“To tell, or not to tell, that’s the question!”…

Most of us have a preferred way of responding when someone asks us for advice, a question or wants our perspective. I sure used to think that when someone asks me, I must give them my advice, wisdom, insight etc. And I also did so, when I was not asked ;-). I’ve grown more and more out of this over the years (though I still see remnants, but at least I am aware when I do it).

In this post, I’ll be taking a look at the two predominant influence styles, possible messages we unconsciously might give, and what behaviors typically go with them. Hopefully, you will find something helpful here. Discover or sharpen your understanding and skills so you can be more flexible and masterful in adapting your style to what is needed in your context. Enjoy exploring, deepen your impact!

What Is Your Predominant Influence or Leadership Style?

Let’s take an honest look at ourselves here!  If someone observes your behavior in team meetings, in 1:1 interactions with your colleagues, staff or employees, how would they describe your tendencies? 

Look over the table in the graph1 below.

  • What are your tendencies?
  • Which messages do you tend to send?
  • Look at the scale of behaviors, from directive to self-directed. Which do you use the most?
  • Which behaviors are familiar, which not so much?
  • What impact does your leadership have on others? 

Most of us were influenced by a predominant model of leadership or may be wired towards a particular style. We may believe that a transformational style is more effective in the long run but settle for short term results and are more directive (as it takes less time). By doing so, we may be disregarding the negative impact our directiveness has.

Consider your context or situation: what style would be more appropriate? What skills could you use to empower the other person? Which skills do you need to add or sharpen? When you have a variety of skills to choose from, you can more quickly adapt to what is needed. But, when you are predominantly directive, you will default to that.

Changing your Style: Try these two things for a few days

Integrating coaching skills into your leadership increases your effectiveness because you can draw on a range of behaviors. You can learn to adjust your style to what is most appropriate and effective for the situation and relationship.

Next time you are in a 1:1 interaction as a supervisor, mentor or manager, or when you are leading a team meeting, instead of immediately ‘telling’ your answer to a question, or ‘sharing’ your opinion right away, do these two things instead:

  1. Listen. Fully. Try to really understand what the other person is saying before drawing any conclusions or interpreting what they said from your, possibly biased, perspective. To deepen their awareness and your understanding, ask questions such as:
    • What do you think is going on?
    • What is important to you about that?
  2. Then,  empower them to think for themselves. You could ask:
    • What solutions can you think of?
    • What’s the next best step you want to take?
    • What support do you need to move forward?

Or ask any other open question that would increase their self-directedness. Sounds simple, doesn’t it. See how it impacts the conversation and meeting. What are you learning?

Making a shift or adjustment to influencing with a self-directed approach takes effort and self-restraint! Changing your style is challenging, possible and worth the effort: your impact will deepen and be more long-lasting (and fewer will come back, hoping you will solve their problems)!


If you are interested in integrating coaching skills into your leadership, consider taking the FOCOS training. Click here for more information.

Reflection & Action:

  • What is your predominant style? What impact does it have on others?
  • In what situations is a directive approach more appropriate?
  • Which behaviors (or skills) will you intentionally sharpen? How?
  • In your currently important relationships, which skills do you want to use more?
  • What could happen in your team and work if you shifted more consistently to a self-directed approach?
  • If you are a parent, what shift may be possible or needed?
  • And as a bonus: What do you really want in the long run? More dependency? Employees or staff constantly coming back to you, because they have not learned to solve problems on their own? What’s behind that ‘being needed’ as a leader? Is it validation? I’m important because others seek my input? What else might be behind being more directive? That can go right to the core of our identity.

1Note: Several years ago, I came across Julie Starr’s approach of developing versatility in your leadership style as a manager through the integration of coaching behaviors (see ‘Brilliant Coaching’ by Julie Starr, Prentice Hall/Pearson 2012, 2nd edition). This and other concepts (s.a. servant-leadership, paternalism vs. empowerment, transactional vs. transformational leadership [thanks to Tom Bloomer], are integrated in the ‘Behaviors & Impact’ Graph.