No One “Best” Leadership Style

Effective leaders know that there is no one best way to manage people. Instead, they adapt their style according to the development level of the people they are managing.

In The Ken Blanchard Companies’ SLII® Model, managers are taught to modify the amount of direction and support they give to direct reports based on their skill and commitment levels for the task at hand. To make this easier to understand, Blanchard uses four easy to remember descriptors to identify the four stages of development: Enthusiastic Beginner, Disillusioned Learner, Capable but Cautious Performer, and Self-Reliant Achiever.

  • Enthusiastic Beginner–Can you remember when you first started to learn to ride a bicycle? You were so excited sometimes that you couldn’t even sleep at night, even though you didn’t have a clue how to actually ride a bike. You were a classic Enthusiastic Beginner who needed direction. At this point you had enthusiasm for the task but not a lot of experience. You needed someone to show you how—in a step-by-step process.
  • Disillusioned Learner–Remember the first time you took a fall on your bike? As you were picking yourself up off the pavement, you might have wondered why you decided to learn to ride in the first place and whether you would ever really master it. Now you had reached the Disillusioned Learner stage, and you needed coaching. This is a combination of direction mixed in with a lot of support to help you get through this rough patch.
  • Capable but Cautious Performer–Once you were able to ride your bike with your parent cheering you on, that confidence probably became shaky the first time you decided to take your bike out for a spin without your cheerleader and supporter close at hand. At this point, you were a Capable but Cautious Performer in need of support. You knew how to ride, you just needed some extra encouragement to keep going.
  • Self-Reliant Achiever–Finally, you reached the stage where your bicycle seemed to be a part of you. You could ride it without even thinking about it. You were truly a Self-Reliant Achiever, and your parents could delegate to you the job of having fun on your bike. Just don’t let them see you jumping off of that ramp.

Developing More Effective Leaders

There are still people out there who think there is only one best way of leading people. Experienced managers know that this is not the case. Take a look in your own organization. Notice what the best managers in your company are doing. Chances are you will see them adjusting their management style to meet the needs of the people they are working with.

Effective leaders know that there is no one best way to manage people. Managers looking to improve their ability to lead people to higher levels of performance need to adapt their style to match the development level of the people they are managing. It is a proven approach that will help managers lead people to their best performance every time.

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