One of the key qualities of a good leader is to understand leadership styles and know when to change.
Each of us has our own unique strengths and weaknesses; sometimes, we need more direction, other times, less.
Situational leadership involves being able to recognize and respond to these differences and contribute to what makes a good leader.
- Different Players, Differing Abilities
Let’s turn to a youth basketball scenario where a coach must teach young players to rebound, pass, dribble, and shoot the basketball.
Imagine shorter players who tend to dribble and pass the ball well, while taller players may be better at rebounding.
If you are teaching dribbling, the shorter players may be better at the task and need less instruction.
Conversely, when you change to a rebounding drill, the opposite applies in terms of player strengths and weaknesses.
“There is nothing so unequal as the equal treatment of unequals.” – Ken Blanchard
In Ken Blanchard’s book with Patricia and Drea Zigarmi, Leadership and the One Minute Manager, they discuss four styles that correspond to varying development levels: directing, coaching, supporting, and delegating.
In our basketball example, a player who does not dribble well may need to spend more time practicing this task and require more observation until they demonstrate proper technique.
As players get increasingly better, the coach must change their approach from being directive, to supportive, to perhaps little or no involvement as a player masters a task.
- Same Player, Different Abilities
The ability to apply different approaches goes beyond categorizing people as strong, average or weak. Since we all have our strengths and weaknesses, you may have to apply a different approach with the same individual depending on the task. Making this adjustment is another one of the qualities of a good leader.
On the one hand, the shorter player may be the best ball handler and dribbles the ball so well that he needs little feedback. Conversely, that same player may not pass or rebound very well, and your feedback is essential if he is to improve upon his weaker areas.
Treat People Differently
Each of us has different strengths and weaknesses and we need to improve our weaker areas at different rates. Be sure to treat people differently – it’s the right thing to do!
Leadership and the One Minute Manager is my favorite book on this topic. It is an easy, must read.
Tom Crea is a leadership expert, decorated career Army Officer, and Blackhawk Helicopter pilot. Because of his proven skills, he was hand selected to run the Army’s leadership development program at two Boston colleges, where he and his team transformed college students into combat leaders.
Tom has a B.S. & M.C.S. in Computer Science and a M.A. in Political Science and loves coaching basketball and spending time with his wife and two boys.
Creating a Culture:
Tom’s proudest leadership moment came when his unit was called to war in Iraq after he had rotated out. His replacement was not able to perform, so members he developed stepped up to lead; they attribute their success to the leadership Tom instilled in each of them. Today, the Blackhawk leadership way.