Situational Leadership – Choosing your style!

Situational Leadership – Choosing your style!

 Most leaders prefer to use a supportive leadership style that encourages direct reports to seek their own solutions in accomplishing their work tasks.  This style is appropriate when the direct report has a reasonably high level of competence and needs encouragement rather than direction. What is overlooked at times is when people are new to a task, disillusioned, or looking for new challenges.  In these situations employees need direction.  In fact, just being supportive often delays or frustrates performance.

The best leaders learn how to tailor their management style to the needs of their employees.  For example, if an employee is new to a task, a successful manager will use a highly directive style—clearly setting goals and timelines.  If an employee is struggling with a specific task, the manager will provided direction and support.  If the employee is an expert at a task, a manager will use a delegating style on the current assignment and focus on coming up with new challenges and opportunities for future development.

How flexible is your leadership approach?

Research shows that leadership flexibility is a rare skill.  In looking at leaders who successfully use a Directing, Coaching, Supporting, or Delegating style as needed, studies show that more than half of leaders typically use only one leadership style, about one in four use two leadership styles, one in five use three leadership styles, and only 1 percent use all four leadership styles – a rare breed indeed!

Ways to get started:

For leaders looking to add flexibility into the way they lead and increase the overall success of their organization, here are four ways to get started:

  1. Create a written list of the tasks and desired outcomes for each of your direct reports.
  2. Schedule an initial one-on-one meeting to identify current development levels for each task.  What is the employee’s current level of competence and commitment?  Are other tools and / or resources needed to deliver on the task?
  3. Come to agreement on the leadership approach needed in this situation.  Does the employee need direction, support, or a combination of the two?
  4. Establish regular bilateral meetings (i.e.: bi-weekly or monthly as a minimum) to check back see how things are going and if any changes are needed.

Effectively leadership requires adjusting your style to meet the needs of those you lead.  Learning to be flexible can be challenging in the beginning especially if you have become accustomed to using a “one size fits all” approach.   With practice you can learn how to adjust your leadership style to align with the needs of the people who report to you.   And even while you are learning your people will notice a difference.  So take a step in the right direction and get started today!

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