Shifting Your Leadership Style to Meet Employee Needs

As a leader you can be challenged to develop your skills as a leader. How do you develop the skills to be an effective leader? The real challenge is: creating a leadership style that motivates staff to do their jobs and with the quality of an owner.

Leadership is situational: it changes based upon the employee. In this model we tailor our behavior as leaders to the employee. For a new employee, the manager’s behavior is very directive. We’re in training mode; we give the employee lots of information and direction. Our goal is to move an employee to move through several stages to a point where we are the coach and mentor, and the amount of time and direction needed from us is minimal. At this point, the staff know their job and can do it in with minimal direction or intervention. As a leader, the move from directive to mentor is not a direct jump.. To transition, there are stages. After directing, the manager is still telling the employee what to do, but the level of telling and direction has decreased. The employee is able to do the task with some direction and feedback, versus total direction and feedback.

The third stage is one in which the leader or manager’s role is one of support and motivation. The employee can do the job with little intervention from the manager. The last stage is the objective, where the employee is totally experienced and empowered to do their job with the support and mentorship of the manager. In this stage the manager is the cheerleader, acknowledging accomplishments and the motivator.

Even though, it would be easy to have linear maps of human behavior, this again is not the case. As the manager, you will have to move easily through the different phases and be able to step back when an employee needs more direction at some point. You also will move back to directing when a new task or job duty is assigned that the employee has never done before. At this point, a new training and mentorship cycle is started. The manager’s role is to provide the support needed to complete the cycle once again, to the final stage of empowered action, in which the employee is capable of doing high quality work.

This article is based upon Hershey and Blanchard’s situational leadership model, from their book: Management of organizational behavior: Utilizing Human Resources. (1982, Prentice-Hall, Inc.)

Copyright: 2006

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