Today was an autopilot day. My schedule was packed. My To Do list seemed to be never ending. A few surprises popped up that I dealt with on the fly. I had very little time to stop and think. All I could do was move from one appointment to the next, and from one To Do item to the next. I was on autopilot. I made it through the day, but being on autopilot also meant that the best I could do in leading others is only what came naturally to me. I’ve been told I’m a pretty good leader, but just doing what comes naturally might not always be the best thing.
In my previous post, I made the point that, whether you realize it or not, you have a leadership style. It’s a style of leading that comes naturally to you, without thinking about it. I also pointed out that your natural leadership style may not always be the most appropriate style for a given situation.
Before I deal with the issue of a potential style mismatch, let’s explore a practical approach to understanding leadership styles. This approach is practical because it is simple, easy to remember, easy to teach, and easy to apply in the midst of leading.
Let’s start by figuring out what your natural style is. Explore the three groups of questions below. You might want to take notes on your responses. For each question, I encourage you to use a rating scale of 1-5 (1 = rarely; 5 = almost always).
- When others don’t perform to standards, I am certain to let them know.
- I expect my team members to carry through exactly on my plans.
- As a leader, it is important that I provide answers and solutions to problems.
- On my team we set goals and establish plans together.
- Task lists and plans reflect the input of my team.
- I participate in problem solving sessions with my team to ensure their needs and my needs are all met.
- I encourage my team to solve problems by asking them open-ended questions.
- I help people on my team discover, develop, and apply their unique strengths.
- I help others develop their own action plans, based on their goals and their abilities.
Take a moment to add up your score for each group.
In this concise set of questions you might not have a tremendous separation of scores. However, if you are a self-aware leader, you probably sensed yourself “gravitating” toward one group of questions over the others. Whichever group got the highest scores or had the most gravitational pull is your natural leadership style.
Before we move on, though, let’s give them better labels than Group A, Group B, and Group C.
Group A = Directive Leadership
Group B = Collaborative Leadership
Group C = Facilitative Leadership
This model is loosely based on the work of Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard who created situational leadership theory (SLT) in the 1970s. Since then, their work has been greatly expanded by many researchers and authors. The simplified approach to SLT I’m showing you here, I first saw at Capella University. The presenter shared a particular analogy that I found helpful in understanding the differences between these styles.
- Directive leadership is like driving a car with passengers (your employees) along for the ride.
- Collaborative leadership is like being the navigator for the trip while someone else drives.
- Facilitative leadership is like being one of the passengers, letting others drive and navigate.
In your most natural style of leadership, which are you? Do you gravitate toward directing (driving), collaborating (navigating), or facilitating (passengering)?
Whatever your answer, please remember this:
No one style of leadership is better than another!
What matters is whether you use the right style at the right time.
In my next post, I will unpack the styles a little further. In the meantime, I encourage you to monitor your leadership behavior over the next several days. You might write on a sticky note the words “Directive Collaborative Facilitative” as a reminder to think about how you tend to lead, and whether it is the best approach in each situation.
Here is a summary of the articles in this series:
- Introduction – What’s Your Style?
- Mini self-assessment and short definitions (this article) – What’s Your Style? Pt 2
- Detailed definitions and applications – What’s Your Style? Pt 3
- What the mismatch of styles looks like – What’s Your Style? Pt 4
Dr. Scott Yorkovich is a leadership coach and consultant. He works with individuals, small and medium organizations, and ministries. Contact him at ScottYorkovich[at]LeadStrategic.com with your questions.