When it comes to leadership, there is no one-size-fits-all solution; what works for one manager might fall flat for another—and vice versa. While one leader may drive results by being highly involved in the day-to-day workings of their team and providing hands-on support, another manager might get better results through a “lead by example” approach, modeling the behavior they expect on their team—and giving their employees the time and space to follow their lead.

There are a seemingly endless variety of ways to approach leadership—and no one approach is necessarily better than the other. So, the question is, how do you find a leadership model that feels like the right fit for you—and helps you drive results and inspire the best in your team?

What Are Leadership Models?

First things first. Before we jump into how to find the model that best fits you as a leader, let’s quickly cover what, exactly, a leadership model is.

Simply put, “a leadership model is…a structured set of ideas and practices that help explain how we can influence people to work together to accomplish a common goal,” says Adam Cubbage, owner and principal consultant at leadership and organizational consultancy Centerpoint Leadership Development.

There are a huge variety of leadership models out there—each offering a unique framework for effective leadership. For example, strengths-based leadership, “asks leaders to understand the strengths of those on their team, and allow team members to [lean] into those strengths,” says Dr. Sarah Skidmore, DSL, MA, organizational consultant and author of Stronger People Leaders. Servant leadership is focused on the leader being in service to their employees. Transformational leadership is centered around inspiring growth and positive change through innovation. Adaptive leadership gives leaders a framework to support their team and drive results in an ever-changing environment, democratic leadership values the input of the team to drive decisions, laissez-faire leadership takes a more “hands off” approach to leading a team…the list goes on.

And while each leadership model takes a different approach to leadership, they all “aim to teach us how to be successful and effective as leaders,” says Cubbage. “[Different] models contain processes and measurable standards which allows us to adjust to different people and circumstances.”

The right leadership model can help you drive better results in and for your team—and gain more confidence in your leadership abilities in the process. But with so many leadership models to choose from, how do you find the right model for you?

Get Clear On Who You Are—And Who You Want To Be As A Leader

Before you can discover the leadership models that best fit you, you have to be clear on who “you” actually is—and how that plays into your leadership style.

“We each have certain skill sets, abilities, and talents,” says Cubbage. “[When choosing leadership models], play to those strengths.”

For example, if you’re the kind of person who expresses their appreciation through acts of service, then servant leadership might be the right model for you. If you’re constantly switching things up in your personal life, exploring new hobbies and personal growth opportunities, then adaptive leadership might feel like a better fit for your personality.

When figuring out who you are as a leader—and what leadership models are the right fit for you—it’s also important to “be aware of your core values,” says Skidmore. Knowing what you value in the workplace will help you figure out which leadership models align with those values—and help you choose accordingly. For example, if you value individuality and inspiring each employee’s best, you might explore strengths-based leadership, which focuses on each team member’s individual strengths and talents—and leading in a way that brings out those strengths and talents.

Consider Who You’ll Be Leading…

In order to choose the best leadership models, it’s important to consider who you are as a leader—but it’s also important to consider who you’ll be leading.

“Everyone likes to be treated as the individual that they are; one size does not fit all,” says Cubbage. “That means you will have to use different models for different people.”

Get to know the people on your team. Who are they? Where are they in their careers? What are their goals? Then, use that information to reverse engineer the leadership model that will help you bring out the best in each individual employee.

For example, “the new-to-the workforce employee needs a different type of leadership than the mid-career professional,” says Cubbage. And while a more involved, hands-on leadership model might work great with your newer employees, a leadership approach that allows for more autonomy might be a better fit for more seasoned team members. 

The point is, choosing a leadership model that fits you is important—but choosing a leadership model that fits your team is just as (if not more) important. So, when you’re exploring leadership models—and figuring out which are the right fit—make sure to keep your employees in mind.

…And In What Environment You’ll Be Leading Them

When evaluating leadership models—and figuring out which are a fit—it’s also important to consider where you’ll be using those leadership models.

“Context is everything. Some workplaces are rigid and inflexible…[while] other workplaces call for less structured, more collaborative settings,” says Cubbage. “Where you work, the synergy of the team, and what you’re trying to accomplish all play a part in [which leadership model is the right fit].”

Take stock of your organization, how it functions, and what leadership models and styles seem to be at play. Then, use those observations to help guide your decisions around which leadership models would (or wouldn’t) be the right fit. For example, if you work in an organization that places a high value on collaboration, a democratic leadership model might be the best fit—while a laissez-faire leadership approach might work well in a company culture that values giving employees space to do their work as they see fit.

Bottom line? Certain leadership models work better in certain company cultures—so make sure, when figuring out which leadership models you want to leverage as a manager, you choose models that will work in your work environment.

Don’t Get Stuck On One Leadership Model

Chances are, there will be a leadership model that speaks more strongly to you (or to your team or organization) than others. But don’t get stuck on one leadership model; in order to be the most effective leader, you’re going to need to have a variety of leadership models at your disposal.

“The best way I’ve found to think about leadership models is like tools in a tool bag,” says Cubbage. “If all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.” 

Or, in other words, if you approach every leadership-related situation (whether that’s mentoring an employee to help them land a promotion or navigating a conflict between two team members) with the same model, you’re going to be limited in how effective you can be in managing that situation; if it doesn’t “fit” with the leadership model you’re using, you’re not going to drive the best results.

On the other hand, if you have multiple leadership models in your “tool bag,” you can evaluate each situation individually—and leverage the leadership model that’s going to deliver the best outcome for that specific situation.

So, when you think about discovering the leadership models that best fit you, don’t get caught up in choosing a single model; instead, find a roster of leadership models that feel like a fit for you who you are, who you manage, where you work, and how you approach problems—and, when faced with a leadership-related issue, choose the model that feels like the best fit for that particular issue.

Use These Tips To Choose The Leadership Model That Helps You Step Into Your Full Potential As A Leader

How you approach leadership will play a large role in how effective you are as a leader. And now that you know how to choose the leadership models that are ultimately going to be the best fit for your team, your organization, and yourself, you have everything you need to use leadership models to step into your full potential as a leader—and watch your team flourish as a result.

Exploring different leadership models and discovering the one that best suits you