The 4 stages of a natural leadership style

For those moving into a position of leadership for the first time, you may find the situation feels very unnatural.  You are taking up a mantle of responsibility that has not previously been demanded of you.  Relationships with former colleagues may have to change from “buddy” to “boss”, people will need you to make decisions, and there may be behavioural and cultural changes you feel need to be made.

So how do you develop your own natural leadership style that works for you?  You try marching around officiously and telling everyone what to do, and that irritates everyone, especially the old hands who have been doing the job for years.  So instead you leave them alone because they know it all already and you sit in your newly acquired office and eat chips while they get on with the work.  But then you are well aware that some things should change and you are not having any influence on them.   OK, so you try a more nurturing style and you sit down with everyone and ask them their opinions. That works better, but still the old hands look at you like you’re stupid and the new team members look completely blank.

OK, where do you go from there?  Well it turns out that one style is not good enough for a leader and what you need is to be able to identify and use the most appropriate style for different circumstances.  According to Blandchard, Zigarmi and Zigarmi there are four styles you need to be able to adopt as a manager:

Directing – for those new to a task: giving explicit instructions and monitoring performance closely.

Mentoring – for those with a bit of experience: briefing the team and also seeking their opinions.

Supporting – for people with more experience: facilitating, encouraging and supporting them with their own decision making.

Enabling – when someone is very capable: empowering them to make decisions for themselves and then stepping back to let them fly.

It turns out that, as a manager, you need to be able to identify what approach any one of your staff needs at any moment in order to be able to give them the level of guidance they need in the circumstance.  If they are taking on new unfamiliar tasks you will want to be more directive, and your approach needs to move through the mentoring and supporting stages as they become more capable; moving to the enabling style when they are well capable of doing the job on their own.

This way you will find people respect you for giving them the right level of support at the right time.  …And then they will call you a good leader.

If you’d like to learn more about these styles you might be interested in joining our Leadership Skills Development course.