Can Leadership Be a One-Size-Fits-All?

One Size Fits All

When I was 20, I was given my first formal leadership role. Sure, I had influence prior to that, but now I was given a title and a team of people to lead.  It was exciting and intimidating all at the same time.  I no clue about what I was doing…but there was one thing I knew for sure:

I had to find my leadership style and stick to it!

My Way or the Highway

At the time, I believed that everyone has a (1, one, uno, un…) leadership style and that would dictate how they interacted with their teams, how they communicated, how they handled conflict and so on.  Little did I know that this idealism would not serve me well.  I quickly found that everyone did not respond well to MY leadership style.

Why?  Because they are different.  Every person on my team has different habits, attitudes, beliefs, and expectations.

And those things largely determine how they would react to my leadership.

Does One-Size-Fits-All?

17 years later, I have found that, in order to be a good and effective leader, I must understand that my leadership style cannot be a one-size-fits-all.  In fact, it has to be a many-sizes-fits-most style.  I have to be able to lead the people who are on my team in a way that will motivate, inform, and inspire them most.

One of the most effective ways that I have found to help me lead well is personality profiles.  My preferred profile is the DiSC assessment.

I have used DiSC for a several years now and it has proven to be invaluable in my leadership.  The profile basically tells me if someone fits into one or more of these basic categories:

D – Dominance

i – influence

S – Steadiness

C – Conscientious

Smarter Leadership for Better Results

Once I know which profile fits a particular person, it allows me to lead them better than I would have otherwise.  For example, I know that if someone is an S personality, they thrive on appreciation.  If an S is not appreciated regularly, they will burn out and begin to resent their leader.  Also, I know that i personalities need to be around people. So, putting them in an office by themselves with no windows would not be a good idea.

What this has also done is allow me to understand myself better.

I am a C personality which means that I am analytical and I prefer to work alone.  This also helps me understand that I can sometimes come across as cold or angry – when I’m in fact simply deep in thought about something.  But, I have to intentionally not come across those ways if I want to lead others well.

I could go on and on about this idea, but I thin you get it.  So, how about you?  Do you lead with a one-size-fits-all mindset or are you able to lead Sally differently than Mike and Carlos differently than Sue?  It matters and I believe that it will lead to a more effective team that is happier and more engaged in what they’re doing.  So, try it today!

Please comment below and let me know how you provide individualized leadership where you work. I would love to hear your thoughts!


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Tim Parsons

Tim Parsons is Coach at The Sunday Punch team
He has a heart to Help People Lead Better at Home and at Work
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L2L Contributing Author