I normally don’t post on Saturdays but I wanted to round up this week’s posts on situational leadership with a last one. A few years a go I was at a youth leaders conference in The Netherlands where Bo Boshers and Keith Cote from Willow Creek were keynote speakers. I still remember this one example Keith Cote used to explain different styles of leadership and I want to use it here to sum it all up. It’s about mowing the lawn.
Let’s say you have a big lawn that needs to be mowed. How do you approach followers to do this for you? Let’s assume for a second that ‘unmotivated’ means that they will do it, but more or less against their will and that ‘unable’ means they’ve never mowed a lawn before.
Unwilling and unable
You give them a cup of coffee, ask them how they’re doing and isn’t the weather beautiful today. You explain how grateful you are that they’re willing to help and how much that means to you. You subtly ask if they have ever mown a lawn before and how they would approach it. Then you walk them across the lawn and show them exactly what needs to be mowed. You explain that they only need to mow the grass, not the flower beds. You tell them you want an inch taken off the lawn. You show them where to start and that they need to make straight rows, each overlapping about two inches. You take them with you to the shed where the lawnmower is and you explain how to start it, how to turn it off and how to make turns. You explain that the lawn mower needs to be cleaned afterwards and you show them where to empty the bag of grass. You bring the lawn mower out and mow three rows yourself. Then you tell them to do it exactly as you’ve done it and you supervise the rest of the time. When they’re done, you thank them again, give them something to drink and invite them for lunch.
Willing, but unable
You give them a cup of coffee, ask them how they’re doing and isn’t the weather beautiful today. You explain how grateful you are that they’re willing to help and how much that means to you. You tell them that for today, you’re just going to focus on explaining the lawn mower to them and that you’ll explain the best way to mow later. You take them with you to the shed where the lawnmower is and you explain how to start it, how to turn it off and how to make turns. You explain that the lawn mower needs to be cleaned afterwards and you show them where to empty the bag of grass. Then you take the mower out of the shed and show them how you mow the lawn. After about five minutes, you ask if they want to take a turn. You supervise three more rows and then tell them you go inside for a bit and they can call out of they need anything. You check in twice more and when they’re done, you praise them lavishly, give them something to drink and invite them for lunch.
Unwilling, but able
You invite them in and sit down for a chat. How are they doing? What’s going on in their lives? Then you share how important the mowing of the lawn is to you, what it would mean to you if they would do that. They can make a difference and you know they’d be good at it. Won’t they give it a try to see how it goes? You show them the lawn and tell them you’d like the grass to be about an inch tall. You explain that you always mow in rows that overlap, but they should feel free to do it however they like. You show them the lawn mower and explain where they can empty the bag. You thank them profusely and once again stress how grateful you are that they’re using their talents to help you out. You check in once when they’re busy and afterwards to thank them again, make some small talk and invite them for lunch.
Willing and able
You give them a cup of coffee and thank them for doing this for you. You show them the lawnmower and explain that it needs to be started twice usually before it works well and that the bag should be emptied in time, otherwise it will be hard to remove. Then you let them work and tell them they can call out of they need anything. Afterwards you thank them again and invite them for lunch.
I hope this example made the different styles of leadership even more clear. You can see that they differ on the amount and level of detail of the instructions, and the time invested in the relationship.
Did this help you to make it more clear? What type of follower do you find hardest to lead?