Situational Leadership Skills? Such Agility is a Natural Result of Good Training
Leadership at the team level is naturally situational. Each manager approaches his or her team members individually, understands their particular values and motivations, and crafts a leadership approach that brings out the best in each person.
Organizationally, however, good leadership demands agility, nimbleness and flexibility: The business environment shifts, and objectives change. Or a new external challenge calls current processes and cost structures completely into question.
How do your leaders and their teams respond when these goalposts shift, when a 90% turn must be navigated to survive and thrive?
McKinsey explored situational leadership needs as a subtext to the broader topic of “organizational health.” We found a matrix buried a few scrolls down the page that was informative and thought-provoking. Where might your organization be on this matrix? Are parts of your organization doing better than others, landing them on different levels as depicted here?
In our experience, various parts of any organization will land on different rows (higher rows are healthier in McKinsey’s view). In our view, though, leadership training must start by firming up the foundation you see here in the baseline.
- Do your leaders know how to show that they care about employee and team success?
- Do they effectively facilitate collaboration?
- Can they successfully champion to their team the changes your organization desires?
- Can they constructively speak the truth to power (offer a critical perspective) without fear?
Once these baseline leadership mindsets are reinforced, look for evidence that leaders move up a row and apply those baseline tools to “dig out” of tough situations and sustainably improve team health. Often, with sustained training tools like coaching and mentoring, this move up happens easily.
Critically, we are talking about building up the leadership skills of middle and entry-level managers here, not senior executives. To quote the McKinsey article:
“Under trying conditions, our research suggests, the most effective forms of leadership behavior are making fact-based decisions, solving problems effectively, and focusing positively on recovery. Ironically, these additional behaviors are often the opposite of what distressed organizations actually do. Leaders at too many fourth-quartile companies, in their urgency to act, seek quick top-down fixes (such as replacing senior executives one or more times) but forego granular, fact-based analyses or well-rooted strategies. Those missteps often mark a company in its death spiral.”
Effective leadership training gives frontline managers the tools to stop the spiral, because the solutions come more organically from bottom up, or inside out (middle management). Instead of imposing solutions, embed the skills the people closer to the front line need to own and implement the solutions.
‘Flexible,’ ‘nimble’, and ‘agile’ are all buzzwords that may be getting worn out, but they describe the type of leadership that any organization needs throughout management ranks to survive and thrive in a fast-moving business environment.
If you need help embedding the right leadership mindsets to move up a few rows on the above chart, contact us. We facilitate such movement constantly, and can share some great examples when we talk.