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Bringing out the best in people

When leading, it is important to adapt to the needs of each individual

2010 Available in English, French, Portuguese and Spanish

Good leadership creates strong groups. Photo: Geoff Crawford/Tearfund

From: Leadership – Footsteps 84

Considers the questions 'Who is a leader?' and 'What is good leadership?'

Different styles of leadership are needed at different times for different people. When leading, it is important to adapt to the needs of each individual. This is true whether the relationship is one of employer and employee in the workplace, or team leader and volunteer in a community project. 

There are two factors that should guide a leader's approach:

  • the person's motivation to do the task
  • the person's skills and capability to do the task.

These two factors can be combined into a matrix - to view the diagram click here - with suggested actions depending on the motivation, skills and capability of the person you are leading. A person will not always be in one of the four categories, but will be in different categories at different times depending on the task and other factors.

In all cases, it is important to:

  • explain clearly what you expect from the person
  • explain the limitations of the task (time, budget, etc)
  • check the person understands what you are asking him or her to do
  • provide feedback
  • praise the person when she or he has been successful, and reward him or her.

The Skill / Motivation Matrix is an adaptation by Keilty, Goldsmith and Co. Inc. of original work by Hershey and Blanchard. 


Using the matrix to help, what would you do in the following situations?
  • Sayed, who is a finance officer, often seems distracted or idle at his desk. His behaviour has a negative effect on team morale. However, he is highly qualified for his job and produces excellent work. 
  • Hannah recently began work as a nursing assistant. She loves her work and greets everyone with a smile. However, some other staff members have complained, saying that since she started the job, the medical records have sometimes not been filed correctly.

If you are leading people today, how can this model help you?

Discuss ways in which these insights can help you to work with others, even if you are not leading them.


The Skill / Motivation Matrix is an adaptation by Keilty, Goldsmith and Co. Inc. of original work by Hershey and Blanchard.

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