How using the right leadership style will benefit your team members


Leaders define the roles and tasks of the ‘follower’, and supervise them closely.  Decisions are made by the leader and announced, so communication is largely one-way.


Leaders still define roles and tasks, but seek ideas and suggestions from the follower.  Decisions remain the leader’s prerogative, but communication is much more two-way.


Leaders pass day-to-day decisions, such as task allocation and processes, to the follower.  The leader facilitates and takes part in decisions, but control is with the follower.


Leaders are still involved in decisions and problem-solving, but control is with the follower.  The follower decides when and how the leader will be involved.

How using the right leadership style will benefit your team members

How using the right leadership style will benefit your team members

So which style should we use?

Effective leaders are versatile in being able to move between styles according to the situation, so there is no one right style.  However, we tend to have a preferred style, and you need to know which one that is for you.

Clearly the right leadership style will depend very much on the person being led – the follower. As a leader you need to understand the Development Level of the people in your team.  

Development Levels of team members:

There are four main Development Levels. These levels are driven by the Competence and Commitment of the team members as follows:

Development Level of Team Member Appropriate Leadership Style
D4 High Competence

High Commitment

Experienced at the job, and comfortable with their own ability to do it well.  May even be more skilled than the leader. Delegating S4
D3 High Competence

Variable Commitment

Experienced and capable, but may lack the confidence to go it alone, or the motivation to do it well / quickly. Supporting S3
D2 Some Competence

Low Commitment

May have some relevant skills, but won’t be able to do the job without help.  The task or the situation may be new to them. Supervising S2
D1 Low Competence

Low Commitment

Generally lacking the specific skills required for the job in hand, and lacks any confidence and / or motivation to tackle it. Directing S1


Development Levels depend on the situation:

For example, I might be generally skilled, confident and motivated in my job, but would still drop into Level D1 when faced, say, with a task requiring skills I don’t possess.  For example, lots of managers are D4 when dealing with the day-to-day running of their department, but move to D1 or D2 when dealing with a sensitive employee issue.


Adapting your leadership style to the situation:

It is the leader that must adapt their style to correspond with the Development Level (D1 – D4) of the follower. For example, a new person joins your team and you’re asked to help them through the first few days.  You sit them in front of a PC, show them a pile of invoices that need to be processed today, and push off to a meeting.  They’re at level D1, and you’ve adopted S4.  Everyone loses because the new person feels helpless and demotivated, and you don’t get the invoices processed.

On the other hand, you’re handing over to an experienced colleague before you leave for a holiday.  You’ve listed all the tasks that need to be done, and a set of instructions on how to carry out each one.  They’re at level D4, and you’ve adopted S1.  The work will probably get done, but not the way you expected, and your colleague is upset with you for treating them like an idiot.

But swap the situations and things get better.  Leave detailed instructions and a checklist for the new person, and they’ll thank you for it.  Give your colleague a quick chat and a few notes before you go on holiday, and everything will be fine.

By adopting the right style to suit the follower’s development level, work gets done, relationships are built up, and most importantly, the follower’s development level will rise to D4, to everyone’s benefit.

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