Aspirational Values vs. Core Values: How A Simple Definition Can Change The Meaning And Trajectory Of Your Entire Company

As leaders, we all face situations that challenge us to make decisions that will impact our organizations and teams. The ability to read a situation, know what to ignore, what to prioritize, and how to weigh up competing needs are essential skills that are heightened for us as leaders. While a world where everything was predictable and clear-cut might sound incredibly appealing some days, it is not the world any of us actually live in.


In this blog, we will explore the concept of “time and place” from two angles: first, as it relates to how we adapt to different situations as leaders; and second, as a way to help us determine when and where to bring different parts of ourselves to our work.

Adapting to Different Situations as Leaders

There isn’t one way to lead, and if you are rigid and one-dimensional, you will find that you are out of place and ineffective more than you are effective. Effective leadership is about adapting your style to a range of factors depending on what it is you’re trying to accomplish. 


In Situational Leadership, there is no single “best” style of leadership. The model suggests that leaders should adapt their leadership style to the situation they are facing. Leaders need to diagnose the development level of their team members or followers in a particular task or goal and then adjust their leadership style to fit the needs of the team.


Situational leadership is a helpful approach from a pragmatic point of view because even when you know yourself well and are willing to get out of the way and bring others in who are more suited to the situation, the reality is that as a leader, it is guaranteed that you will find yourself at some point in situations, whether briefly in a conversation or meeting, or for extended periods where circumstances do not favor your usual leadership style.


For example, when dealing with a team of highly skilled professionals who know what they are doing, the leader may take a back seat and provide support and resources to ensure that the team achieves its goals. In contrast, when working with a new and inexperienced team, the leader may need to be more directive and provide clear instructions to help them develop the skills needed to achieve the desired outcome.


Situational Leadership emphasizes the importance of understanding the needs of your team members or followers, being flexible, and adapting to changing situations. It can help you as a leader to be more effective in your decision-making, communication, and overall management style.


Knowing Yourself and When to Step Aside

In addition to adapting to different situations as leaders, it is also crucial to know yourself and when to step aside. This is where the “time and place” approach comes into play. It is an incredibly useful approach to guide you as you weigh things up in order to make decisions and act.


One way to get to know yourself better is to examine your strengths, weaknesses, and patterns. Self-awareness is critical to becoming an effective leader because it allows you to understand your limitations and identify areas where you may need to improve. It also enables you to identify the areas where you can best contribute to the organization and where you should bring in other people who are more suited to the task.


For example, if you are someone who loves building things from scratch, you may want to focus on creating new projects, but then you should be willing to hand over the reins to someone else to maintain and manage the systems and ensure the essential aspects of consistency and quality are in place. This will help you avoid creating chaos or conflict just so that you are in your element.

Complete this exercise

  1. What are the “conditions” where you feel most comfortable and able to operate in your preferred leadership style? 

  2. Do you find yourself trying to create those conditions even when they are not needed or are not naturally emerging?

  3. Is it unhelpful or helpful for your team and broader organization when you do this?


Sit with these questions, and even revisit the episode as a prompt if you need to, in order to gain some insights that could help you become not only more effective as a leader but also more impactful in the work you are doing as you seek to make a difference in the lives of others.


Remember that to take a Both/And lens when you look at the world you need to pause long enough to notice if you are falling into an Either/Or trap or jumping to extremes.


In conclusion, the idea of “time and place” is a crucial tool for leaders to master. It involves being able to read situations and adapt our leadership style to meet the needs of the moment. We must be willing to prioritize and weigh competing needs, and know when to step aside and let others take the reins. By doing so, we become more effective leaders who can build successful teams and organizations that thrive in a constantly changing world. So, take the time to reflect on your leadership style and how it fits into the “time and place” of the situations you face. Doing so will help you become a more agile and adaptable leader who can navigate any challenge that comes your way.