You have seen various leadership styles around you. The four prototypical styles are: 1. Directive, 2. Coaching, 3. Supportive, 4. Delegating. Many people will see themselves as “being” one of the four. They identify with one of the styles, as in “I am the coaching type”.

But in their idea of “situational leadership”, Hersey and Blanchard point out an interesting thought: leadership is not about you. It has something to do with relating to [a] other people, and [b] work be be done. Here, a new idea emerges: could the leadership styles have something to do with who/what to relate to? Obviously: yes. That leads to the following grid.

The idea is:

  • The directive style implies that you are highly prescriptive as regards the work to be done, and low on intimacy / being supportive, while the latter does not matter yet – getting the work done in the right way is the primary concern. This corresponds with a development level of an employee not (yet) being capable.
  • The coaching style implies that you are still prescriptive as regards the work to be done, but also high on intimacy / being supportive, as to enable the people to become better at this. This corresponds with a development level of an employee beginning to understand it.
  • The supporting style implies that you are low on prescription as regards the work to be done, but still high on intimacy / being supportive, as to empower the people to do things themselves, while knowing that you’ll be there where needed. This corresponds with a development level of an employee being quite capable.
  • The delegating style implies that you are low on prescription as regards the work to be done, and low on intimacy / being supportive, while the latter does not matter anymore – others can do the work better than you, so your time is better spent elsewhere. This corresponds with a development level of an employee being highly capable.

This model explains why professionals are adverse of the directive style, and why interns feel lost when confronted with a delegating style. And this again clarifies that leadership (style) is not about you. Usually, you will see that all these four “situations” are happening simultaneously in somewhat larger work environments. Therefore, you have to be able to flexibly change your style in the face of who is in front of you. So: learn to juggle with leadership styles!

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