Does Your Leadership Have Style?
by Ken Buist


At its very core, leadership is about having influence, and as a result of that influence, acquiring followers of your vision. To expand upon this, my definition of leadership says: “Leadership is the ability to influence, cast vision, motivate and direct individuals, teams and organisations to harmoniously accomplish their goals”.

The Leadership Window™

This is the model designed by PTL to enable leaders to discover, design and develop their leadership. It combines the characteristics derived form our individual PASSION and expressed as Leadership Gifting, along with our TEMPERAMENT or Behavioural Style, underpinned by sound CHARACTER, expressed as Personal Maturity.

Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without strategy.” General H. Norman Schwarzkopf

Truly effective leadership is essentially rooted in trust, integrity and informal authority and possesses vision and courage. Such leaders are accomplished communicators who aim to empower followers, and have been able to win respect through their depth of character as well as their skills, experience and ability. Such leadership motivates people to perform at their highest level.

This leadership is not authoritarian or coercive in style but is rather informal and persuasive. ‘Mature’ leaders have the flexibility to adapt their leadership gifting to the different needs of their team members and the tasks in hand.


The mature leader is familiar with informal authority and leverages high performance from winning the support and commitment of the team, rather than relying on a formalised role to exercise power over subordinates. Informal authority relies on trust and respect being voluntarily given to the leader by virtue of their influential authority and/or their expertise and skills.


True leadership is essentially visionary, adventurous and bold, encouraging a voluntary loyalty to the mission of the team and the values of the organisation. Leadership derived from wisdom and expertise wins respect because of the confidence engendered in the team. Truly great leadership combines extraordinary vision and courage together with a highly developed set of skills and expertise and a thorough understanding of personal and other leadership styles.


Churchill and Ghandi were both exceptional leaders, but with two very different leadership styles. Research from a wide variety of disciplines and perspectives has shown that individuals possess one of seven predominant leadership giftings. This principal gifting is also their primary motivation. It includes what they like doing best and reflects how they derive fulfilment in a leadership role.


The Leadership Gifting Indicator™ will reveal your preferred leadership style. It will also supply a comprehensive list of ‘Leadership Characteristics’, along with suggestions for developing your particular style and achieving Personal & Professional Excellence in leadership.


Each of the seven segments represents a specific style of leadership. One of them will be yours. It is the style that comes naturally to you, and within which you are comfortable and competent. It tends to express how you feel about expediting tasks, the manner in which you relate to those whom you lead and collaborate with and the type of leader that others perceive you to be.

These seven different leadership styles all require sensitivity to the situation and a flexibility of approach in order to be effective. The one true measure of leadership is; is anybody following? Leaders become more effective when they have a good awareness and understanding of their own leadership style, as well as the personal styles of those they lead. Armed with this knowledge, the mature leader is then able to develop strategies to improve communication, deepen relationships and consequently lead with excellence.


There is no “Right” or “Wrong” style. This is not an ethical model for leadership per se; each style needs to be applied ethically and in accordance with the culture and philosophy of the corporate and geopolitical environment. However, there are certain roles that lend themselves better to particular styles. For example, a military leader in combat would achieve his objectives best by employing a Directing style, whereas a groundbreaking visionary entrepreneur may be best served by being a Proclaimer; more about the differences in the styles later on.

When a particular style lends itself most appropriately to a role or project, the person with that combination of abilities will be everyone’s first choice of leader. Although we might all, on occasions, use each of the seven styles, there will be one which is naturally, predominantly our own.

As you study these insights it is appropriate to bear in mind that you are unique. Others may be similar to you, but no one is identical. You have no replica! What is important for personal success is that we discover the most effective ways of using the strengths, skills, style and faculties we have either acquired or been born with, and that we apply ourselves diligently to improvement and growth. It is to that end that I seek to add my own combination of insights to those already available in this field.


We will now look at how each style connects with others. A full examination of the styles would reveal: focus, manner of relating, and emotional impact of the styles. It would reveal the way different styles operate & influence, as well as characteristics that may need to be developed. How others perceive a style, along with the strengths and limitations of the style. The particular value a style brings to a team or organisation, and the strengths and limitations of a backup style.


THE PROCLAIMING STYLE produces stimulating presentations, compelling arguments, and invigorating discussion. It enables an exciting blend of enthusiasm and factuality that promises meaningful progress, significant development and genuine solutions.

A person with this style often feels compelled to express an opinion or perception. This is because their beliefs and attitudes are primarily driven by values that they perceive to be inviolable. This accounts for their passionate style of communication where strong words tend to be used in absolute terms. Disapproval may be expressed as "deplorable", wrong actions might be called "reprehensible" and basic issues termed "fundamental".

Those with this leadership style usually make excellent and persuasive spokespersons and media managers. They are able to keep focussed when under intense scrutiny and use their charm, persuasive skills and passion to win support or minimise the damage of criticisms.

THE EQUIPPING STYLE is motivated towards research and all forms of analysis. It is driven by the need to know and to be sure others come to know! This style will present findings systematically, chronologically, meticulously and with full supporting data. The appendices will be well organised and every detail is double checked before releasing anything.

The motivation underlying this leadership style is to seek out correct and reliable information. This style is by nature studious and curious. Communications are primarily documentations in the form of instruction manuals, procedural guidelines, curricula, reports and detailed proposals.

This particular style will be found in many who are articulate and well organised but who may not always have the charisma that can make their presentation memorable. Others tend to use their findings to greater effect but should be advised to take care about inaccuracies, vagueness or jumping to conclusions - the Equipping style jealously guards the integrity of his or her material.

THE ENCOURAGING STYLE enjoys stimulating growth in others. People with this style love to be able to say that things are getting better, that people are doing well, and to report good news to anyone who is interested. Nothing fulfils this style more than being responsible for enabling others to believe in themselves sufficiently to experience improvement and success. This style often expresses itself like a parent, mentor, or older brother who affirms the individual, and accepts them unconditionally, and yet devotes conversations to how the next step in people's lives and careers can best be taken.

The Encouraging style is demonstrated in how exhortations are delivered to individuals and groups. It will place great emphasis on personal achievement, and seek to bring out the best in anyone who will listen. The Encouraging style delights in opportunities to affirm others privately and publicly, giving praise wherever it is justified. It will also communicate this enthusiastic approval through rewards, gifts and hospitality. It will often urge, cajole, provoke, and provide helpful impetus in order to move others towards achieving their goals. Leaders with this style also seem to have an endless source of anecdotes to support the specific issues they might be addressing or which others are facing.

THE EMPATHISING STYLE is attuned to others. It senses their needs, feelings, aspirations and fears, thus enabling a people-centred communication that demonstrates understanding and humanity. No one will feel offended by instructions or exhortations coming from the pen or lips of an Empathiser. This is not to suggest that communications are loaded with sentimentality or emotional terminology. Empathisers may have many skills but their core style puts them in touch with whomever they meet and ensures that the whole person is considered within the professional environment.

This style loves to celebrate other people's achievements with them and genuinely congratulates when subordinates or colleagues experience success. The message others receive from this style is that they are significant to the organisation and valued for who they are, as well as what they do. Correspondence generated by this style will mention people who contributed to the impact on a client, and the identities of contacts. The written and spoken words are affirming and display insight.

THE DIRECTING STYLE is concerned with fulfilling the vision. People, resources, organisation and policies exist only to achieve the desired goals, and therefore every communication is coloured by the vision. This leadership style creates statements and phrases that enable constant reminders for all involved. It seeks to employ every creative means to stimulate, challenge and announce the purpose in which everyone's efforts are engaged. Directors naturally inspire. They tend to eat, sleep and breathe their mission.

Consequently all their activities are directed to that end. All communications made will be clear and concise. A person with the Directing style will abhor ambiguities and resist compromises. This style enables others to know precisely where they are going and how they are to get there. They frequently answer questions by reference to two or three precisely defined objectives or principles. Advice consists mostly of directions that will result in practical solutions. All verbal communication will be lucid and is likely to be accompanied by helpful body language and controlled gestures. People with this style find it natural to maintain eye contact. The result is an impartation of confidence and resolute purpose.

THE INVESTING STYLE is characterised by being wise and prudent. All communications will tend to reflect this and have a clear focus. Words are not wasted, generalities are avoided and there will be no digressions. This is not to the exclusion of sociability, which accompanies this style, rather a keeping to the point in order to be efficient and clearly understood.

This leadership style will draw out from others evidence of their competencies in order to determine if input and support will be worthwhile. Those with this style are astute listeners who know instinctively when a person is a good proposition for their involvement. They have an ability to ask questions that will reveal flaws and immaturity. Enquiries will be direct but subtle, causing no offence and only enhancing the reputation for shrewd judgement of character and potential. A conversation with someone with this style will feel like a privilege, and their written material will convey pertinent thought and substance.

THE SUPPORTING STYLE is always directed towards ensuring the needs of others are met. This is not a product of poor selfimage, but of clearly defined strengths and personal significance through service. A person with your style may often be observed nodding their head as others speak. When they speak, attention is drawn to meeting needs, accomplishing tasks and having a sense of purpose and satisfaction in giving their best to others. They draw attention to detail with enthusiasm and identify requirements without weariness or an air of superior insight.

People who have this style have the ability to communicate attitudes through activity. They do not need to explain their motives or values; these are evident in their style and manner. The Supporting style leader also has impact with their verbal and written communication by inspiring others to be cheerful, positive, industrious and focussed. Their body language will notify others that requests are not an interruption, nor are detailed requirements a burden. Instead, they are opportunities to give of their best and find greater fulfilment in doing so.


There will be times when you find it necessary to use all of the seven styles, but probably not for a prolonged period. There may be times when you use a mixture of different styles. However, there is no doubt that one of the styles discussed will be your principal style.

So ‘leadership’ is not just for the few but for the many. One of the fundamental differences is in the different styles. The important thing is not which style you have, but how ‘mature’ you are within the style you have.

A common mistake is to try to lead with a style we admire, as opposed to the style we possess. Fundamental to exhibiting excellent leadership is understanding your own leadership style. If you can then learn to understand the other styles, this will help you in your interactions with others.

Knowing how to adapt your style will empower you to develop powerful communication and relationship strategies which will equip you for better leadership and so produce greater results.

Ken Buist is the founder of Personal Transformation Ltd: Leaders In Human Capital Transformation, dedicated to releasing people from the place of mediocrity, in order to reach the greater dimension of fulfilled potential. He is also a Trusted Adviser and published author. Ken is an experienced and charismatic conference and seminar speaker who has presented his methodologies in workshops, seminars & conferences, to individuals, teams and organisations in over 20 countries. As a result to date, these organisations have increased their revenue by over $500 million.

Trust Me’ is Ken’s latest book dedicated to equipping individuals to achieve commercial success through attaining personal excellence. Its material guides the reader through a comprehensive range of paradigms explaining the human makeup, and proceeds to enable you to grow personally and enhance your ability to connect, communicate, and influence. If you would like to discover your particular leadership style or obtain a measurement of your character traits free, visit us at: and we will send you a unique code by return.

Many more articles in Creative Leadership in The CEO Refresher Archives


Copyright 2005 by Ken Buist. All rights reserved.

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