I have thrown out almost all of the leadership styles I was shown 20+ years ago.

There was the patriarchal style left over from the 1950's. This was the closed-door, Dad knows best and you follow what Dad has decided. This style also included a general protection over the employees just as a father would for his children. Talk about oil & water. I remember a boss berating me for bringing up a topic in an executive meeting that he was not already aware of. No trust--all ego.

There was the autocratic style typically used in old-style manufacturing where fear was used as a weapon. Employees produced enough to avoid punishment. Fear was not the only tool; many used an abundance of praise to secure employee loyalty. I feel lucky that I was never exposed to that but I know a few leaders who employ that style. Just check out www.glassdoor.com to see who they are.

My least favorite style is the hands-off let the inmates run the asylum form of leadership. The rationale here is let your people decide what's best and give them the freedom to execute. With a vision and a light touch, leaders give each employee the space to do their thing. I believe most hands-off leaders simply hate confrontation and look for every excuse to avoid those situations. Leadership is about doing the right thing every time not shying away.

Today there are many styles of leadership. If you are a first time leader and are trying to identify what your style should be, or a leader trying to add to your leadership toolset, start with these three simple, stress-free thoughts:

Be authentic. I see too many first-time leaders blindly imitating the actions of others. I get it, you have to start somewhere and borrowing various leadership elements from others seems like a great start. I want to argue against that. What I want you to do is sit back and think about who you are and what you are comfortable with. Being self-aware is a foundational step for everything. Establishing a dominating leadership personality when you are introverted makes no sense. Great leaders show their true colors in times of great stress. How you communicate in these times has to come from a truly authentic place.

Be transparently honest. My issue with the first two styles mentioned above is that they both hide critical information from staff. In essence you are treating every employee the same. It turns out that you have a few great employees, a few average and probably a few duds. This communication (or lack thereof) messaging works for the duds but fails miserably for your great employees. In the void of information, people insert the worst-case data. That is why the good people always leave first.

Be strong/decisive. Regardless of the style or tactics you decide to employ, it is vitally important that you completely own that style of tactic. There is no room here for limping in. People favorably respond to strength. (By-the-way, you can have a soft yet strong style.)

Your strength when applied to being authentic and transparent will go a long way to forming your leadership style.

Published on: Apr 21, 2015