Do Others Follow Your Lead?

Are you a leader in your organization? What abilities do you associate with leadership? According to John Bolman and David Deal, management consultants, when people are asked "what is leadership", answers seem to fall into one of the following categories:

- ability to get others to do what you want (power)
- leaders motivate people to get things done, mostly through persuasion
- leaders provide a vision
- leadership is facilitation; leaders empower people to do what they want.

Overall, these categories convey the notion that we expect a leader to influence through noncoercive means, to produce some degree of cooperative effort, and to pursue goals that rise above his or her own narrow self-interest.

Leadership and management are not the same. We've all seen cases of good leaders being poor managers, and vice versa. The quote, "managers do things right and leaders do the right thing" comes to mind, although obviously things work best when managers are also leaders to some degree.

On a good day, the relationship between leaders and followers in an organization can be productive and rewarding for all parties. But what happens on the not-so-good days? What happens when leaders have to make tough decisions quickly, or have to deal with a noticeable drop in team or individual performance? Do people hesitate in "following the leader" then? According to Brian Ward of Affinity Consulting, situations like this are becoming more and more prevalent across various sectors, as customers demand higher and higher performance from leaders and their teams, and teams themselves demand more say in how decisions are made and how "things get done around here" (the "E" word, empowerment).

Where do you turn, as a leader in your organization, when things get bogged down? One leadership model has stood the test of time, and has developed into a set of tools that leaders and their teams can quickly comprehend, adapt and get a quick payback from implementation. This model is Situational Leadership, first developed by Drs. Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard. This model suggests that at all times (good or bad) the leadership style you choose is dependent on a number of situational factors.

* Directing: the leader provides clear instructions and closely supervises the work of the follower(s.)

* Selling: the leader explains decisions and provides opportunities for clarity and buy-in through negotiating, influencing and consulting with follower(s).

* Participating: the leader provides support and facilitates problem solving and decision making through a joint approach, to support and develop the followers confidence in their abilities.

* Delegating: the leader turns over responsibility for task implementation to the follower. The purpose of this model is to allow leaders and their followers to identify the most appropriate leadership style for given situations. Understanding which leadership style or tactics to use can be understood by asking two questions having to do with the readiness of the follower: Can he or she do the job (ability to perform the task)? And will he or she do the job (willingness to perform the task)?

If a person is willing and able to take responsibility for a job, and is motivated to do it, they would be "higher on the scale" of job maturity. It is important for a leader to remember that a person may be motivated and eager to do a job, but still not know how. "Can they?" And "Will they?" are the two overriding questions to be considered together when diagnosing what style will be needed to help them to do the job.

Remember, though, that the answers to these questions may demonstrate the need for a style of supervision that the leader is very uncomfortable using. If that's the case, then the leader may have to find someone else to oversee that person's work - or make some other organizational change.

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