One of the most important steps in learning to lead is discovering your leadership style–when, where, and how you lead best– and reflecting on your strengths and weaknesses to become more effective. Recognizing the pros and cons of your leadership style can help you better engage your team and achieve your goals. Whether you’re a servant leader, a transformational leader, or one of the many other classifications, everyone has their natural advantages and challenges. Here are a couple of examples of some strong female leaders, and how their different leadership styles have allowed them to impact the world.
Princess Diana of Wales, was a classic example of a servant leader. Humble and kind, while dedicated to making a difference, the “people’s princess” focused her efforts on uplifting those who had been outcast by society. Servant leadership is defined by listening to and serving others, to build trust and earn authority. Princess Diana exhibited this style in all aspects of her life, balancing the demands of the monarchy with being actively involved in her sons’ lives. Although philanthropy is an obligation of the British royal family, Princess Diana went above and beyond her duties to support people in need, becoming the patroness of a variety of charities and organizations that supported those with serious illnesses, most notably AIDS and leprosy. She served people directly through visiting hospitals and homeless shelters, holding hands with those who were stigmatized, and promoting causes that the monarchy otherwise didn’t support. Through being personally involved in these causes, Princess Diana embodied the spirit of servant leadership to reduce stigmas, break tradition, and inspire others.
Former First Lady Michelle Obama is a more recent example of a transformational leader. Strong and inspiring, she builds support for causes that have made a big impact in society by being a role model for followers and helping them identify personally with the cause. During her time as FLOTUS, she rallied Americans throughout the country to support causes like Let’s Move, to reduce childhood obesity rates, Joining Forces, to improve resources for veterans and their families, and Let Girls Learn, to secure funding for girls to continue their education. Michelle Obama connected with people all around the country by talking about her own experiences with gender discrimination throughout her childhood, prejudice she has experienced as an African American woman, and the importance of education in her life. As a transformational leader, she motivates her followers, provides ways for everyone to get involved, and educates people on the reasons why her initiatives are beneficial to everyone.
There are many different styles of leadership and all have their applications. For example, in many situations it may be important to work with your team when making decisions, encouraging collaboration and valuing everyone’s contributions. However, at times when quick decisions must be made, it may not be feasible to work in this way. While it is important to recognize what style of leadership comes most naturally to you, it is also necessary to be able to adjust to the people you’re working with. Understanding the people who follow you and being adaptable to the situations you face will help you to achieve long-lasting success.
You can begin by assessing your natural strengths and then focus on how you can adapt them to each new challenge you face. Use your leadership style as a building block. Here is one leadership style quiz to help you get started.
USC’s Leadership Style Quiz:
“Michelle Obama.” The White House, The United States Government, 20 Jan. 2021, https://www.whitehouse.gov/about-the-white-house/first-families/michelle-obama/
“Diana, Princess of Wales.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 6 July 2022, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diana,_Princess_of_Wales