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What is situationally appropriate leadership?

Here, we will look at the power of situationally appropriate leadership, which is a lateral, distributed approach.

Here, we will look at the power of situationally appropriate leadership, which is a lateral, distributed approach to running any organisation.

The NASA example

With the complexities, risks and constraints it faces, NASA is a supercharged case study in innovation under pressure. Former astronaut Scott Parazynski learned on the job that “situationally appropriate leadership” is often more effective than rigid, top-down bureaucracy. The idea is to build a diverse organisation, then empower individuals on the frontlines of any given problem to assemble and lead a team to solve it. The result is a much more adaptable, efficient, and innovative organisation that grows and retains talent naturally.

Situationally appropriate leadership

A group problem-solving approach in which the individual best suited to address the challenges of a given scenario takes charge, regardless of rank or title.

  • The person with the highest rank doesn’t always have the knowledge or situational awareness to make the best critical decision.
  • The best decision-maker may be the person who can see the situation in ways others can’t.
  • Often it’s the people on the frontlines who are most fit to solve problems.

Building multi-disciplinary teams

  • Seek out people of different educational, disciplinary, and cultural backgrounds. Diversity of thought helps to uncover blind spots.
  • As you embrace situationally appropriate leadership, ask for feedback: How’s it going? Am I speaking too much or too little? Is the creative spirit of the team working?

Over to You

Consider the following questions.

  • Consider a difficult decision/problem your company now faces. Which department and/or individual is best suited to lead the team to solve it?
  • What risks might be involved in “situationally appropriate leadership”? How might an organisation go about mitigating them?
  • Why do you think “situationally appropriate leadership” might lead to better talent retention?
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Critical and Strategic Thinking in Practice

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