Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Avoiding a One-Size-Fits-All Leadership Style

(Chief Kelly Zombro, CalFire, talking about the 2003 Cedar Fire near San Diego, CA)

How many times have you taken a profile or survey to help you identify your leadership style? These profiles can give you a idea of your overall leadership preference. However, what individuals need to realize is that leaders should adapt their styles as the situation warrants. How you prefer to lead and how you should be leading under a given situation may be very different things. Avoid leading with a one-size-fits-all mentality.

Situational Leadership
Leaders use a variety of power sources and leadership styles to influence others. Being able to select the most effective leadership tools in a given situation is an application of situational leadership.
Power can be defined as a person’s ability to influence the actions of others. How leaders use power shapes others’ perception of their ability to lead. A leader’s ability to read a situation and apply the appropriate source of power enhances their ability to lead.

The more visible power is, the less it works. The less explicitly leaders rely on power to accomplish tasks, the greater their power actually is. Those who rely on position, reward, or discipline power have less real influence on others. On the other hand, those who are able to rely on expert power and respect power—less overt forms of power—often influence in ways that have more far-reaching and deep effects.

To gain power, the most effective leaders give it away. By giving away some power to team members, leaders actually increase their influence and strengthen their ability to lead. Leaders also use different leadership styles as appropriate for the level of experience of the people involved and the situation.

With inexperienced people or time-critical situations, leaders use a directing style, explicitly telling people what needs to be done. As team members gain experience, leaders increasingly seek team members’ participation in discussions and decision making, working together to devise plans and actions.

Leaders keep sight of the long-term goal of being able to delegate most tasks and responsibilities to experienced and capable team members, setting the conditions that enable them to grow as leaders.

At every step of the way, leaders judiciously employ the amount of supervision required. They provide adequate feedback to make sure people can successfully accomplish the mission yet avoid micro-managing competent team members.

(Leading in the Wildland Fire Service, pp. 38-39)

Wildland Fire Leadership Challenge - Digging a Little Deeper

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