Everyone seems to have an opinion when it comes to how many leadership styles there are.
At the end of the day, the leadership style you adopt for one situation might be vastly different than for another. As Harvard Business Review researchers point out, when you can pivot your approach within the environment you operate, you as a leader “perform better than those who can do a few things very well.” This means that the way you respond to your employees during your Monday check-ins is probably vastly different from the way you interact with clients during regular Zoom calls. Yet the leadership style you choose for each circumstance matters, especially when engaging with customers.
What makes a leadership style so integral to your relationship with buyers is having the right response based on the needs of the client and the moment. This situational flexibility will always keep you in tune to meet — and hopefully surpass — your customers’ expectations. But if you’re not sure which leadership hat to wear for differing client encounters, the following tips can help guide your decision.
1. Keep your “laissez-faire leadership” style in your back pocket.
Sure, you want to show off your expertise and get things done on behalf of your customers. That makes sense. But don’t forget to allow your more laid-back, human side to peek through now and then. It’s very difficult to connect with clients long-term if you don’t try to find common ground. Maybe you both have daughters who play soccer. Perhaps you share a love for the outdoors and like to travel to the same places for vacation.
You’ll never find those potential bonds if you don’t let your internal laissez-faire leader come out sometimes. Spend three minutes allowing the chitchat to guide itself during your next meeting. Then, swing back into a different leadership style to make sure you don’t go too far off topic.
2. Become an adept and eager “learning leader.”
Have you ever worked with an “I’ll do it myself” leader? It can be frustrating for everyone who has helpful suggestions. Rather than risk frustrating your clients, become a leader who asks for feedback and does something with it.
For example, you might think you know everything about your product or service. But your clients might be able to share something you and your team never knew, such as a glitch or friction point you couldn’t have predicted. Consequently, the more you ask for input, the better you’ll be on all counts because you can make informed changes. According to statistics collected by business phone system provider Nextiva, more than half of customers want companies to act upon the feedback they receive.
Requesting feedback can be done informally, but you might want to formalize the process by sending out surveys or questionnaires. Alternatively, you might want to arrange annual discussions with your biggest clients to elicit information. Be sure to follow up on anything you receive and always say thank you.
3. Embrace and enhance your inner “communicator leadership” style.
It’s hard to over-communicate with clients. In fact, far too many companies under-communicate or fail to communicate altogether. Frequently, the problem is that they just find it hard to stay in touch. This is where technology can help, particularly technologies you might already use, like Slack.
Paul Holder, co-founder and CEO of customer onboarding platform OnRamp, suggests setting up shared Slack channels to keep communications open with clients. Holder says, “It can make them more open to feedback and more likely to retain a positive view of your brand. How could they possibly not like being able to get fast resolutions and share everything from images to screenshots with a few clicks?”
Another method to drive better communication is to create ticklers for yourself on your calendar. Blocking off an hour a week to make client phone calls or send customers emails can pay off. Within a year, you’ll have spent 50+ hours doing something vital for your business.
You’re a leader no matter what by virtue of your corporate position. But you should pick which style of leader you want to be to wow and engage your clients at any given point in their journey with your brand. Choose well, and you’ll be rewarded with more business and maybe a few potential client referrals if you’re lucky.