The Loneliness of the R4 Diagnosis

As a strong performer, “High Achiever” appears on your performance reviews in multiple categories. You’ve won awards and been nominated for one-of-a-kind opportunities and high-potential programs. Your team feels set up for success with you on the project. While no person is ever “R4,” you strive to be R4 at most of your tasks.

This level of performance brings with it some challenges and, despite the acclaim, well, loneliness.

What Is R4?

In the Situational Leadership® Model, a person is R4 for a task when the ability is apparent (all three of knowledge, experience and skill) as well as confidence, commitment and motivation.

Challenges Of Being R4

If you are R4 for most of your tasks, your concerns can be twofold:

  • Keeping your performance at the superhero level
  • Keeping an inner circle of leaders and colleagues who can help you stay challenged and engaged for superhero success

The Ability Question

Is it realistic to expect a top performer to stay at a “sustained, acceptable level” for most tasks, day in, day out? Let alone, year in, year out? Well-documented research (and personal experience) confirms that small changes of situation can cause great changes in Performance Readiness®. Thus, for example, one can anticipate that moving to a new software or system, completely revising a process or protocol, working through a dramatic change of leadership or even facing a pandemic will be debilitating to some degree. Understandable, even. Surely the most adaptable and resilient struggle for a little while until proficiency with the new system or protocol is achieved or trust grows between them and the new leader(s).

But it’s you, not someone else and it feels terrible. It impacts your thinking, well-being, confidence and both quality and speed of your work. You are uncomfortable and you don’t like it.

Could changes be some of the best things to happen to us? Perhaps in exposing your need, it gives your teammates the opportunity to assist you on your climb back to mastery. In other words, you will be better for embracing your Robin and Alfred.

How does a great team support a star performer who faces a setback in performance and proficiency?

“What do you need from us?” and, “How can we best help you?” are good questions to start with. Most importantly, they should keep meeting you with R4 for the tasks for which you are still R4. You don’t need closer monitoring for responsibilities where you are still R4.

That prompts the willingness question: “Are you confident, committed and motivated for this task?” Only you can answer because the rest of us can only guess based on the behaviors we see and words we hear from you.

TYour teammates can play a crucial role in protecting you and preparing you to be at your best. As they sharpen you, you raise their abilities!

Going through the motions, balanced with healthy amounts of emotional self-awareness and reliance on your inner circle, will likely sustain you for the short time you sense a lull with certain tasks.

Consider leaning on your team and giving them a chance to win a skirmish or two as you save the world together.


  1. What tasks have come to mind that you know are tottering on the brink of no longer having your best attention and performance? Why? What are the contributing factors? How could you mobilize the strengths and abilities of your team to prevent performance loss?
  2. What one change, shift, new dimension or element could be introduced to a familiar task that would bring new vitality and fresh excellence for you? Who will you tell to ensure you make this necessary change or shift?