Dancing With the One Who Didn’t Bring You

Much research on leadership development suggests that, as an individual moves up the org chart, her work-style needs to evolve from task-orientation to relationship-orientation.

Task-oriented people like to work on projects.  They like jobs with deadlines.  They get primary fulfillment from “checking off” their completed assignments.  They measure success by “getting things done.”

On the other hand, relationship-oriented people like to engage others.  They build trust and camaraderie.  They are facilitators and encouragers.  They measure success by building many strong relationships.

When “task-oriented” individuals take on more responsibility in the organization but don’t learn how to evolve into a more “relationship-oriented” work-style, effectiveness is limited.  When compared with relationship-oriented bosses, staff members tend not to respond well to task-oriented bosses.  Ultimately, a heavy task-orientation for an executive can lead to a failure to meet key goals.

Why?  Because “getting things done” at higher levels of responsibility typically means “getting things done with people.”

If you are new to development, concentrate on the tasks.  Gain competence.  Build the Annual Fund.  Clean-up the database.  Set-up the special event.  Do the work in front of you.  In most instances, mastering task-oriented competencies will evidence your capacity to take on broader roles in development.

But as you advance in your career and take on bigger challenges, you should begin transforming your work style to a relationship-orientation.  Build teams.  Encourage others.  Strengthen relationships with major donors.  These are your new “tasks.”

There is an old saying, “Dance with the one who brought you.”  In other words, to continue being successful, stick with what you know.  Do what you’ve done in the past that has worked.   In most instances, that axiom may hold true.

But when it comes to your development career, you probably won’t be successful unless you are able and willing to switch your work-styles.  In other words, “dance with the one who didn’t bring you.”


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