Do We Lead by the Situation or Through Our Values?

By 3 May 2013 March 18th, 2020 Behaviours, Confidence

One of the great debates in leadership theory: Is Leadership Situational or Normative? That is, should we as leaders adapt our style to suit the situation, as Goleman suggests (see the post Directive or Authoritative?), or should we be consistent in our approach? Those who argue for the Normative, espouse that leading through one’s values and consistently striving to align our behaviour with our values is the most effective way to lead. But it starts with thoroughly considering your values.

What are the values you hold and how are they reflected in your leadership? 

  • Which values are under-represented in your actions and behaviours?
  • Which of your actions and behaviours are not in alignment with your values?

In my practice, I find that clients who are troubled by a lack of confidence can be helped by considering both a situational and a values-based approach.  First, we clarify the values of the leader.  Then we consider the situations that are problematic for them and develop pre-planned ways of managing these.  For example, leaders who value courtesy to others and development for their staff sometimes struggle when they need to be very clear about staff performance that is simply not up to standard and must be improved.  Being mindful of their values of courtesy and development means considering the numerous ways they demonstrate their values (and things they do that inadvertently undermine them).  Overtime, clients become more consistent with their values and develop a leadership brand of these values.  When they then have to take action on a troublesome situation for them, such as correcting performance in the example, they can adopt a particular style in that situation.  In this case, authoritatively reminding staff of the standard and the importance of maintaining it, and ideally how upholding that standard connects to the bigger picture.


Victoria Hall, Executive Coach
Founder of Talent Futures

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