This morning I began preparing my slide deck for Sunday’s lesson in leadership. Before moving onto the topic of Servant Leadership, I decided to explain Situational Leadership more fully to the class. As I was thinking about it, I realized that after the experience of the Leadership Development Program at the Center for Creative Leadership, there isn’t a more impactful leadership training program that I have gone through than situational leadership. In fact, I believe it’s as impactful as the LDP because it can be applied to virtually every aspect of our lives, both personally and professionally.
When I became an IT Director at Pfizer, I attended their management training programs called The Leading Edge and Sharpening the Edge respectively. Each program is a week long and both are based on Ken Blanchard’s Situational Leadership II program. The Leading Edge is situational leadership in a manager/subordinate relationship. Sharpening the Edge is situational leadership applied to the group dynamic. Before being allowed to attend the Sharpening the Edge program, we had to put Leading Edge practices into place for a full year.
The basic premise behind situational leadership is that there is no single “best” leadership style. Effective leadership is task-relevant. The most successful leaders are those that adapt their leadership style to the capability level of the individual or group they are leading. Effective leadership varies not only with the person or group that is being influenced, but also depends on the goal, task, job or function that is to be accomplished.
The pre-work for The Leading Edge program was a lot of fun. About six to 8 weeks before attending the program, they sent me an interactive DVD. This wasn’t your standard training DVD, this was actors in a high-quality movie responding to your leadership inputs. The scenario is a 19th century gold mining operation in the old west. You are the mine’s operations manager. If you respond to a situation with the incorrect leadership style, all kinds of bad things happen. Once I was responsible for blowing up the mine and putting my workers in the hospital. I was lynched, jailed and shot all because I used the wrong leadership style with my subordinates. Eventually, I did make it through because I learned from my mistakes and made a small fortune in the process. It was a real hoot!
But truth be told, some managers experience frustration almost every day because they’ve never learned to lead people differently based on the situation. Followers also experience frustration because their managers don’t lead them appropriately. You may not blow up the mine or get lynched, shot or jailed, but when frustration reaches high enough levels people look for new opportunities. I’ve heard it said that workers don’t leave their jobs, they leave their bosses. Situational leadership is a simple to understand process, but it takes practice to develop a high level of competency. Do what you can to learn more about it and put it into practice for yourself. It can make a world of difference for you and those you lead.