16/06/2010

By Brian Chernett, CEO, The Acamemy for Chief Executives

Your team is not a single entity. Each person that you lead will have different needs and your approach to them should be different to reflect that. Their needs will also differ across time and as they tackle new or unfamiliar roles. So it is important to know where they are developmentally and apply the appropriate leadership style.

Paul Hersey and Kenneth Blanchard, developer of the “One Minute Manager” series, created a model for Situational Leadership in the late 1960’s. It allows you to analyse the needs of the situation you’re dealing with, and then adopt the most appropriate leadership style. There are four leadership styles in Hersey and Blanchard’s model and four sets of circumstances. As with any model, this is highly granular and needs interpreting by the leader as they approach a given situation.

The approach of a team member (or follower) is represented by two factors, competence and commitment. The four combinations that the model suggests are important are —

D4 High Competence and High Commitment

Experienced at the job, and comfortable with their own ability to do it well. May even be more skilled than the leader.

D3 High Competence and Variable Commitment

Experienced and capable, but may lack the confidence to do it alone, or the motivation to do it well/quickly

D2 Some Competence and Low Commitment

May have some relevant skills, but won’t be able to do the job without help. The task or the situation may be new to them.

D1 Low Competence and Low Commitment

Generally lacking the specific skills required for the job in hand, and lacks any confidence and/or motivation to tackle it.

You may recognise that, as a leader, you also fall into one of these categories depending on the role you are playing. Some entrepreneurs who operate in D4 when doing deals, find themselves in D1 or D2 when it comes to administration or VAT returns, with the result that thes e are tasks that they, rightly in my view, delegate elsewhere. Delegation is one of the four leadership styles available —

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Directing Leaders define the roles and tasks of the ‘follower’, and supervise them closely. Decisions are made by the leader and announced, so communication is largely one-way.

Coaching Leaders still define roles and tasks, but seeks ideas and suggestions from the follower. Decisions remain the leader’s prerogative, but communication is much more two-way.

Supporting Leaders pass day-to-day decisions, such as task allocation and processes, to the follower. The leader facilitates and takes part in decisions, but control is with the follower.

Delegating Leaders are still involved in decisions and problem-solving, but control is with the follower. The follower decides when and how the leader will be involved.

I’m sure you will be beginning to see how the theory works. Leaders need to develop the flexibility to operate in all of the four ways according to the situation of the follower.

The numbering system indicates the most appropriate combinations —

• D4 High Competence and High Commitment is ideal for a delegating (S4) style.

• D3 High Competence and Variable Commitment probably requires a Supporting style (S3)

• D2 Some Competence and Low Commitment indicates a need to develop both confidence and commitment and a Coaching style (S2) is the best fit for this.

• D1 Low Competence and Low Commitment is most often found amongst new employees and temporary staff. It is also found when employees find themselves in a new role and change from being a very confident and motivated D4. The directive style is suggested by the model for this category, but I would urge leaders to move to a Coaching style just as soon as they can.

One of the most important presuppositions of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) suggests that ‘the map is not the territory’. It is true here. A model is only useful as a guideline and flexibility is the most important principle to apply. People do not neatly fit into four boxes and their needs are never met simply by one of four approaches. Depending who the person is and what their personal circumstances are, you may see changes in their performance that require changes in your approach. Working with empathy and healing (see my article: Double Vote Of Confidence In Order To Lead Succesfully) is still a good guiding principle. However, having a model like this is a simple way to know where and how to start with the leadership of an individual team member — and it reminds us all that to try and lead a team rather than individuals is a mistaken approach. Only when we lead the individuals in an optimum way can a team begin to emerge.

The ideas in this article are based on those set out in the book Leadership and the One Minute Manager (1985) by Kenneth H. Blanchard, Patricia Zigarmi, and Drea Zigarmi which is still available in a 2000 edition. There are several websites that summarise this work including – www.chimaeraconsulting.com/sitleader,
Wikipedia – Situational Leadership Theory, Hersey and Blanchard’s Situational Leadership.

Ken Blanchard has, apparently moved on to a new Situational Leadership Model (known as Situational Leadership® II (SLII) whilst Paul Hersey continues to develop this original model. Read more at – www.situational.com for Hersey’s work and Situational Leadership II

Watch a video of Brian Chernett sharing his ideas on how leadership is changing in the business world.

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Brian Chernett is founder of The Academy for Chief Executives (ACE) – He has 43 years’ experience as managing director of private and public companies, including subsidiaries of Booker Bros McConnell, the Landmark Group, and several other major companies. Find out more at www.chiefexecutive.com. We always welcome your feedback on the articles. Email them to brian.chernett@freshbusinessthinking.com. This article is adapted from Brian’s new book, The Entrepreneur Within. For Brian’s personal website see www.brianchernett.com or follow The Academy on Twitter at www.twitter.com/academy_ceo.

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