To be a good people leader, you need to stay true to who you are – that is the advice of Commonwealth Bank’s Group Executive, Human Resources, Sian Lewis.

Speaking to attendees of the Future Women’s Leadership Summit being held in Sydney today, Ms Lewis said there had been many different types of ‘popular’ leadership styles over the years – many of which were reflective of society at the time.

In the early part of the 20th century, Ms Lewis said the ‘command and control’ style of leadership had proved popular amongst businesses. In later years, this type of leadership was replaced with the ‘inspirational’ leadership style. 

According to Ms Lewis, the ‘inspirational’ style encouraged leaders to provide clarity, communicate effectively, be positive and have passion. And while some of these core foundations were and remain incredibly important today, Ms Lewis said the best leaders find their own unique style of leading and stay true to who they are.

“There isn’t one successful way to lead, but there is a way for you to lead successfully,” Ms Lewis told the Summit attendees.

“Being a good leader is about honing the essence of you and remaining true to who you are as you go through your leadership journey.”

Beyond highlighting the importance of leaders staying true to themselves and understanding their own unique way to lead, Ms Lewis also shared some of the traits that, she believes, all great modern leaders possess, including: humility and transparency, curiosity, and a desire to always be learning.

“One of the best ways to connect with people and build real relationships – which helps to create a great leader – is to recognise that you don’t know everything,” Ms Lewis said.

“In a fast paced environment, it is impossible to know it all. That doesn’t mean that you can’t have a high degree of self-confidence. It means knowing what you are good at, admitting to what you are bad at, and being transparent with your people.”

In addition to being transparent, Ms Lewis said a good leader will be curious and have a constant desire to learn as well as the humility to lean on their networks and ask for their support, expertise and knowledge.

Further, Ms Lewis said good leaders go beyond having a “customer focus” and are actually “customer obsessed”.

Lastly, Ms Lewis said good leaders need to have clarity about the outcomes they are seeking.

“As a leader in the modern world, it is important to focus on what impact you want to have. What is the outcome and how will you measure it? Often, we can have a clear statement of the end goal, but haven’t clearly defined the outcome we are seeking. If you clear on the outcome, you can pivot when needed,” she said.