No One “Best” Leadership Style

Effective leaders know that there is no one best way to manage people. Instead, they adapt their style according to the development level of the people they are managing. 

In The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Situational Leadership® II Model, managers are taught to modify the amount of direction and support they give to direct reports based on their skill and commitment levels for the task at hand.  To make this easier to understand, Blanchard uses four easy to remember descriptors to identify the four stages of development: Enthusiastic Beginner, Disillusioned Learner, Capable but Cautious Performer, and Self-Reliant Achiever

  • Enthusiastic Beginner–Can you remember when you first started to learn to ride a bicycle? You were so excited sometimes that you couldn’t even sleep at night, even though you didn’t have a clue how to actually ride a bike. You were a classic Enthusiastic Beginner who needed direction. At this point you had enthusiasm for the task but not a lot of experience. You needed someone to show you how—in a step-by-step process. 
  • Disillusioned Learner–Remember the first time you took a fall on your bike? As you were picking yourself up off the pavement, you might have wondered why you decided to learn to ride in the first place and whether you would ever really master it. Now you had reached the Disillusioned Learner stage, and you needed coaching. This is a combination of direction mixed in with a lot of support to help you get through this rough patch. 
  • Capable but Cautious Performer–Once you were able to ride your bike with your parent cheering you on, that confidence probably became shaky the first time you decided to take your bike out for a spin without your cheerleader and supporter close at hand. At this point, you were a Capable but Cautious Performer in need of support. You knew how to ride, you just needed some extra encouragement to keep going. 
  • Self-Reliant Achiever–Finally, you reached the stage where your bicycle seemed to be a part of you. You could ride it without even thinking about it. You were truly a Self-Reliant Achiever, and your parents could delegate to you the job of having fun on your bike. Just don’t let them see you jumping off of that ramp. 

Developing More Effective Leaders

There are still people out there who think there is only one best way of leading people. Experienced managers know that this is not the case. Take a look in your own organization. Notice what the best managers in your company are doing. Chances are you will see them adjusting their management style to meet the needs of the people they are working with. 

Effective leaders know that there is no one best way to manage people. Managers looking to improve their ability to lead people to higher levels of performance need to adapt their style to match the development level of the people they are managing. It is a proven approach that will help managers lead people to their best performance every time. 

To learn more about taking a situational approach to leading and developing others, be sure to check out the free, on-demand webcast, Managing and Developing People to Be Their Best: The 3 Keys to Becoming a Smart, Flexible, and Successful Leader

5 thoughts on “No One “Best” Leadership Style

  1. Hi David,

    This is a great post and a powerful message for people to appreciate.

    I think it is also important to realize that any one of us can wear more than one title at the same time. That is to say, I may branch out and take on a new responsibility and so I may be a self-reliant achiever on the original project and an enthusiastic beginner on the new project at the same moment.

    Some leaders forget this and become disappointed when their star athlete needs time to get up to speed on something new, creating a lose-lose for everyone if not handled correctly. Some leaders will say “I don’t get it – he was a star on the previous project! Why isn’t he a star on this one also?”.

    It’s important to nurture the ego of the person being managed when such an event arises. It is difficult for anyone to go from being the star to being the roookie and special guidance needs to be established to handle this appropriately with an opportunity for growth for everyone involved.

    Take care and create a great day!


  2. Pingback: No One “Best” Leadership Style by David Witt « BG Allen

  3. Ken, Just learning this concept and have been kicking myself I didn’t see it sooner. My leadership has probably frustrated and not developed people the way they needed. thanks for the lesson. 🙂

    BTW you talk about transferable skills… what falls into that category?

    • Hi Rod,
      When Ken talks about transferable skills he is referring to learned skills that might not be exactly what is required for the task at hand, but are pretty close. For example, budgeting skills learned in one industry would certainly be transferable to some degree even in a completely different industry. Thanks for your question!

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