It's unwise to be a one-trick pony when it comes to leadership. Rather, you need to be adaptable and have multiple leadership approaches at your disposal.

An adaptable leadership style is one that is flexible enough to enable you to give your team exactly what it needs to be successful. This means being aware of the work at hand and able to recognize what is required from you to make your team a success.

Most important, it requires a willingness to shift your leadership style to accommodate what your people need in different situations and at different points in time. To this end, you should become expert in at least four key leadership styles, including:  

1. Directing.

This includes specifying exactly what must be done and how to do it. You adopt a "Directing Leadership Style" when your team is stalled on an assignment and isn't sure how to get the job done. 

2. Teaching.

This includes explaining the "why" for what must be done and enabling your people to understand the greater context of the work at hand. You adopt a "Teaching Leadership Style" when the team is somehow discouraged and needs convincing to commit to learning how to do the work assigned.

3. Advising. 

This includes not being directive at all. Instead, you help your team by clearing up any ambiguity or removing organizational roadblocks that may be impeding their performance. You adopt an "Advising Leadership Style" when your team is executing well on the work at hand, but occasionally needs clarity and positive reinforcement to get through the tricky parts of the assignment.

4. Empowering.

This includes delegating the work to your people and letting them execute as they see fit. You adopt an "Empowering Leadership Style" when your team is fully competent and staffed to get the work done. The best advice in this situation is to get out of the way and cheer them on as they deliver on expectations.

Adapt your behavior to the situation your team is in at any given point in time. Use the wrong style, and you will negatively impact performance. Use the right one, and your team will develop and soar.

How to get started.

Like mastering any new skill, you need to be taught the basics of a leadership style and then develop proficiency in it through practice and repetition. Here are some suggestions to get you started:

  • Find a professional coach that can help you develop and practice various leadership styles. 
  • Seek a mentor from the senior leadership team to help you develop and practice various leadership styles.
  • Ask your leader for the requisite training to develop new leadership styles.  Practice using those styles in different situations.

If you adopt an adaptable leadership style, you'll improve your ability to initiate and drive change, be a better communicator (enabling your team to understand the "why" and not just the "what"), and you will facilitate the success of others. Isn't that what leadership is all about?