The Right Tool for the Job: Adapting Your Leadership Style to Your Team's Needs

In recent years, there has been such a fascination with personality types.

We are absolutely enamored with knowing our Meyers-Briggs, our DISC, our Enneagram – we love to know what category we fall into and its implications in how we relate to the world.

And in all this talk of personality, two questions arise among leaders: what is my leadership style, and which is the best?

There are results-focused leaders that drive their teams to achieve as much as they can for the organization – relational leaders who inspire through connection – hands-on leaders who have a lot of input and direction – leaders who stand back to watch their teams work on their own – leaders who love structure and routine and the stability they provide – leaders who allow the needs of the day to dictate their to-dos…

…and so many combinations of those! But which one among them is best?…

One organization I have worked with started as a team of 16. The leader was building something from the ground up with a brand-new team of people with a lot of potential, but no stability – no understanding of expectations.

What kind of leader is best in a scenario like this? A team in those conditions needs someone practical, someone hands-on. They need a leader who will explain precisely what they are meant to accomplish and how they will accomplish it. They need someone who will guide them closely.

As the team worked, they grew in influence. They accomplished their tasks, hit their marks, and performed their roles well. And once the organization developed something of a track record, each team member began to “own” their job.

Did they need the same kind of leader as before? Not likely – in fact, their leader’s approach became too claustrophobic. So instead, their leader gave less instruction and began to coach them. They allowed their team to grow into their own and develop their skills with less intrusion.

The more the team grew, the more autonomous they became. They took on more responsibility and began to excel in areas that went beyond their job description.

What did their leader do next? They matched their team’s energy and passion – they challenged them more, inspired them to go and grow even farther and become leaders of their own.

And now, this organization has scaled to more than 160 employees.

So, then, what kind of leader is best?

This question feels to me like asking what kind of tool is best. Clearly, it depends on what you need to do with it! You would never use a scalpel when you need a hammer, nor a hammer when you need a scalpel.

In other words – what kind of leader is best? Whatever kind of leader your team needs! Whatever kind of leader each member of your team needs! Whatever kind of leader your organization needs!

The best kind of leader is one who can understand the needs of those they serve and adjust their leadership style to meet them.

But before you can pivot your leadership style, you have to answer the other question that arises among leaders: what is my leadership style?

If you know, then congratulations! Knowing is half the battle.

If you don’t know, then I’m pleased to tell you there are a number of leadership style assessments you can take – and for the sake of convenience, I have my own assessment linked right here.

This week, I encourage you to discover your style and then ask yourself…

  • How does my style show up in the way I lead my team day-to-day?
  • What does my team need from me right now?
  • How should I pivot my style to meet those needs?

I promise, your team – and your organization – will thank you.

That’s all for now,


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