A woman small business owner leads a team discussion during a meeting.
Discovering your leadership style is the first step to becoming the best leader you can be. Knowing your natural strengths and business goals can help you discover your style. — Getty Images/Mo Mo Productions

Many small business owners don’t set out to become leaders. The skills it takes to start a business don’t always overlap with the skills needed to run the company. As a result, many entrepreneurs feel underprepared to lead a team and manage direct reports. If you find yourself in this position or if you are simply looking to find a leadership style that works for you, try this approach.

Choose a framework

Research into different leadership styles became very trendy in the 1970s. As a result, there are dozens of frameworks and approaches to leadership that can help you define your own style.

From Lewin's Leadership Styles to the six emotional leadership styles, navigating the different schema defining leadership can quickly be overwhelming. Review a few frameworks to see if any resonate with you and to get a sense of how these approaches can provide a foundation for defining your personal style.

[Read more: 10 Business Leadership Styles and What They Mean]

Understand your natural strengths

Leadership style frameworks are useful as a baseline, but you need to understand your natural tendencies. “Humans don’t fit into neat little boxes,” said Michelle Duval, business coach and CEO of Fingerprint for Success. “Looking at motivations and attitudes takes into account the fact that people adapt and mature. It allows for a much more dynamic view of humans and how their leadership styles can change over time.”

Notice how you react to certain situations to get a sense of your natural leadership style. It can also be helpful to ask for feedback from your peers, mentor, and direct reports to understand how they experience your leadership.

Notice how you react to certain situations to get a sense of your natural leadership style.

Take a leadership style assessment

There are almost as many leadership assessments as there are leadership style frameworks. Fortunately, many of these assessments are free. Here are a few formal assessments to explore:

There are other assessments that focus on personality types, which can also inform your leadership style. For instance, MBTI and Enneagram tests can tell you more about your personality traits, like self-awareness, communication, decisiveness, and extraversion. These types of evaluations can provide an extra dimension to your leadership style assessment and help you understand your natural strengths.

Consider what leadership traits you admire

The results of your formal leadership assessment do not have to dictate how you manage your team. Instead, this evaluation can help you understand where your natural tendencies lie and identify where you can adjust your approach.

“[Individuals] can take an active role in shaping their leadership style by reflecting on the characteristics and skills they’ve admired in other leaders and working to embody those traits,” wrote Lattice, an HR platform.

Think about leaders in the wider business world and in your network whom you admire. What do these people all have in common? How can you incorporate their approach into your own leadership practice?

[Read more: 5 Simple Ways to Become a More Engaging Leader]

Keep your business goals in mind

Different leadership styles are suited for different stages of business growth. For instance, a democratic leadership style — one that encourages building consensus from a group with diverse opinions — is great for new projects that will benefit from brainstorming.

However, this style could create challenges for businesses that are trying to grow quickly and need someone to take charge. Your leadership style should account for what your team needs from moment to moment and shift in order to accommodate your business needs.

It can also be helpful to adapt your leadership style to different employees. Some employees respond better to collaborative leadership. Others simply want to be told what to do. Spend time with each individual to understand how you can adapt your approach to get the best possible performance from them.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

CO—is committed to helping you start, run and grow your small business. Learn more about the benefits of small business membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, here.

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