I am proud to teach Situational Leadership® every day. Even as 14+ million managers have gone through the program in some form or fashion, it remains a comparatively untapped resource and strategy for many of the urgent leadership challenges in our world today! Yet, for those who have diligently applied the model to their leadership approach, Situational Leadership® has quietly been working for over 50 years to enable leaders to provide a just, equitable, diverse and inclusive (JEDI) environment in the workplace. Situational Leaders are just, and equitable, promoting diversity and inclusivity through their influence. And when these elements are present and promoted, your teams feel safe. The “secret” of Situational Leaders who create a safe working environment lies in four competencies that are intuitively and inescapably developed as they apply the model.
The first, DIAGNOSE, enables a leader to clearly state the parameters, objectives, expectations and standards for the task at hand, then to assess the person for their ability and willingness to do that specific task at that level. When a leader uses this approach, they are being just, equitable and inclusive as they approach, not the person, but the person for the task. No matter the diversity of backgrounds to be encountered—one’s education, experience, potential, gender, physical capacity or challenges, level in the organization or ethnic origin—this DIAGNOSIS is applied to every person for every task. Clarity and consistency will take you the distance to reducing both conscious and unconscious bias.
The second, ADAPT, points the leader to the best-match leadership style for the Performance Readiness® of the person for the task. Leadership styles 1 and 2, which correspond directly to Performance Readiness® Levels 1 and 2, use high levels of direction because the person does not yet have the knowledge, experience and skill to do the task on their own. There is also a gradual increase of support as the person moves from insecure and/or unwilling for this task to confident and willing. Leadership styles 3 and 4, which correspond directly to Performance Readiness® Levels 3 and 4, use much lower levels of direction now that the person knows what to do and how to do it and gradually decreases the level of support as the person increases in alignment, autonomy and mastery for the task. In adapting their style, the levels of direction and support, rooted in an assessment of ability and willingness for the task, the leader is compelled, even propelled, to be just and fair, equitable with and inclusive of a diverse spectrum of experiences, skillsets and viewpoints.
The third, COMMUNICATE, guides leaders to coach for professional development. Dr. Paul Hersey said, “Leadership is coaching … there is no difference.” Separating ability from willingness allows the leader to explore deeper layers of each through powerful questions and rich conversation .
- How much knowledge is required or expected for this task? What do they know?
- Where and from whom can they get the knowledge still needed?
- Do they have enough relevant experience to do this task? Have they done it with others or alone? And just once, ten times or dozens of times?
- Does their knowledge and experience bring them to a level of skill that enables them to do this task on their own at a sustained and acceptable level?
- How eager is this person to complete this task?
- Do they understand the importance and relevance of this task to the greater context?
- Is this a task they enjoy? Why or why not?
- How committed and motivated are they for this task? What is in their way?
- Can they see growth in their performance of this task over the last weeks or months and does that bring personal satisfaction and fulfillment?
When the leader takes time to assess ability and sets a training plan to close that gap for a person then continues that conversation around willingness to better understand what the strongest felt needs (SFN) or drivers of that person are, that person is seen, heard, valued and engaged. This is safety.
It is by showing interest and compassion through JEDI behaviors that leaders will create a safe and fulfilling working environment. That, friends, is what most people are craving at an all-time high in every industry and across the globe.
The fourth competency of Situational Leaders – ADVANCE – is exactly where the world of work is currently headed. Yes, where finance and fashion, manufacturing and technology, education and culture are headed! Situational Leaders are the best prepared to pivot to ever-changing levels of readiness and the reskilling of the workforce. The Situational Leadership® Model develops the resilience we need to empower leaders to meet the challenges of their generation.
So, move forward. Embrace change. Develop your people—all of them—using the JEDI approach of Situational Leadership®.
- Look back if you are a Situational Leader. Can you recognize how the model has consciously or unconsciously helped you to lead in a JEDI fashion?
- How might you approach current challenges in your workplace and team through the lens of Situational Leadership® to be more of a JEDI leader and example in your organization?