Situational Leadership

If someone were to ask if everyone should be a leader the answer would be yes.  Yes?  If everyone’s a leader then who is supposed to follow them?  I mean you can’t have a bunch of Generals in the army can you?  Everyone can’t play quarterback.


The Chicago Bulls had arguably the best team in NBA history.  It was led by Michael Jordan.   Between 1991 and 1998 the Bulls won an incredible feat of six national championships, winning in 1991, 1992, and 1993 then again in 1996, 1997, and 1998. It was very clear. Michael Jordan was the leader.  He was the man.  Everyone followed his lead.


During the seasons between his two 3-peats he tried a short stint in professional baseball.  This was a man who was an obvious winner and person used to leading teams to the top moving over to a different sport.  The only problem was he didn’t do well in baseball.  Don’t get me wrong, he is an incredible athlete and was able to compete at that level, but he wasn’t as strong as he was in basketball.  In fact he was moved down to the minor leagues in Birmingham, Al.


So if he could lead a team undisputed to three straight championships in one arena, why couldn’t he do the same thing in the other?  It’s simple.  Leadership follows core competencies!  Michael Jordan strengths weren’t baseball. He was good, but there were people on the team who were better.


Imagine it is the seventh inning stretch and the team down by two runs.  They huddle up to select a game plan and who do they look to as that “go to guy”?  Is it Jordan?  Absolutely not!  He’s not the catalyst in this situation.  Would he step up if he needed to?  Yes.  But there are stronger baseball leaders on the team.  So as good leaders do, he follows when someone else is stronger.


Good leaders know how to follow when others are stronger in a particular field.  Leadership is about working with the strengths of a team as a whole.  The strongest takes the lead. Does that mean you have to have the most talent or skill?  No, it just means in order to lead; you must be the strongest for the team.  A General of an army isn’t and is rarely ever the best warrior, but he is the strongest for the group.


Leadership always follows core competencies. Working with situational leadership is the key to success for any team.


Would you want Charles Barkley leading your basketball team or your golf team? 


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15 thoughts on “Situational Leadership

  1. This is a great post and video. As a huge basketball fan during the Bull’s dynasty, I was always amazed at how Jordan allowed for players like Kerr, Rodman, and Pippen to execute their strengths. Though he was the leader, he had no doubts that others could perform in crunch time. That’s trust – trust that the turtle won’t leave you abandoned halfway across the river! This resonates strongly with Buckingham’s work in The Truth About You and Standout Assessments.

  2. Very Very wise words.

  3. Rajiv says:

    I absolutely agree with what you say about situational leadership. Very, very true

  4. Great post Cranston and I too agree there are times when leadership is situational. 🙂

  5. Mike Osorio says:

    For great leaders, it is never about them – it is about their vision of the future and how each member of the team can contribute and feel part of the mission. Utilization of each team member is situational, built on trust, and in the end, not reliant on the leader’s direction – but rather on the team member’s readiness and desire to contribute in the moment.
    Good post!

  6. Jo Murphy says:

    Hi Cranston,
    I get the feeling you are writing just for me and the students we are writing resources for.
    I love this little video and would like to write a blog post about your blog post again.
    The reason I don’t reblog is that the system then won’t let you write html or set thins out very well. However – this little video says exactly what I want to sau to the kids as we set up our projects.
    Thanks for this. I realise that it would pay to look all the way back through your posts to see what other treasures you have stashed there,

  7. […] Have you ever had the feeling that someone else was writing their Blog just for you?  I am beginning to feel this way about the posts made by Cranston Holden. […]

  8. Tienny says:

    Great message with video 🙂 Thanks for this

  9. rupacoach says:

    Shared this great blog post on linkedin.

  10. Contingent leadership, a form of situational leadership, is very relevant to project management as each project is unique!
    In fact your creative writing skill has inspired me to start my own blog now. Really blogging is spreading its wings rapidly. Your write up is a good example of it.

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