Discovering Your Natural Leadership Style

Higher Ed Leadership Series

Do you feel like you’ve been thrown into your leadership role without a manual to teach you how to actually lead a team? You’re not alone. 

Many women of color in leadership roles in higher education face similar challenges. You value education and leaving a lasting legacy but struggle with feeling overwhelmed and unsupported. Maybe you’ve had to move schools to take on a higher role, leaving behind the support network you held dear. Maybe you even fear that your leadership style doesn’t fit the mold. 

Here’s the thing – there is no “one-size-fits-all” leadership style. Each of us brings unique strengths and perspectives to the table. By embracing your innate leadership style, you can lead authentically, inspire others, and make a positive impact.  

What Is Your Leadership Style?

Your leadership style is the way you lead, make decisions, and interact with others. It’s influenced by your personality, experiences, and values. Your leadership style shapes the way you approach challenges, motivate your team, and achieve your goals. 

What Are the Different Types of Leadership Styles?

We’re going to discuss four different leadership styles.  Curious about what your leadership style is? Take our Leadership Style Quiz to get a clearer sense of what your strengths and areas of opportunity may be, then check out our list below for more info!


If your leadership style is dominant, you’re likely an assertive, decisive, forward-thinker. You’re ambitious in your goals and confident in your approach. Your direct style of leadership is one that gets results. 

Strengths of Dominant Leadership:

  • You may be highly competitive, focusing on the bottom line and winning at all costs. 
  • You provide clear direction and keep your team moving forward, 
  • You excel at creating new and efficient systems despite your organization’s possible history of being adverse to change. 
  • You’re likely authoritative, direct, and to the point. 
  • You probably don’t sugarcoat anything and expect others to communicate the same way. 
  • You focus on the solution, not the problem or the process, and perform well in a crisis. 

Opportunities For Dominant Leaders:

  • practicing patience, politeness, and sensitivity. 
  • Focus on the details 
  • Allow collaboration and deliberation; 
  • Focus on building trust with your team. 


As an influential leader, you have the power of persuasion. You’re people-oriented, and you value building relationships. Influential leaders tend to be more positive, energizing leaders who encourage new ideas and foster upbeat working environments. 

Strengths of Influential Leaders:

  • You prefer to align everyone together to get a task done
  • Your charisma will inspire others to follow your lead 
  • This style of leadership is what makes you friendly and approachable, offering assurances and encouragement when developing team members. 

You may also be seen as someone who avoids negative issues and is not always direct with your communication approach compared to that of a dominant leader. 

Opportunities for Influential Leaders:

  • Learning to speak more directly and candidly 
  • Following through on commitments
  • Practicing thoughtful analysis can serve to benefit you and balance your leadership personality 
  • Don’t rely too much on other people 
  • Practice being open to confronting others, adapting to change, 


If your leadership superpower is support, you’re likely seen as a sincere person who wants to create a respectful, positive working environment. 

Strengths of a Supportive Leader:

  • You’re empathetic and patient
  • You have a calm and laid-back approach to leading your team. 
  • You value cooperation, sincerity, and dependability. 
  • You’re a reliable and stable leader who has a more deliverate working style
  • Your team has likely established clear processes for how things work 

Opportunities for a Supportive Leader:

  • Practice becoming comfortable with change, as you may be more methodical and prefer a routine  
  • Practice confronting others and dealing with conflict
  • Learn how to make decisions and focus on the bigger picture


As a conscientious leader, you have a deliberate, disciplined approach. You’re often seen as analytical, logical, and concise. 

Strengths of Conscientious Leaders:

  • You have strict standards and focus on providing high-quality outcomes. 
  • You complete tasks and projects with careful analysis and thorough planning
  • You ensure things get done correctly 
  • You tend to make time to review facts & figures rather than making snap decisions 

You’re often seen as an expert in your niche, someone who is highly competent. You make decisions based on logic rather than emotion, which makes you an excellent problem solver. 

Opportunities for Conscientious Leaders:

  • Learn to be okay with taking some risks instead of constantly gravitating towards data 
  • Focus on the “human” element of your work 
  • Try to avoid the “analysis paralysis” world; avoid overanalyzing and spending too much time gathering data  

How To Find Your Leadership Style

Finding your leadership voice requires a bit of self-reflection. Reflect on your strengths, values, and goals. Solicit feedback from colleagues and mentors, and think about your interactions with other faculty members or students. For help finding your leadership style, consider taking our Leadership Style Quiz!

Embracing Your Leadership Style

You are a leader. Your unique leadership style is a strength, not a weakness. Embrace it, own it, and use it to inspire others.

Remember, leadership is a journey, not a destination. It’s okay to seek guidance and support along the way. Leadership coaching through Lead by Design Lab can be an invaluable resource. Our coaching program helps you identify your unique leadership style, understand your strengths and areas for growth, and develop strategies to achieve your goals based on your defined leadership style. It can also be a safe place to explore your leadership style and develop your authentic voice. 

As a woman of color in leadership in higher education, we face unique challenges. But we also have unique perspectives and experiences that can drive positive change. By embracing our leadership style and seeking support when needed, we can lead authentically, empower others, and create a more inclusive and supportive environment for our students and faculty to thrive.

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