Consider this leadership challenge: You want your team to travel from Los Angeles to New York. How do you get them there?
A tactical, execution-oriented leader might set the budget, the dates, the method of travel, and might even make the arrangements. A leader who prefers keeping his or her eye on the big-picture might simply tell one of the team members: “Get to New York.” And a leader who falls somewhere in between might delegate the execution of the trip to a team member, but might set parameters (we call them “Conditions of Satisfaction”), such as getting to New York by a specific date and within a specific budget.
It’s not always easy for leaders to know which style of leadership is the right one to employ in any given situation. To be sure, some leaders are predisposed to favor one style of leadership over the other in most cases. But there is no one-size-fits all in leadership. You should possess many different arrows in your management quiver. Before you draw one of those arrows out, ask yourself these two simple questions:
Does the team need to get to L.A. to smooth over a problem with an important client or to oversee a product launch? Then maybe you need to manage the details yourself to make sure they get there. Put it another way: If your house is on fire, you don’t want the fire chief to have a long strategic conversation with his team on how to put it out. You want him to make immediate decisions and to give specific orders.
For instance, do I want to build corporate culture along the way to the objective? If you want the team to get to L.A., but you want to develop future leaders as part of that task, then spread out authority and let someone else handle the details–even if you’re sure you could handle the details better.
Sometimes leadership is about taking action, and sometimes it’s about letting others learn from their actions.
Knowing when to apply each style is the mark of a transformative leader.