Situational Leadership and task competency

I recently completed a course called Situational Leadership Essentials. Situational leadership refers to a framework by which a leader can assess someone’s competency at performing a specific task and attempt to tailor their leadership approach to match that individual’s task competency. Let’s say someone on your team is extremely competent at a given task, has completed it many times before, and has exhibited a high degree of mastery, then the leadership style you take is going to be a lot more hands-off. You should be encouraging, observing, and supporting, but not getting too deep in the weeds.

There is one critical nuance, which I keep reflecting upon. And while it seems fairly obvious in hindsight, it really struck me during the course. That is, you need to flex your leadership style based on the specific task, not the specific individual. You can work with someone who is extremely competent, has deep expertise in their role, is an all-around high performer… AND, if that person is performing a task for the very first time, you still need to adopt a much more directive leadership style.

On self reflection, I believe I’ve often defaulted to taking a more hands-off approach with individuals who are high-performing and have deep expertise in their role, providing a lot of autonomy, without necessarily differentiating my style based on the specific task or objective they might be working on. While this approach has generally worked well, there are certainly opportunities where a more hands-on approach for a new task likely would have resulted in a better experience for the individual, and ultimately a more efficient path to the desired outcome.