Understanding Situational Leadership

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Understanding Situational Leadership

Encourager-In-Chief: September 27th, 2017

An effective tool for customizing your leadership

I’ve asked my good friend and esteemed colleague Dr. Dilip Abayasekara to give you a sample of what you will learn at his October 5, 2017 Situational Leadership seminar. His guest blog follows.

Doug, a division manager of a large volunteer organization came to me with a frustration. He said, “Dilip, I’m not sure how to work with Kenny—one of my area managers—who is underperforming. It can't be my leadership style because I have two other area managers who are doing wonderful work.” It turned out that the two area managers who were doing well were newer to the organization than Kenny.

Kenny had experience and certainly had much of the knowledge he needed to perform as an area manager. The two other area managers had come on board shortly after Doug had been given the division manager responsibilities and so Doug had trained them and continued to oversee their work. As I probed further with questions, it came out that Doug sensed that Kenny did not seem to be open to the directions that Doug gave him. Doug thought that Kenny wasn’t a team player. What could he do?

Doug indicated that his natural leadership style was to coach people. He liked to give directions to people, monitor their performance, show them how to improve, and be there for them. It was clear that this style worked very well with his two high-performing (but new) area managers. Using Situational Leadership principles, I showed Doug that Kenny, the experienced area manager, was in a different place. He had much of the skills and experience to do his job. He did not need Gary to tell him how to reach their goals.

What Kenny needed was to be given control of day-to-day decisions and to feel supported by Gary. Gary could show that support by listening, praising, asking for input, giving feedback, and being available when Kenny needed help to solve a problem. That’s what would make Kenny feel part of the team. Different people on a team can be in a different place in terms of their competence, readiness, and willingness. The Situational Leadership model teaches us to understand people where they are and then customize the way we interact with them so that we bring out the best in them.

Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.
- Robert Kennedy

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