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Week 11. The Project Managers training blog by Paul Bradley SPOCE MD

As Marathon Day looms closer Paul takes a look at how the leadership style of Coach has changed since the beginning. Adapting to the changes in his own ability and decision making. All great project managers do this well and flex their leadership style to the situation, the expertise in the team and the needs of the organization. 

11th September 2022 - Marathon Day minus 3 weeks

Situational Leadership

With just 3 weeks left until the London Marathon, I can't work out whether my break to Spain came at the right time, or not. Either way, I decided not to bring my running kit, but to use the week for core exercising, and some rest for my legs. Hopefully, I wouldn't come to regret the break. I did intend on hitting a long run immediately on my return to England to help compensate both mentally and physically though.

While away, I have been reflecting on the training over the last few months, which got me thinking about leadership styles and how these change throughout the project life.

In projects, a good leader must adapt their style based on the situation they find themselves in. This is known as situational leadership.

At the start of a project a leader will need to provide clarity, vision and direction. As the project progresses and the team matures, a leader would then take on a more coaching style role as the team becomes self- managing.

Types of leadership 

A well known theory on situational leadership by Blanchard and Hersey identifies four leadership styles:

Telling – Tell, or direct team members what to do and carefully supervise their work. This approach works well in disasters or crisis situations.

Selling – Tell others what to do but remain open to feedback. A useful method for gaining cooperation and encouraging two-way discussion to help build confidence.

Participating – Participate in decision-making but leave decisions to followers. This style is best used with high-performing, capable employees.

Delegating – provide help with decision-making when needed or when asked but leave the problem-solving to team members. This style of leadership helps to promote a cohesive team and helps to develop employee skills.

Matching your leadership style to the workplace dynamics helps to accomplish your goals more efficiently. After you evaluate a situation, you can apply the appropriate style that best fits your team members, work environment, and organizational needs.

When running with Coach Guy I take on the role of a follower. Not because I'm always behind him (although I usually am!), but because he inspires me. Guy has completed the London Marathon in a very impressive time, and has great experience of what it takes to succeed at endurance challenges. I have learnt a lot from him, and this has taught me how to run for endurance rather than just for time.

Leadership styles can be flexed in when coaching

Since being accidentally appointed to the Coach role, Guy's style of leadership has changed. Initially he took on the Telling/Selling style, directing me when to run, at what pace, what distance, how to best prepare, etc. He would make sure he was there throughout the run to control the pace to ensure I made it to the end. As the training developed, Guy's leadership style changed to Participating/Delegating, asking me what I had planned for the next run, enabling me to make those decisions and joining me mid-route to give me a boost. Coming into these last few weeks and looking back, it's apparent that Guy's leadership styles have been textbook, and he has transformed me from being a beginner to an accomplished runner when it comes to managing a marathon training programme.

Good leadership style switches are seamless

No one leadership style will fit every situation. The best style will be the one you match with the particular circumstances and the people you're working with. The most successful leaders seamlessly switch among different leadership styles.

My week finished with plenty of relaxation, lots of hydration, and some core work that saw me build up to a 3-minute plank. I also completed a 15-mile run the day after landing back in England, followed by 9 miles two days later. So 24 miles for the week - all things considered, I think this was a well balanced week for recovery while keeping things ticking over.

About Paul Bradley

Paul Bradley is a leading authority on project management methods and techniques. With over 25 years in the industry, Paul's knowledge and experience is respected by clients, accreditation bodies and training organisations globally. Paul has been the Managing Director of SPOCE since 2005, and is an accredited trainer for PRINCE2®, APM and AgilePM®. He is a regular presenter at seminars, providing information on project implementation drawn from his expertise as an accredited Axelos P3M3® Consultant. He has had two books published to enhance the training and use of PRINCE2®. Paul is also an active member and co founder of the renown RunFAR® initiative that raises both awareness and funds for charitable causes. The #RunFAR mission is to run for a reason and share a passion for running with others.