you. Your style will come through time, learning and being true to you.