Wise Leaders Adjust Their Leadership Role to the People They Lead

I remember hearing sports commentators debate the rightness and fairness of Phil Jackson’s admission that he led each of his players differently—that he treated Michael Jordan differently from another player on the team. Some cried foul, insisting that a coach is responsible to ensure equity, and in doing so, each player must be treated the same way. Others insisted that Phil Jackson was displaying wise leadership.

It is not fair for a leader to lead everyone the same way because every person on the team is different and needs different leadership. To lead every person the same way is to discount each person’s development, each person’s experience, and each person’s level of commitment. It would be unfair to lead someone who is highly capable and fully committed in the same manner as someone who is less developed or is negative.

Ken Blanchard is known for his model of “situational leadership.” He challenges leaders to adjust their leadership to the development of the people they lead. And the adjustment should be for different aspects of the person’s role—meaning, because I display different levels of competency for different aspects of my job, I need varying levels of leadership.

  • Someone who displays low competence and high commitment needs “directing” leadership.
  • Someone who displays low competence and low commitment needs “coaching” leadership.
  • Someone who displays high competence and varying commitment needs “supporting” leadership.
  • Someone who displays high competence and high commitment needs “delegating” leadership.

It is not fair to neglect someone who needs directing by delegating to them. And it is not fair to direct someone who is able to handle wise delegation. It is not fair to lead everyone the same.

I find Blanchard’s model counter-cultural to how many people view leadership. I imagine executives at companies reading his thoughts and thinking, “So leadership is not about me asking all the people I lead to adjust to me? I am to adjust to them? I am to adjust my leadership role to the people I lead?”

Wise leaders adjust their leadership to the people they lead. In other words, wise leaders are servants.

As Christians, we have been served by our Savior-King, who came not to be served but to serve, who took off His kingly garments and took on the nature of a servant so He could suffer and die to win our hearts to Himself. Serving others is not distinctly Christian, but Jesus serving us is. And because He has served us, we are now able to follow His example and serve those we lead by adjusting our leadership to them.

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Eric Geiger

Eric Geiger serves as the Vice President of the Church Resource Division at LifeWay Christian Resources. Eric received his doctorate in leadership and church ministry from Southern Seminary. He is also a teaching pastor and a frequent speaker and consultant on church mission and strategy. Eric authored or co-authored several books including the best selling church leadership book, Simple Church. Eric is married to Kaye, and they have two daughters: Eden and Evie. During his free time, Eric enjoys dating his wife, playing with his daughters, and shooting basketball.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
— winston
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
— Russ Wright
comment_post_ID); ?> "While I understand the intent behind this phrase" Expound please. What do you understand to be the intent behind that phrase?
— Ken

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