Thursday, February 22, 2007

Situational Leadership

I've recently been searching for a new position with more and different managerial responsibility. During one of my interviews I was peppered with some really tough questions.

One of the final questions was, "If you were in a meeting and had a major disagreement with what someone was saying, how would you respond?" I said something about having to read the person and make a guess about which of several approaches would be better. Some people are fine if you just directly oppose them. Other people don't deal well with that, and you need to ask questions that get them to realize on their own why they are wrong. A lot of my answers were this way, and towards the end of the interview someone in the room asked if I had received "situational leadership" training, because that is the approach I seemed to take.

I went through 'Situational Leadership' training nearly twenty years ago and sent my managers through the same program just a couple years ago - and I try to be a situational leader. The 'One Minute Manager' gives a brief overview, if you've ever read it. New management fads come out every year. I always read up on them, but disagree with much of what they say. Many of these books always make management and leadership seem so simple, and imply that if you just focus on one thing (the fad) then you will be a great manager. I don't think that is true.

Management and leadership are complex because people are complex. Rather than stick to one style or form, leaders should be able to analyze a situation and determine what type of response is best given the parties involved. Sometimes you have to be more directive, sometimes a hands off approach and a pat on the back will get you further. Other times just being more of a trainer and mentor works best. No one will be as effective in each approach, but should at least have it in their repertoire.

I bring this up because I often get tired of seeing these fad books every year, and sometimes I think I should just quit reading all that hype. But now I see it in a little bit different light. Each fad, each style, each book, has some truths in it, and I try to go through it with an open mind and take away what is important. It's important to stay on that lifelong learning path.

I am making a mad dash to re-read my Situational Leadership books. It was one of the most insightful models of doing the right things, at the right time and being flexible enough to be effective with people at every level of their own personal development.


virk said...

Excellent note. I recently took the Situational Leadership-II training and really enjoyed it. I have been using different techniques (directive or supportive, etc.); but it was understanding of person's behavious as we come to know how to handle or motivate the person to do the job. This training connected many dots and gave this leadership technique a name.

Other thing that I agree with you is reading books with open mind. There is so much good stuff written out and people have put the ocean of knowledge in these pages and my job (just like you) is to get some gems out of each book, does not matter if something is repetitive. I am learning and keeping an open mind attitude is pre-requisite for it.
Keep sharing your knowledge.

Dave said...

So many things in leadership just seem like common sense when put it words after the fact. It's recognizing the situation and acting appropriately in the moment that separates the best leaders from the rest. Understanding the interaction between development level and leadership style is the first step!

Thanks for the post!

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Alan said...


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chandra said...

The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been.

Situational Leadership Questionnaire

Ken Blanchard said...
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