Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Adjusting your Leadership Style to your Followers' Readiness

Do you always use the same approach to leading others?  If so, you probably found a style that works most of the time, but not all of the time.  Well, there's an easy way to determine what approach you should take, and when.

Leadership scholars have observed leaders who are successful in one context fail in others.  To explain this, they have developed several theories and approaches for trying to figure out how leadership needs to change to be effective in across different situations.  These theories are generally called contingency approaches and situational theory.  So what do they mean, and how can we benefit from them?

The Quick and Dirty Approach
If you lead others, take a look at the descriptions below and choose the type of characteristics that best describe your followers:

                                                                        FOLLOWERS ARE:

Got your follower type?  Good.  Now look at the table below for a recommendation on what style to use for best results:

If you only have 3 minutes to look at this blog, stop here.  Use the process above to determine which approach you should use to be most effective with your subordinates or followers.  If you are interested in learning more, read on...

The Detailed Explanation
The above model is Hersey and Blanchard's Situational Theory.  They assert that the characteristics- or readiness- of followers is important to take into consideration when determining how to lead.  Those with low readiness (type 4 above) need to be told what to do to build up their confidence and skills.  Followers with moderate readiness (type 3) need to be "sold" by their leader on the task, as they have the drive but maybe not the skills needed to perform.  Type 2 followers, who have high readiness, perform best when a leader uses a participative style, which serves to motivate them and give them confidence to tap into their already-high skill set and abilities.  Finally, highly-ready followers who are motivated and skilled can be delegated to, and may underperform if they are told, sold, or delegated to.

Think back to your experiences leading others.  Have you ever used the wrong approach based on the readiness of your followers?  Telling skilled and motivated people what to do can annoy them, while selling a task to followers who don't have the skills may simply be a waste of time.

Models like this are called contingency or situational models.  They say that a leader's behavior will be effective contingent upon the organizational situation.  Different situations call for different styles of leadership, and the effectiveness of a leader's approach depends upon the needs of the specific situation.  The formal model is below.  If you want to learn more about it, click on the image:

You are probably capable and skilled in being able to use these approaches above, and to tailor your style to the needs at hand.  But you may not yet be motivated to do so, so I tried to adopt a selling approach in this blog to motivate you to try them...

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