Performance-Based Leadership: Adapting Leadership Styles to Tasks and Teams

Performance-Based Leadership: Adapting Leadership Styles to Tasks and Teams

When it comes to leadership style, a ‘one-size fits all’ approach doesn’t work. Individuals and situations are unique, and require unique leadership styles to match. Performance-Based Leadership is an approach to leadership that emphasizes adapting your style to meet others where they’re at, with respect to a specific task or project.

Over this three-part series, we’ll explore the principles of Performance-Based Leadership and offer techniques to put the principles into action. Whether you’re an established leader fine-tuning your strategy, or an emerging leader eager to develop your effectiveness, this series is designed to offer you insights that’ll help you navigate a wide range of leadership scenarios.

Adapting Leadership Styles to Tasks and Teams

It’s common for leaders to assess team members based on their overall abilities, and lead with a singular lens. However, this approach may mean leaders aren’t using the most appropriate leadership style for the situation. Performance-Based Leadership addresses these situational nuances by ensuring leadership styles adapt to an individual’s competence and motivation on a specific task or project, not on an overarching narrative a leader may have about their employee.

The Four Distinct Leadership Styles

Performance-Based Leadership highlights four distinct Leader Styles. Of these, you likely have a “go-to” style you tend to default to using most often. The key to Performance-Based Leadership is being able to leverage all four styles. Choosing the style best suited to the situation increases your leadership effectiveness, while any style taken to the extreme or misaligned to the situation can be met with challenges.

Directing is assigning a task and specifying what actions to take to complete it. Leaders who use this style effectively show people what to do and how to do it, set checkpoints, make decisions without input from the individual, and give recognition when a plan is followed.

Too much direction can overpower and overshadow team members. This dominance can curb their initiative or overlook their valuable insights, potentially stifling innovation and creativity.

Focusing is providing direction on how to complete a task, based on information and opinions from the individual. Leaders who use Focusing effectively clarify accountabilities and set a course of action, prompt the individual to set checkpoints, make decisions with the individual’s input, and give recognition for contributing opinions and ideas.

Excessive focus on gathering opinions can lead to decision paralysis and delays, unnecessary meetings, or not tapping into the full potential of team autonomy.

Facilitating is acting as a resource and guiding the individual to accomplish the task. Leaders who use Facilitating effectively ask great questions to draw solutions out of people, listen as people discuss progress and problems, help the individual think through decisions, and give recognition for progress.

Taken to the extreme, Facilitation may lead to becoming over-accommodating, which can result in a lack of clear direction and confusion regarding team objectives.

Delegating is providing full autonomy to the individual, allowing them to work out the details of how to accomplish the task. Leaders who delegate effectively clarify the goal and let go, stay connected only to stay informed, turn decision-making over to the individual, and give recognition for taking responsibility.

Using a Delegating style in the wrong situation can lead to teams feeling adrift, unsupported, or overwhelmed. This imbalance could potentially compromise results or dilute accountability.

The Contemporary Leadership Landscape: Embracing Change

The worlds of leadership and teamwork are constantly shifting, emphasized recently by big shifts, like remote work and diverse global teams. As a result, today’s leaders must remain adaptable and empathetic. Performance-Based Leadership isn’t just a methodology; it’s a vital tool for the contemporary leader. This approach takes into account the unique capabilities, motivations, and contexts of individuals and situations, and helps leaders align their style to have the greatest impact.

We hope you enjoyed learning about the four Leader Styles that make up Performance Based Leadership. Follow along next week for our second post in the series where we discuss how you know when to use each style.

Adam Frye
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