All Leaders Need to Develop Others

Tactical leadership coaching should be customized based on the person being coached and his or her development needs. You waste your time trying to focus on areas that are not critical to the person’s success or aren’t about maximizing strengths or minimizing weaknesses when you cover the same topics for the same person regardless of the situation. This is why assessment and feedback seeking is so important, and it is also why, oftentimes, one-on-one coaching is more value-added than group training.

All that being said, though, a leaders’ primary role is to make more leaders. It doesn’t matter what industry a person is in, what skill sets they possess, or what job title they hold.

I’ve found that the Situational Leadership approach developed by Hersey and Blanchard provides an excellent framework for helping leaders think through people development and implement behavioral-based methods for developing others. The clutch of this approach is that you don’t develop everyone the same way. One-size does not fit all, or in other words, the most unfair thing in the world to do is to treat unequals as equals.

The approach (as illustrated here) is grounded in two dimensions of the person being developed:

  1. Their competence level (I like to call this their “skill”)
  2. Their commitment level (I like to call this their “will”)

(See more on skill vs. will)

Based on the combination of a person’s skill and will level, a leader then responds based on leading that person with a combination of a directive and/or supportive style to drive results.

Although a fairly simple model (compared to others out there), an example might help to illustrate how this approach would be applied.

Let’s say you have just hired a new college grad. He is an energetic, “eager beaver” so to speak. He’s ready to save the world, and he is ready to do it through your company and his job. High commitment or will. However, he lacks training on your company’s processes, does not have an understanding of your industry and lacks some level of confidence in dealing with others, whether co-workers or customers. Low competence or skill. He needs to develop his skills in order to be successful or his will/commitment will end up going out the window.

Based on looking at the model below, which style would this leader employ to develop his new employee? He would begin by being very directive with the employee. But what does being directive mean? What behaviors would the leader exhibit?

The leader would be best served by “providing specific direction (what to do, how to do it and when) and closely monitoring task performance” (italics mine) from Leadership and the One Minute ManagerThis means training the employee thoroughly, meeting with him regular to monitor the accomplishment of tasks and providing very frequent feedback. 

For new hires, having a training and development plan complete with tasks and measurements for those tasks is a great complement to directive leadership style that is usually needed at this stage in an employees’ tenure.

But you don’t do this forever. An employee should move through the progression of their competence and commitment level where both are high if the directive approach is implement correctly and timely. A leader employing the Situational Leadership approach, if done correctly, should help with this progression of growth and development and should know when to adapt their style based on the person’s skill and will level to help them continue to grow. Keep being directive forever and you will kill a person’s will too.

As a leader, how do you adapt your style to develop people?

If you want to learn more about Situation Leadership and how it is applied, take a look at Leadership and the One Minute Manager as well as the other One Minute Manager booksAll are short and very easy to read and follow. You can skip the scholarly journals on the theory and go straight to the application of it in about a 30 minute read with these books.



Image source:


Mary Ila Ward