How to Evaluate Your Leadership Style

I have a question for you: How do you rate yourself as a leader?

In asking this question of people at leadership seminars through the years, I’ve found that most leaders rank their leadership style as at least an 8 on a scale of 10. Seldom do they give themselves a low mark.

However, when the tables are turned and people are asked to rank their boss’s leadership style, many grade their leaders as being merely adequate. At worst, some are seen as office autocrats who depend heavily on the often-referenced “seagull management” technique as their sole line of attack — they leave their people alone until something goes wrong, and then they fly in, make a lot of noise, dump all over everyone, and fly out.

Why this discrepancy? Many leaders lull themselves into thinking their leadership style is top notch because they think they use either a supportive or a coaching style, which are believed to be good. But this is not necessarily the way they are seen by the people in their department or organization.

A Good Leadership Style Involves Listening

It is often difficult for a leader to get an accurate answer about how he or she rates with direct reports. Employees are sharp observers. For instance, a person may have gone to his leader in the past and made an honest suggestion such as, “Karen, I think our Thursday afternoon meetings are a waste of time.” If the supervisor answered with an outburst, saying, “What do you mean, a waste of time? Are you kidding? Those meetings are important,” it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the leader wasn’t interested in hearing the truth.

As a supervisor, it is important for you to remember that when your people tell you what they honestly think about your style of leadership, they’re really giving you a gift. When someone gives you a gift, what is the first thing you should say? “Thank you,” of course! It’s a very good idea to follow that up by saying, “Is there anything else you think I should know?”

When people learn that you won’t become defensive or hostile when they give you an honest evaluation about your style, you’ll find that you’ll gain a great deal of valuable information. My advice: Encourage people to give feedback at the office, and to give often!

Just remember, there is no one “correct” leadership style. How your direct reports respond to your style is what matters. If you are getting a consistently positive response — high productivity and morale — then you’re doing just fine. If not, you may need to ask for some feedback. Then look in the mirror and make some changes for the greater good.


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Ken Blanchard is the co-author of Great Leaders Grow: Becoming a Leader for Life and the chief spiritual officer of the Ken Blanchard Companies. He is the author or coauthor of 50 books that have sold more than 20 million copies, including the iconic One Minute Manager®.


  1. Eric on the 8th February

    I once read a book called, “The Power of Nice” which describes the personal growth benefits of being nice as much as possible. There’s a difference between giving honest feedback and being mean; sometimes we take feedback in a way unintended.

  2. PM Hut on the 10th February

    There is a new type of leadership that is gaining steam, which is called the servant leadership (see: ). Servant leadership is effectively acting at the servant to your resources – which will increase their productivity and will make you emerge as an even more powerful leader because of the “love of your people”.

  3. Amelia on the 12th February

    I think if a employee came to me and said “I think our Thursday meetings are a waste of time” I would consider that a career limiting move. There is a proper way to give feedback, and just being high maintenance under the guise of “honesty” is not productive. Unless you have a constructive solution for how to make the meetings more effective, or specific feedback about a consistent issue, calling anything your boss does a “waste of time” is probably not effective and expecting him or her to say “thank you” is pretty arrogant.

    • Lisa on the 14th February

      I don’t agree. I think a good leader would ask, “Tell me why you think the meeting is a waste of time.” And LISTEN.

    • Alison on the 15th February

      So you don’t want your employees to come bring up what they see as a problem unless they have a way to fix it? That’s limiting you and your company’s potential growth. Employees can see where things may be faulty and although they may not always have a solution isn’t it better that these things are brought up so more than one person can help try to solve them?

    • Amelia on the 16th February

      No, that’s not what I said. Simply saying something is a waste of time without explaining why isn’t helpful or productive. And I do think that if I point out a problem, I should also suggest a solution, otherwise I am just whining.

  4. Banking Jobs on the 16th February

    I’ve found over the years that those that do not welcome feedback are probably leaning towards the aggressive/bully type of leader and thats perhaps because they’ve been over promoted and therefore trying to hide their inadequacies.

  5. Retail Panda on the 20th February

    Servant leadership is effectively acting at the servant to your resources – which will increase their productivity and will make you emerge as an even more powerful leader because of the “love of your people”.

  6. Mohammad Nibras P K on the 21st February

    1. Setting up a feedback mechanism would show to the resources that the leader is serious about ‘listening’. It can be one-on-one meeting, etc. You can’t expect the resources to polish their feedback and tell it in ‘nice way’. Thus, agreeing with Ms. Lisa, the leader should listen and then probe why he/she think that way (about the meeting).

    2. Servant Leadership has been around for so long I believe. Some of the great leaders the world has seen displayed Servant Leadership.

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