Adaptability is one key skill for leaders.

Not only adaptability to situations and contexts, also and foremost capacity to adapt to the people you lead. Pretending to do the same things with a junior person at their first work experience and with a seasoned employee who’s seen their fair share is naive and lazy. This is true for items such as how frequently you talk to them, what type of vision you frame their work with, how and how intensely you approach development conversations, and what type of recognition you plan to reward them with.

Of course, and perhaps a bit counterintuitively, this does not mean forgetting about you, your goals, your company. It actually requires quite strong awareness. Of what you can do and what you can’t, of what is needed and required of you as a leader, of what the particular phase your organization is in needs, and of what your team member wants.

And at some point, you’ll realize you don’t have what it takes to lead somebody. Not because they are outstanding and better, nor because you have suddenly lost your touch. It’s simply that they require a set of skills that you do not have, or have only in part.

So, if they indeed are valuable to what you are trying to achieve, rather than falling back on proved patterns that most likely would not work and deflate their motivation, you could sit with them, understand more about their strengths and ambitions, and go as far as having them mentored by someone else in the organization they could resonate better with.

Most likely, at some point that person is going to leave. And that is true in any case, it’s not something you can do a lot about anyway. What you can do is determine the passion and excitement with which they deliver work while they are around. That is a lot.

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