Building Self-Awareness for Stronger Leadership

group photo of the leadership Saint Pete 2021 class
July 19, 2021
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“There are leaders and there are those who lead.
Leaders hold positions of power or influence. 
Those who lead, inspire us.”
Simon Sinek

Recently, I had the privilege of facilitating a leadership development program for the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce Leadership St. Pete® Class of 2021. It was their closing retreat, culminating six intensive months of exploration and discovery about our special St. Pete community and making it a better place through the class’ capital projects. 

Leadership St. Pete® develops leaders who represent the best and brightest of the local business community. Through an intensive six-month program, Leadership St. Pete is designed to enhance community acumen and cross-cohort collaboration for community leaders.

Our 90-minute session was focused on exploration and self-discovery. We explored Dr. Robert Hartman’s Three Styles of Leadership, and helped each of them understand the difference between their self perception, self-presentation, and the realities of the way they work and lead. 

The Three Styles of Leadership

Hartman’s research confirmed that over time an individual will have a predominant leadership style depending upon one’s current role and the needs and culture of the organization. The three Hartman Leadership Styles are:  Inspirational Leader, Example Leader and Integrational Lead. 

The Inspirational Leader is defined by engagement with others, confident leadership, and highly verbal communication rather than hands-on work.This leader prioritizes collegial behavior and will establish a degree of personal relationships. They tend to place trust in others, and, in turn, others come to them for counsel and advice. Because of the relationships they’ve established, they are able to deliver messages and mandate action in a strong, but respectful manner, and have little difficulty asking colleagues to tackle challenging things.

The Example Leader, on the other hand, is someone who is just that—they lead by example. They might work longer hours than peers and colleagues, and aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty. They’ll have detailed expertise about the work they’re doing, the processes involved, and any technology or tools they need to get the job done. They’re typically able to rise through the ranks based on this expertise and their productivity, and find a place in the boss’ “inner circle” because of the insight they bring to the table. 

The Integrational Leader is cautious and precise. They don’t leave anything to chance—they have the ability to integrate wide ranges of information, move projects from conceptualization to implementation with few mistakes. They may sometimes appear socially disengaged, but in reality they are simply processing what needs to be done and what comes next. They make very few mistakes, and pride themselves on precision and detail. 

The Class Exercise

When working with the Leadership St. Pete Class, we did not discuss these three leadership styles until the end of the session. Instead, we went in cold to explore their self perception. Each member of the class was given a list of attributes pulled from all three leadership styles, mixed together in no particular order. Class members were asked to select a minimum of four, but no more than six attributes that they felt best matched their leadership style. 

From there, we came together as a group. Three volunteers from outside the class read the attributes of one style of leadership aloud, in the first person. Each member of the class was then asked to stand near the volunteer whose attributes they identified with—another form of self identification, but done in a group setting, with others watching, rather than privately on paper. 

Once they’d completed both forms of self identification, we revealed the results of their Hartman Profile Evaluation, which revealed their current leadership style. Many of them were surprised by the results—some of them had great self awareness, while others had self-identified very differently than their profile results. This paved the way for a highly engaged discussion and insightful questioning to come to a deeper understanding of their peers and of themselves. 

The Takeaway

Leadership St. Pete is one of the oldest leadership programs in the country, and only accepts the brightest and most promising individuals from our community. Even with their existing abilities as leaders, the program forced them to think differently, to explore new skills, take risks, and gain a deeper understanding of their strengths and weaknesses. 

Our retreat was focused on exploration and self discovery. We discussed the different faces we present, and the ways our roles as leaders shift over time and in context. In one scenario, you might be an Integrational Leader, while in another you might be Inspirational, but you will always lead primarily with one. We also discussed the importance of “healthy conflict” when there are multiple leadership styles working on the same project. Different types of leaders—when they leverage their unique strengths and push each other out of their comfort zones—are able to achieve amazing things working together. 

Personally, I came away not only inspired to do more—to raise my own game—but heartened by the unstoppable energy in the room. Ultimately, there was one resonant fact that rose to the surface from our discussion: there’s no single way to lead, or to lead effectively. It’s all about the ability to understand your own strengths and abilities, accurately read a situation, and know what you need to bring to the table.

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