Have you ever worked with someone who has all the talent, skill, and know-how in the world and yet still doesn’t believe in themselves quite as much as you do?

While the person could be dealing with Imposter Syndrome, they likely just need more support as they begin to settle in as a subject matter expert and leader in their own right. You’ve built a great foundation with the person through the first two stages. It’s now time to help stand them up to be great on their own.

What is Supporting and when do you use this style?


The supporting level of leadership (sometimes called participating or sharing) happens when the associate is very competent in their role – they know what to do and how to do it, and they collaborate with the leader on decision-making. Associates have a strong hand in determining outcomes at this level.  Associates at this stage are often able to do the job but may be insecure in their role or unmotivated at times to fully buy into a direction or strategy.

Supporting is fundamentally different from both Directing and Coaching. Both of the previous levels are “leader driven”, meaning you are heavily involved and setting the direction and strategy for the person. Supporting flips the dynamic and is “follower-driven.”

Your ultimate goal at the supporting stage is to create alignment with the individual so that they grow in confidence and commitment as well as making sure that they are prioritizing the right items as they do more work on their own. Tap into the person’s desire for impact and sense of meaning or purpose.

Why is Supporting an important part of your overall leadership?


Supporting is a critical stage to help your team through the change in leadership style in order to make it to your ultimate goal of delegation. This is also the juncture where your people are standing up on their own ability to get the job and task done.

You’ll focus less on the assigned tasks and more on the relational aspect. How can you help them grow their confidence in their role? What part of their professional network do they need to grow? Where do they need to step out of their comfort zone in order to reach a new level of excellence?

What are some of the cautions of Supporting?


The supporting style of leadership provides the person with more freedom and less oversight but also comes with quite a bit of change. Their interaction with you is changing, their proverbial safety net is made smaller as you begin to spend more time on other important issues. The dynamic of the relationship begins to change as well. Yes, there is more trust and personal equity together, but with a tradeoff of less face-to-face time.

Associates can get to this stage and then regress back down to the lower levels of leadership. You want to support the person’s growth at this stage, just be mindful to not give them so much space that they feel like you aren’t invested in them anymore. This is one of the main reasons why someone’s motivation and engagement can drop at this level of leadership.

Also, remember that some personalities love the higher touch and recognition from the lower levels of leadership. Be sure to Champion Success as the person continues to grow stronger in their role.

Be mindful to not skip or shorten the Supporting stage of Leadership. The person may have a crisis of confidence as a result and as a result, will second guess themselves even more and carry a higher stress level. Remember that the follower dictates how much time the leader needs to stay in each phase of leadership.

As you continue to grow in adaptive and situational leadership styles, know and understand your default style. This will help your self-awareness to know when you need to push yourself out of your leadership comfort zone in order the lead the other person in the most impactful way.


Make a better tomorrow.
-ZH