Everyone has their own leadership style, such as Delagative, Bureaucratic, Laissez-Faire, or Developer.  They are most comfortable with the style that best fits their personality. However, great leaders get beyond just using their most comfortable style.  They realize the style of leadership they should use depends less on their comfort and more on what their follower needs in a particular situation.  Because a leader’s goal is to help their follower succeed, the focus must be on the follower’s needs not the leader’s preference.

Strategic Leadership vs. Tactical Leadership

While a leader’s style must vary depending on the needs of the follower, one aspect of leadership should never change – the leader’s overarching, strategic philosophy about leadership.  For example Servant Leaders always put the needs of their followers ahead of their own self-interest in order to achieve the goals of the organization.  Servant Leadership is a values-based, strategic leadership philosophy that should never change.

While the Servant Leader’s strategic philosophy should never change, the tactical execution of Servant Leadership varies in almost every situation because the needs of the followers change.   If leaders aren’t willing and able to flex their style to the needs of the follower, they often end up with frustrated, unmotivated and unproductive followers.

Three approaches to Tactical Leadership


  • Use when the follower is new or inexperienced with the situation
  • The leader tells the follower how to approach the situation
  • Leader discourages risk taking


  • Use when the follower is capable and experienced with the situation
  • The leader helps the follower figure out how to be successful by utilizing their strengths, skills and experiences
  • Leader encourages some risk taking


  • Use when the follower is highly motivated and very experienced with the situation
  • The leader challenges the follower to stretch themselves outside of their comfort zone to achieve new levels of success
  • Leader encourages significant risk taking

Even Servant Leaders have a favorite leadership style; one that meshes best with their personality.  However, the hallmark of great Servant Leaders is that they learn to adapt their tactical style to the needs of their followers.  While this can be a tremendous challenge, developing the skills and flexibility to provide your followers the style of leadership they need will help them succeed, which ultimately helps you succeed.