Written by Pamela Odukoya, Toastmasters International

In the early stages of my working life the main leadership style I encountered was autocratic. Leaders look decision quickly with little or no consultation and I didn’t feel able to share my ideas.

I came to realise that leadership styles vary significantly and through a period of reflection, research and self-analysis, I gained a greater appreciation of my own diverse skills, experience and values. More importantly, I gained a new understanding of the different leadership styles and self-analysis helped me to discover my preferences.

My leadership career now spans seventeen years. This includes leading a team of career advisers in both private and public sectors, and volunteers in a public speaking organisation. I regard leadership as an opportunity to collaborate and motivate a group of people to achieve a common goal. I’ve adopted the transformational leadership style as my dominant leadership style because it gives the opportunity to inspire and develop others whilst building productive relationships and using a great deal of creativity.

Regardless of a leader’s style, every leader should be able to set goals, use resources efficiently and effectively, motivate the team to achieve the shared vision and be innovative. Integrity is a key hallmark of a leader, and this involves owning your mistakes, being transparent, fair and consistent

If you are an aspiring leader, then here are a few tips to help you progress.

Learn it

Both formal and informal learning can help aspiring leader to develop.  I would recommend these online resources as starting points.

  • The Chartered Management institute: managers.org.uk
  • Future Learn: futurelearn.com
  • Consider reading ‘What Got You here, Won’t get You There’ by Marshall Goldsmith. It provides some insight into the leadership behaviours that you might need to adopt.

It is also important to make the most of any CPD (continuous professional development) opportunities you are offered.

Try it

To get some experience of leadership at senior level, I suggest applying for a trustee role in a charitable organisation. As a trustee, you will be part of a board with legal responsibility for the management and administration of the charitable organisation. Some resources to help you explore the role of a trustee are:

Or you can try to take on a leadership role in a volunteering organisation or professional association.

The skills you have gained in your personal and professional life can add value to a charitable or volunteering organisation and this can contribute towards your growth and development in leadership.

Invest time to understand your team

Leaders inspire people to work towards and achieve goals. Developing productive working relations is an absolute must for leaders. Time invested in understanding the personalities, values and aspirations of team members by listening and engaging with them is well spent.

I still remember the light bulb moment when I invested time to understand a team member who was underperforming. Through a series of informal meetings, I learnt about the team member’s personal barriers. As a result, I worked with them to identify support needs and made the necessary workload adjustments. These adjustments helped the team member to reengage with work and optimise performance. They gained confidence, studied for further qualifications and achieved a leadership position. Without this time investment, this person might not have been able to reach full potential.

Recognise and show appreciation for individual and team effort

Some of the ways I’ve showed recognition to my team include simply saying “Thank You”, making announcements at team meetings and of course the power of a luscious cake on a Friday afternoon. You can also consider tangible forms of recognition such as certificates or awards.

Of course, some people prefer private rather than public recognition. I apply the Platinum Rule, which basically says, “Do unto others as they would want to be done to them.” I follow this rule by tailoring how I treat people to respect their preferences.

When showing recognition, it is important that you are fair and consistent otherwise it can be deemed as a form of discrimination, and this can affect the team’s morale.

It’s also important to think about how you recognise your team at external meetings. Do you focus on the metrics alone? Do you single out the top performers? How about a team member who never gets a mention despite working incredibly hard to support the team? Always aim to build an atmosphere of inclusion and belonging.

These tips have helped me develop as a leader. I hope they will do the same for you.


Pamela Odukoya is a member of Toastmasters International, a not-for-profit organisation that has provided communication and leadership skills since 1924 through a worldwide network of clubs. There are more than 400 clubs and 10,000 members in the UK and Ireland. Members follow a structured educational programme to gain skills and confidence in public and impromptu speaking, chairing meetings and time management. To find your nearest club, visit www.toastmasters.org