Self-awareness and Mismatches of Leadership Strategy

Young boy playing Jenga

Warm apple pie and ice cream. Hot dogs and baked beans. Peanut butter and bacon. Some things just naturally go together. (Yes, even peanut butter and bacon. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!) Good matches create satisfaction and even joy. Mismatches…not so much. Mismatches create frustration and ineffectiveness. Think fingernails on a chalkboard. Or cucumber and ice cream. And family vacation and clearing out your email inbox. These things do not go together.

Last week I wrote about the challenge of leading those who want to lead, but actually need to be led. Similarly, there are challenges in leading those who want to be led, but need to lead. These mismatches are hard to work with.

In contrast, in my article two weeks ago I wrote about leading those who want to lead and also need to lead. I also wrote about leading those who want to be led and also need to be led. When followers expectations are aligned with their needs, there is an open path to productivity and effectiveness.

However, the mismatches are problematic. There are times when the wants and needs of a follower are incongruent. Not everyone has a good handle on what they really need in every situation. When that’s the case, the path to productivity is meandering and muddy.

The Johari window below can help us diagnose these situations.

This particular model places a follower’s wants on the vertical axis and their actual needs on the horizontal axis. Dividing those axes into two options, “to be led” and “to lead” yields four possible combinations: Two congruent (the green boxes) and two incongruent (the yellow boxes).


  • People who want and need to be led.
  • People who want and need to lead.


  • People who want to lead, but need to be led.
  • People who want to be led, but need to lead.

    Leading is always a challenge, but more so in the incongruent situations. My observation is that most leaders focus on the symptoms in these scenarios, not the causes. Some of the symptoms of incongruence include:

    • The follower is frustrated with their work, other people, and perhaps themselves. They are probably frustrated with you!
    • The follower is often ineffective and this creates frustration for teammates and you.
    • They may appear (and are likely) disengaged.
    • Communication might be inappropriate or confusing at times.

    These are some of the symptoms. It’s the cause that really needs attention. Frustration and disengagement are like a fever. Fever is the symptom of an infection in the body—the cause. The cause of frustration and disengagement in mismatched leadership situations is usually lack of self-awareness.

    Creating self-awareness in others is a tall order. I don’t have a prescription for that. The first step, though, is often the awareness of others…you, for example. An effective leader builds self-awareness in followers through strategic coaching, crucial confrontations, and strength-based development. A healthy dose of patience is required, too.

    Do you have someone on your team who doesn’t seem to be in “the zone” right now? Are they on edge? Maybe they’re experiencing a mismatch between what they want and need in leadership. Experiment a bit with your approach. Exchange “need to be led” strategies with “need to lead” strategies—and vice versa.

    Take time to assess whether there might be a mismatch between what they (and you) thought they want vs what they need from you as a leader.

    Dr. Scott Yorkovich is a leadership coach and consultant. He works with individuals, small and medium organizations, and ministries. Contact him at ScottYorkovich[at] with your questions.

    Photo by Michal Parzuchowski. Photo available at Unsplash under CC0 license. Image modified for size and space.

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