As part of an ongoing leadership development course a couple of us are part of at work, we’re growing a little library of management / leadership resources. The first book suggested to me was Leadership & The One Minute Manager: Increase Effectiveness By Being A Good Leader by Ken Blanchard, Patricia Zigarmi and Drea Zigarmi.
The book reads like a fictional story, our protagonist, ‘The entrepenour’ is on a mission to learn how to make her people work as hard as she does. She calls and arranges to meet ‘The One Minute Manager’ who offers to teach her to train her people using situational leadership. This story style is refreshing considering most management books are typically quite dry and formally written.
The premise of the book is for a long time people thought there were only two leadership styles, autocratic and democratic. Leadership & The One Minute Manager introduces four basic styles of leadership, made up of supportive and directive behaviours, that are applied situationally. The styles are used situationally because people are not typically at the same development level for every aspect of their job.
Becoming A Situational Leader
Basically, becoming a situational manager involves;
Flexibility: Learning to use a variety of leadership styles, flexibly.
Diagnosis: Learning to diagnose the needs of the people you work with.
Partnering: Learning to come to some agreements about the leadership style they need from you.
Learning The 4 Leadership Styles
The four basic leadership styles, made up of directive and supportive styles, are;
S1. Directing: The leader provides specific direction and closely monitors task accomplishment.
Behaviours: structure, organise, teach and supervise.
S2. Coaching: The leader continues to direct and closely monitor task accomplishment, but also explains decisions, solicits, suggestions, and supports progress.
Behaviours: direct and support.
S3. Supporting: The leader facilitates and supports people’s efforts towards task accomplishment and shares responsibility for decision-making with them.
Behaviours: praise, listen and facilitate.
S4. Delegating: The leader turns over responsibility for decision-making and problem-solving to people.
Behaviours: turn over responsibility for day-to-day decision-making.
The 4 Development Levels
To know which leadership style to use, you need to diagnose the development level the person is at, by task. The four development levels are;
D1. Low competence, high commitment
D2. Some to low competence, low commitment
D3. moderate to high competence, variable commitment
D4. High competence, high commitment
This facilitates a framework where leadership style and development levels align:
Leadership style one (S1), directing, is suitable for development level one, people who lack confidence, but are committed and enthusiastic. (D1) They require direction and frequent feedback.
Leadership style two (S2), coaching, is suitable for development level two, people who have experience, but lack commitment. (D2)They require direction and feedback because they’re still relatively inexperienced. They also need support and praise to build self-esteem, and involvement in decision-making to restore their commitment.
Leadership style three (S3), supporting, is suitable for development level three, people who have competence, but lack confidence or motivation. (D3) They do not require much direction, but support is necessary to bolster their confidence and motivation.
Leadership style four (S4), delegating, is suitable for development level four, people who have both competence and commitment. (D4) They are willing and able to work on a project by themselves with little support or supervision.
The framework equips the manager with the tools to analyse which development level a person is at, and change the management style to meet the needs of the development style and get the person back on track to moving up the scale. The framework is dynamic, people can go from D1 (development level 1), through D2, D3, to D4, but they can also go backwards a step at a time based on performance.
Partnering For Performance
The final section of the book deals with partnering, which is includes;
Performance Planning: Setting SMART (Specific and measurable, motivating, attainable, relevant, trackable.) goals, day-to-day coaching, and performance evaluation.
It delves deeper into performance management, feedback (praise and reprimand) and managing people through development levels, both forward and backward.
Putting It All Together
To put situational leadership to work, you follow the following steps:
1. Define 3-5 goals that are clear to both the manager and the person who will help accomplish them.
2. Work with the person to diagnose their competence and commitment levels to accomplish those goals.
3. Contract with the person on each of the tasks and jointly decide which leadership style will likely be most effective.
4. Follow through to provide the agreed-upon leadership style until either, enough progress or, lack of progress warrants a change in leadership style.
The lightbulb moment for me is that you can’t determine a person’s competence or commitment in general, only their development level pertaining to a specific job function or goal. Therefore you asses development level per specific goal, and use related leadership styles in managing performance per specific goal. The framework provided (the leadership style for each development level) makes the process comprehensible and removes the guess work in leading and developing people.
Anyone who has found themselves in a leadership / management position, without any formal training, or is seeking a solid framework to lead and develop others, check this book out.