Chameleon Leadership

A Chameleon Leader- A Leader in Disguise

Surely you must have seen a chameleon in real life. What incredible creatures they are! As children we have all waited for so long to see the miracle of a chameleon changing its colors. But why do they change colors? What most of us know is that they change colors to hide from the predators and hunters, a classic example of camouflage. But the fact is that they change colors for temperature regulation and communication.

When the surroundings get hot, the chameleon will change its color to something lighter so as to reflect the sun’s rays, thus cooling down its body. And on the other hand, when the temperatures are colder, it changes into a darker color so as to absorb the sun’s rays for the warmth.

Apart from the homeostasis, communication is another reason why chameleons change colors. Females will show off yellow spots on their body to indicate to the males their desire to mate. But when she changes the color of her spots to something darker, it means that the interested males better keep walking.

The same applies for the males. They convey their feelings and emotions by changing the color of their skins. When they are competing with another male, they will tell him to surrender by changing to a pale complexion and displaying many spots on their bodies. Or sometimes they might change to something brighter.

So as leaders, we need to think, do we practice anything like this? Do we ever modify our behavior so as to communicate with the teams in a better way? Do we ever change our approach, maybe soften it a little bit, or put energy in it based on our mental temperature? Let us understand the concept of chameleon leadership!

What is Chameleon Leadership?

Chameleon leadership is an approach to leadership where we, as leaders, change our behavior, our style of communication, and our approach to a person or a situation to influence desired outcomes.

For example, if there is someone on the team who you observed responds better to data and objective facts, then as a leader, we must leverage the information. If someone else responds better to emotion, passion and excitement, then we must be able to change our behavior and communication accordingly.

This is a simple rule of the chameleon leadership. It is where you meet people where they are, instead of them coming to you.

To simplify this, you must be on an even level with everyone. Every person has a different understanding capacity, and to get the best out of them, we have to meet them there, explain them things the way they understand. This is a rather flexible leadership.

There are many leaders who are quite concrete with their ways of leadership. Which means, the team has to go to them. The team has to make extra efforts to understand what they mean. This is an unrealistic expectation, and this is where the communication has gone wrong.

If you realize that the people aren’t listening to you simply because of your approach, then you might want to pause there a bit and think about this-

Instead of getting people to work the way that suits you, you need to change your colors. Change it in a way the team understands. Put the data in a way that your team understands. If you need to break it down then be it! But make sure your communication is not one-way.

You can’t go taking about the problems in your own way and expect them to find the solutions to it all. You have to explain them in a way that they understand.

This is the key to great leadership. What you always need to remember is the fact that not one size fits all. So what you say and how you say it depends completely on who you are speaking with. When you do this, you give the team what ‘they’ need.

At the end of the day, communication is the most important thing that matters. And if you are able to communicate in a way your team understands you, then you don’t need to worry about the performances and outcomes.

So, are you a chameleon leader or one in the process?


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