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| Bob Bumgarner |

Choosing the Right Hat: The Art of Adaptive Leadership in Changing Times

On any given day being a leader requires that we wear many hats. Sometimes we wear the talking hat. Sometimes we wear the listening hat.  Sometimes we are answer givers. Sometimes we are question askers. Sometimes we cause disruption. Sometimes we bring comfort. 

Hat wearing is not the challenge. Wearing the same hat for every situation is the challenge. The disconnection is that we usually wear the hat that fits us most comfortably instead of asking which hat best fits the situation.  The courageous leader works at matching the hat they wear to the needs of the situation.  

We choose our hats for a variety of reasons. Our hat choice may be the result of our personality. It may come from either good or bad leadership we have experienced or seen modeled. Whatever the source, I have observed we all have a favorite hat.  The temptation (and often our limitation) is to wear our favorite hat in every leadership moment we face. 

Often our hat bias as leaders is to talk and share from our experience and to give our wisdom. We feel helpful when we tell people what we would do if we were in their situation. If that is you, in your next leadership moment try the active listening and asking powerful question hat first. This hat allows you to draw wisdom out of those you lead. Here is why this leadership hat can be helpful.

  1. It creates a relational connection and value. Active listening and powerful questions are the seeds of trust that pave the way for personal progress. In a world where people often feel like they are just part of the machine, asking instead of telling helps people “feel” valued.
  1. It cultivates a clearer perspective. When we ask questions and listen it is harder to make wrong assumptions. Perspective allows those you lead to engage the task at hand with greater clarity than just telling them what to do. 
  1. It allows you to discover where team members feel confident, discouraged or unsure of the work they are trying to accomplish. As a result normal barriers are addressed before they are big problems.
  1. It provides just in time learning. It has been said, “when the student is ready the teacher arrives.” Nothing opens the heart and mind to growth and learning as quickly as a great question. 
  1. It moves the people you lead to action. Adults learn most quickly when they discover what they need. The power comes as they own the answer simply because it is theirs. 
  1. It is the most direct route to equipping those you lead to take responsibility for the outcomes that need to be achieved. When a person with the help of the Holy Spirit discovers their own answer they know the results that are achieved are largely the result of his or her growth as a follower of Jesus.
  1. It changes you as the leader. It enables you to be proactive in your conversations with team members. Instead of catching people after failure has happened it allows you to help them think through their work and catch the gaps before mistakes happen. 

Ultimately, this hat turns you into an advocate and talent developer. Almost anybody can supervise if the goal is just more widgets. It takes a leader to help those you lead understand their value. By the way, people who are valued help the organizations they belong to become more valuable to those they serve. 

Lead Missional Strategist

Bob Bumgarner