“It’s easy to come up with new ideas; the hard part is letting go of what worked for you two years ago, but will soon be out of date.”
Roger von Oech
What is a hybrid? I like the Merriam-Webster definition that includes, “something that is formed by combining two or more things.” What is leadership? I again like the Merriam-Webster definition that includes, “the power or ability to lead other people.”
Recently, I applied for and was interviewed for a job as a leadership instructor at a local state university. I prepared well, went through the myriad of possible questions and situations that could be discussed. I also spent considerable time creating and practicing my assigned “teaching topic” which was on ethical leadership. As you know from reading my blog posts, ethics is one of my three primary leadership focus areas so I was really pumped to deliver solid leadership nuggets to the assembled audience of college students and faculty search committee.
One of the questions that you always get asked when applying for a position that is connected to leadership is, “what is your leadership style?” While I was serving in the US Air Force, the answer we were somewhat trained to reply with was, “situational leadership.” All of our professional military education curriculum used this as the leadership model and the Hersey-Blanchard model certainly fit the dynamic leadership environment we were called to lead in.
As I matured across my 35+ year leadership journey, I also became a very strong proponent and worked to be an example for the Servant Leadership model espoused by James C. Hunter. My singular focus in my senior-most years of military leadership was to always put the needs of our Airmen first and to help develop them to become all they desired and what the Air Force and Air National Guard needed in our next generation of military leaders.
So, during the interview I was asked “the question” to which I answered, “hybrid leadership” which generated some inquisical non-verbals from the committee. I then went on to define that I had become a leader who lead from the front with a Servant’s heart while using the leadership skills and tools necessary via the situational leadership model I had learned and practiced for so many years. I believe that a leader who locks themselves into “always” using the same model of leadership is limiting their abilities, influence, and effect. I believe that a Servant leader is the foundation that leaders should work from as their primary charge is to put others first but the rest of the leadership adventure is extremely fluid and situational and demands experience and comfort with many leadership styles. I can envision a leader who is so locked into a certain style of leadership that they become stuck at some point as if they are in a square corner.
My personal experience leads me to recognize that being a hybrid leader brings a variety of challenges. The first one is remaining knowledgeable and flexible enough to adjust as the situation demands. Additionally, observers will critique your leadership performance based on the traditional models of leadership so explaining how your hybrid leadership works is important before they get too much negative energy flowing. Recognize upfront that traditionalists may not be as patient as you’d like for their expectations of you to happen so frequent and detailed communication is critical to your leadership success.
“Good communication is as stimulating as black coffee, and just as hard to sleep after.” ~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh
I found that hybrid leadership was a very effective tool in the dynamic leadership challenges I sought out and received. As I was called to lead in dynamic change environments, my priority was always to serve the people while ensuring the requisite organizational change took place. I found that by using my style of “hybrid leadership,” I was able to effectively make that happen regardless of the organizational situation I experienced. Are you flexible and willing to consider using a hybrid form of leadership to meet your leadership challenges?