We’ve all heard of Situational Leadership-the notion that every management challenge is different and you can’t deploy the same managerial style all the time. You’ve probably encountered managers who violate this essential principle: One-Trick Ponies.

One-Trick Ponies don’t think of themselves that way, of course. They think they’re just being straight shooters. “When people deal with me, they know what they’re getting,” they think. “I’m consistent.”

And often they get consistently mediocre results.

These managers don’t get that to be an effective manager, you must master a broad repertoire of managerial styles and have the ability to analyze a situation and deploy precisely the right style.

There are lots of good managerial style models out there. Here are six that cover just about every situation.

Command & Control: “I know what’s best, you don’t”

  • Effective in a crisis or with beginners.
  • Ineffective when managing strong performers.

Goal-Setting: “I’m the leader. Here’s the strategy”

  • Effective if you deploy resources in pursuit of the right goal.
  • Ineffective if you set the wrong goals and send your team in the wrong direction.

Democratic: “Let’s work together”

  • Effective when planning how to execute the strategy.
  • Ineffective in a crisis.

Relating: “I’m interested in you as a person”

  • Effective when your goal is to boost morale or create a friendly work environment.
  • Ineffective when work absolutely MUST get done.

Hands On: “You’re stuck. Let me fix it for you”

  • Effective when a subordinate needs you to “model the way.”
  • Disastrous with strong employees who need to figure things out on their own.

Coaching: “Let me teach you how to fish”

  • Effective whenever your time investment will yield a payoff.
  • Ineffective when an employee lacks the ability or willingness to master the skill you’re teaching.


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