One Style Fits None


Every person is unique and has different leadership styles.

It is becoming rarer and rarer to see this description on an article of clothing: one size fits all. Maybe that is because of a growing recognition of the uniqueness of all people. One size fits all usually means one size fits none.

Just like sizes, we all have a preferred leadership style. Usually we want to lead others the same way we like to be led. A servant leader, on the other hand, steps out of their own experience and frame of reference to ask, “What does this person need?”

When we do this, we discover that just as people need different sizes of clothing, they also need different styles of leadership that will match where they are at the moment in their development.

In any particular endeavor, most people fall into one of the following four categories, which you’re probably well acquainted with:

  • Unconscious ignorance: they don’t know the subject in question and don’t know that they don’t know
  • Conscious ignorance: they don’t know the subject but realize that they don’t know it
  • Unconscious knowledge: they know the subject but don’t realize that they know it
  • Conscious knowledge: they know the subject and they know that they know it

Once you come to understand where someone is, how do you move them to the next stage? You do it by addressing their weakness, not by defaulting to your strength.

  • Unconscious ignorance. Stimulate a desire to learn more. Help them explore the depth of the subject.
  • Conscious ignorance. Instruct them in the basics. Show them the fundamentals of the issue in question.
  • Unconscious knowledge. Encourage them to action. Point them toward examples where they have already demonstrated competence.
  • Conscious knowledge. Release them for ministry. Bless them to go forth and use their gift.

Servant leaders take people where they are and adjust their own leadership styles to help each person take the next step in their journey.

Written by Brett Selby

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