Premise #1 states the following: everyone is engaged in leadership, because each of us has an impact- positive or negative, small or large- on those we touch. That is, what we say or do “leads” others to impressions, perceptions, feelings, actions that are a direct result of how we are who we are. Something so small as a cheery “good morning” can lead those who hear it to feel uplifted.
When we think of leadership, we commonly think of those who have a professional title, such as director, manager, president, teacher, etc. Such people are “positional” leaders. There is also what we might call “situational leadership” (we use it here somewhat differently than Hersey and Blanchard did in 1969), which occurs when we are called upon by circumstance to say or do something that has an impact on another or others. We might speak up in a public meeting, help persons in distress, give comfort to someone who is grieving, etc. Opportunities to influence those around us appear every day. Almost everything we say “leads” people to conclusions, feelings, reactions that would not have occurred without us. Good situational leadership usually involves helping those with whom we interact to feel supported, understood, appreciated, and empowered.
In the scene from Masters of Sex described in our last blog, Bill Masters tries out some situational leadership- that in his case unfortunately fails. He tells his anguished neighbor, “I know what you must be feeling,” and the neighbor responds negatively. Disconnected from his expertise as a nationally recognized expert on sexual behavior, Masters does not succeed, in this instance, at situational leadership. Different words, such as, “this must be very difficult for you,” or “I’m sorry you’re going through this,” or “is there anything I can do to help?” might have (at least temporarily) improved his neighbor’s level of distress. One can also imagine Masters offering to look into the kinds of counseling support services or groups that would help his neighbor to work through this crisis. By doing this, he would demonstrate that positive change comes through appropriate and constructive action.
Perhaps you can see from this example that, whether you’re in your professional role or not, what you say or do has an impact. You are always and everywhere an influencer. And by taking on this responsibility, authentically and thoughtfully, you can have positive transformative effects on the people who come into your life, and on the world in which you live and work.
Later, we will be discussing further examples of people who have the opportunity to exercise situational leadership.