Which Hat Are You Wearing?

Exceptional leaders can evaluate and respond to a variety of situations that require very different leadership styles. Most leaders are limited to one or two styles of leading. Their dilemma is that an organization or team will eventually outgrow its limited response abilities. Organizations vacillate in the type of leadership they require, just as individuals need varying styles of leading within the organization. All leading is not the same. For example, if you respond too passively to situations that demand heavy-handed attention, people will lose respect for you and dismiss your influence. Follower insecurity disallows cohesive leadership.

A leader who cannot respond effectively in a crisis will lose the faith of their followers. Conversely, if you try to assume too much control in situations where mere facilitation is required, it will be like crushing a rose in your clenched fist. You will lose your best talent because colleagues will either flee or turn dormant out of fear of confrontation.

Here are four leadership hats, each effective in certain types of situations:

1. General/Foreman: This is a required hat when people are floundering. In these situations, time is of the essence, and team members need direct, specific instruction as to what is expected of them. Times of crisis or acute lack of motivation requires us to provide an easily identifiable presence within our organization. While you do not have to be mean to provide assertive leading, you do need to convey an attitude of urgency along with ample communication. If you appear overly relational or laid-back, people will not rise to the occasion.

2. Coach: When people are somewhat motivated but lack information or direction, your role is that of a coach. You do not need to be as confrontational or assertive as a general/foreman because people on the team desire to be involved. Pushing the team may be necessary from an inspirational standpoint, but knowing strategies, implementing plans, and arranging players according to their strengths and abilities will raise the perceived competence of you as the leader and, subsequently, the players’ respect for you.

3. Team Captain: Unlike a coach, team captains lead from within the game and are respected as peer leaders more than they are as top-down influencers. When people are generally competent, experienced, informed, and motivated, a leader must respond differently in order to be effective. A less assertive approach doesn’t mean the leader is out of touch with what is happening. This type of leader is more proactive in development, planning, and training. Encouraging team spirit and group accomplishment becomes the dominant theme of meetings.

4. Friendly Expert: If team members are highly competent and motivated, the leader’s job is primarily one of facilitation. Some refer to these groups as leaderless groups, but that is a misnomer. Sometimes, an outsider would not be able to identify who the leader is because, in meetings and interactions, this leader is more passive and more of a listener and observer. This does not mean that the friendly expert doesn’t speak up and interact if needed, but the role is more like a consultant or informed peer than an authoritarian leader. Being too strong or opinionated at this level will crush leadership and render the leader obsolete.

Effective leaders will at times feel schizophrenic if they need to change leadership styles several times within the course of any given day, depending on the meeting, the conditions of the situation, and with whom they are interacting. Obviously, if you are limited to one or two styles of leading, you will reduce your ability to lead effectively in situations that lie outside of these appropriate styles, and leadership will be restricted. In effect, an inappropriate leadership style is equivalent to pinching a water hose so that the water cannot flow freely from the nozzle.


Published by Intentional Faith

Devoted to a Faith that Thinks

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