Leading a team can be complex – the strongest, high performing teams have members with a wide variety of strengths.  The members are all individuals and are all different.  This means that you have to adapt your leadership style to the individual.  Some of them may be ‘cloud thinkers’, some of them may be detailed ‘do-ers’.  Some of them may have the skills to see what won’t work and are great at identifying risks.   There is a huge range of skills and axes on which individuals work, dependent upon your business and your team’s function.  Of course, the highest performing teams have members who themselves can flex their style to the task at hand.

As leader, you will have to adapt your style to them.  For example, you may need to range from providing clear instruction to the detail lovers, and a vague problem to be solved by the cloud thinkers.  You may need to provide some structure and quick check-ins for the cloud thinkers, whereas the detail lovers will naturally check in with their progress.  This adapting your style to their needs keeps them motivated and plays to their strengths.

When individuals in your team are working at the top of their game, you need to keep them stretched and motivated.  This is where situational leadership comes in to play…. and where Ken Blanchard’s book “Leadership and the One Minute Manager” is useful.  He modelled 4 main leadership styles based on two main axes – Support and Direction:-

Directive leadership is instructional – it structures, controls and supervises.  Supportive behaviour praises, listens and facilitates.

Then, as leader, when working with your team as they problem solve and make decisions, you adapt move around these boxes S1 to S4, (Directing, Coaching, Supporting to Delegating), dependent upon the individual and the task at hand.

Importantly, there is no ONE best leadership style – you need to adapt your style according to the individual and the competence and confidence of the individual, thus:

Then, not only do you need to adapt to the individual, you need to adapt to the individual in the situation.  You may have someone who is very competent at one area, but you have given them a new type of problem to solve, a new skill to learn, a new task to do.  In the new area, you are likely to move to a more directive style, even though you work with them in a delegating style for another task.  Then, as they get better at the new area, you move around to coaching, supporting, etc, until they are more confident and competent.

This diagram from Ken Blanchard shows this adapting of style to the situation, as the team member moves from D1 to D4, you adapt from S1 to S4 accordingly:

One of the mistakes many leaders make is to be over directive with competent team members.  Sometimes known as ‘micro managing’, this can be highly demotivating.  Similarly, over-stretching a team member with a new skill with insufficient direction and support can leave someone feeling lost and hopeless.

One thing to note; if a team member is in D4 with most of their role, it is easy for them to become demotivated and bored… that is the time to provide a new challenge and support them by listening to their ideas.

If you’d like some support with putting this into practice or feel you could benefit from improving skills in one of the styles, please do get in touch for some coaching.




Kate Cantellow has made a career from delivering large projects and programmes through high performing teams. An NLP Practitioner, she is a coach, facilitator, executive speaker, and management consultant in the field of personal development, leadership development and personal excellence.

If you’d like to talk more about leadership coaching in your organisation, or find out more about Team Alchemy and coaching for teams or business packages please do get in touch and we’d be happy to discuss how it can work for you.