We’ve had a lot of contractors in and out of our home over the past three weeks of home reconstruction after our flood. First, the emergency disaster cleaners. Since then: plumbers, electricians, and flooring experts. Soon, we expect drywall hangers and painters.

Without exception, all of the folks working on our home have been extremely professional, well prepared, and focused on putting our home— and our life — back together as quickly and unobtrusively as possible.

Each contractor has brought his own tools. What the floor installer needs is different from what the plumber needs. I don’t know a lot about tools, but these guys do. They bring the right tools for their tasks and they get the job done.

I don’t see them standing over their toolboxes, picking up their tools in turn, pondering which one is the right one for the job. They know intuitively which one to use. And they use them. And, they get the job done.

As a practitioner of leadership, I have a lot of tools at my disposal, lessons learned from the best theories and practices of my field. However, choosing the right tool is not as clear-cut for me as it is for a contractor. Leadership theories are not one-size-fits all. And, I don’t have a row of theories, like wrenches, lined up in a box.

In any situation, I may be able to apply several different problem-solving strategies. I can view situations through different frameworks of understanding and try a variety of solutions (using several different tools) before I find the right fit.

Practicing leadership is a mix of science and art. Because leading others is, at the heart of things, about relationships and people, I need to be flexible and make adjustments.

Perhaps, over time, knowing which leadership tool to use will be intuitive, second nature. Until then, I will keep my toolbox nearby, using trial and error until I get it right.

Join the conversation!

What leadership practices do you most often rely on?

What are the leadership tools you use to get the job done?

This was originally posted at Mountain State University LeaderTalk and is re-posted with permission.