Leading Self

Identify Your Leadership Style

This activity is designed to help emerging leaders understand the difference between command and participatory styles of leadership and in what situations to use these styles to be most effective. The activity will also help emerging leaders self-assess their use of participatory and command leadership styles and identify opportunities to practice and strengthen at work. Prior to the session, ask participants to read the following article in the Playbook: Six Leadership Styles and When to Use Them.

For more information about Identifying Your Leadership Style, click here to read the corresponding section in the Playbook.


30-60 mins

Group Size


Skill Level


Comfort Level



Flip Chart, Markers, Sticky Notes

Step 1

Write the words “Command” on a flip chart page and “Shared” on another flip chart page. Tell participants that leadership styles based on emotional intelligence typically fall into two types: command and shared. The command leadership style is top-down decision-making, while shared leadership is participatory decision-making.

Ask the group to brainstorm adjectives to describe “Command” style of leadership and capture them on the flip chart. After you have filled the page, summarize the adjectives on the list. Next, ask participants to brainstorm adjectives to describe “Participatory” style of leadership. After you have a filled the page, summarize the adjectives on the list.

Print out copies of this Command and Shared Leadership Styles that describes six different types of leadership styles, three each for command and shared. Ask participants to quietly review the one-pager and identify which leadership style most resonates. Ask them to identify which one feels least comfortable.

Share with participants that while they may need to use different styles of leadership in different situations, research shows that the participatory style of leadership has more positive impact on results and culture.  Also, when we share leadership, we are all smarter, more nimble, and more capable in the long run (15 minutes).

Step 2

Ask participants to take an online assessment based on emotional intelligence that will help them quantify which styles are their most developed, and which styles need more development. Ask participants to self-organize into small groups based on one of the three shared leadership styles: Affiliate, Coaching, or Democratic. Ask participants to join the group that matches one of their well-developed shared leadership styles. If they are well-developed in more than one of these shared leadership styles, they can choose which group they want to join. If they are not well-developed in any of their shared leadership styles, tell them to pick a style that intrigues them. Direct people to cluster into small groups in different areas of the room.

Once people have gathered in their groups, give them 15 minutes to discuss the following:

Identify a situation where have you used this leadership style at work.

    • What happened?
    • How did your use of this leadership style contribute to a positive outcome?
    • What are other situations where you could use this leadership style with positive results?

Step 3

When time is up, lead a 15-minute report-out from each leadership group. On a flip chart, write “Affiliate” and ask participants to share some high-level insights from the discussion. Capture each insight on the flip chart and verbally paraphrase. Take no longer than five minutes per leadership style and use one flip chart page per style (15 minutes).

Step 4

Ask participants to spend a few minutes independently reflecting on their shared leadership style and identifying one or two ways they will improve their shared leadership style at work. Request that participants write this down, beginning their statement with the prompt, “I will improve my shared leadership skills by:” Next, have participants find a partner and share their commitments to practicing and improving shared leadership skills. Allow 5 minutes or so for this exchange. When time is up, ask participants to exchange emails or mobile phone numbers and make a commitment to check in with each other about their commitments to practice.