In the late 70’s or early 80’s I ran across a leadership strategy developed by Ken Blanchard and Paul Hersey called Situational Leadership. This is where you manage people according to the situation that you and your direct report are in.
For me, the key word in Situational Leadership is the word leadership. I noticed they didn’t call it Situational Management, they called it Situational Leadership. There’s a big difference. I recently had an experience where I saw a dramatic example of the difference between leadership and management.
Leadership is by its nature a situational activity.
When I lead I know one thing for sure; it’s a trial and error activity. Not everything I do is going to work. I need to look at the results I’m getting and when they aren’t what I want I need to make adjustments.
I have a huge tool box at my disposal of things I can use. When I’m in my role as a leader I need to know which tool to use and which way to use it. If I choose the wrong tool, I need to change tools so we start to move forward. The lesson for me here is to move forward as quickly as possible I have to use the right tool in the right situation.
Managers have a hard time with situational activities.
Managers want to have rules they can work with. They want to know that when a particular thing happens they know exactly what they’re supposed to do. If you are a manager you likely enjoy having rules that you can fall back on. The rules help you decide what to do. That’s a good thing.
The problem with having rules is that when rules are made on top of rules you start to move towards a bureaucratic environment. In today’s business environment we can’t afford to be bureaucratic. We have to show leadership or our competition is going to overtake us.
A short case study.
I’ve been working on a process I call performance coaching. I was recently at a meeting with a client where we were talking about putting the process in place at their company. Performance coaching by nature is a situational activity. You can either be coaching around environmental fit, job success factors, a big rock (project), or a number the employee can influence.
During the conversation it became clear to me that most of the managers in the room wanted a system they could use the same way with all of their people. What I figured out was that all four issues should never be used with all employees for every meeting. This is a situational tool that is designed for flexibility.
If an employee is not doing what’s necessary to fit in, you need to concentrate on that issue. If the company is in crisis mode, you likely are going to concentrate on their number and their job success factor. If everything is going well, then you’ll want to focus on their big rock. You see, it all depends. I believe this is what’s important in today’s environment. We need to be able to deal with the concept of “it depends”.
How you can help your managers become leaders.
I’ve found that managers need structure for effectiveness. Companies need leaders who can use different tools at the right time. If you can design systems to incorporate both, you are helping develop leadership in your managers as well as provide tools to move the company forward.
I’ve tried to do this in our performance coaching model. Managers can choose which activities to focus on. We’ve put together a strategy for what’s most important and then move through the items one at a time. The key here is having a flexible system with limited choices along the way.
At the end of the day managers have to be leaders to move a company forward.
Managers need to learn to have leadership skills. Our world today is not a black and white one. Too many times the answer is in a gray area that hasn’t been explicitly talked about. This is true in our national scene and it’s true in the businesses that we run.
If we don’t act as leaders and choose the right actions, we’re toast. You don’t want to be toast. You want your company to prosper. If you can find a way to develop leadership skills in your managers you won’t be toast.
We’ve put together a survey we would love to have you participate in. This survey is on how well you hire. It has eleven short questions and should take no more than eleven minutes to complete. If you’re interested in taking our survey and I hope you are, please click on the button below.