In the world of personal leadership and work styles, it’s essential to adapt to the structure, system, or process you’re navigating. Two distinct approaches can be employed to achieve this: the Lone Ranger and the Diplomat. Knowing when to use each approach and striking a balance between them can make all the difference in moving your projects forward.

The Lone Ranger – Disrupting the System: There are times when disrupting a process, system, or structure is necessary, and once you take that step, there’s no turning back. This approach may involve providing direct feedback to a senior executive, speaking your mind in a meeting where it’s not the norm, or talking to people in other divisions without leaders being aware.

While the Lone Ranger approach can be effective in solving big problems and addressing major concerns, it also carries the risk of not working out as intended. However, it can be an efficient way to get attention on your work, and sometimes it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission when navigating bureaucratic obstacles.

The Diplomat – Working Within Boundaries: On the other hand, the Diplomat approach involves working within the boundaries of your existing organizational structure and job descriptions. This high-touch, collaborative process can help build consensus and move the organization forward as a united front.

As a Diplomat, you may need to work in a linear, cause-and-effect manner, forming working groups, or finding ways to bypass people on the way to the top. It’s crucial to remember that it’s about making progress on a project, not personal gains, although people may take it personally.

Adapting Your Approach – Situational Awareness: Your approach should depend on the situation at hand and what’s at stake. As a junior team member, it’s essential to explore your options and continually push your work forward, regardless of the system. Experienced leaders and managers know when to shift styles between diplomacy and assertiveness to advance their agendas.

At some point, you will need to stand up for yourself and defend your work. Learning to adapt your work style within different structures will help you better adjust and avoid being caught off guard.

Finding the Balance – Diplomat and Lone Ranger: To succeed in personal leadership, it’s vital to strike a balance between being the consummate Diplomat and a daring Lone Ranger. While you may not be a natural in either role, learning to incorporate aspects of both into your work will help you navigate various situations and drive your projects forward.

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