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Situational Leadership and Management

In the classic book titled Leadership and the 1-minute manager, the author Kenneth Blanchard argues that supervisors should not treat every employee the same way, but should adapt their management style based on the needs of each person on their team. For example, some employees may benefit from a more directive or “authoritarian” management style, particularly if they are newer to their roles, while others with more experience may benefit more from an “empowering” management style which might include less frequent check-ins and/or more focus on giving support and feedback rather than directives.


Blanchard argues that supervisors who can adapt their supervision style according to the needs of each team member are more effective than supervisors that have one preferred style, which they attempt to apply to everyone. This does not mean that managers should apply different rules to different people, as this would constitute injustice. Generally, everyone should be held accountable to the same rules even while specific relationships are managed differently.


We can see this principle at work in Jesus’ ministry. Although Jesus’ teachings are universal to everyone, we can see in the scriptures that he interacted with his disciples in very personalized ways. Consider when he met Nathanael for the first time (John 1) and said, “Here is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” When Nathanael asked: “How do you know me?” Jesus replied: “I saw you while you were under the fig tree.” What did this simple statement mean to Nathanael? We don’t know exactly, but it apparently held great meaning for him based on his response, “Master, you are the Son of God and the king of Israel.” Clearly, Jesus knew Nathanael intimately and the best way to reach both his head and heart.


The basic principle is that the best leaders and managers apply the same rules to everyone (including themselves), but they also know their people well enough so that they can adapt their daily interactions and management style to the needs of each individual on their team.


Reflection Questions

  • How are you currently adapting your management style in order to engage each employee?

How can you do this more effectively in the next two weeks?

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