farmers and Hunters

For you to improve and grow a contract under your leadership, you need to understand where it has been and how it got there. As a Service Provider operating in the workplace, you may have a portfolio of contracts that are in different phases of their life cycle. You will also need to understand the processes required to return the contract to its former glory as well as the focus and outlook of your leadership style if you are to be successful.

This is the 3rd post in our series on the STaRS model by Michael Watkins which I have adapted for use in understanding how to recognise the potential  in your portfolio of contracts and move them into a position where they can be grown. In the first post in this series The 4 Stages of Contract Vulnerability,  we looked at the contract continuum which will help you recognise where your contract has been and where you need to move it to in order to grow the value of that contract. We described the 5 platforms, of a contract that is being launched as a start-up venture, facing crisis and in need of a turnaround, vaulting into accelerated growth, drifting into difficulty and due for a realignment, or working at sustaining success.

In the second post in this series The 3 Cycles You Need to Grow Your Contracts we provided you with an understanding of the processes that outlines the characteristics and challenges of respectively, launching a contract, saving an initiative that’s in serious trouble, dealing with rapid expansion or reenergizing a once successful contract that’s now facing problems.

Whatever the situation your contract is in, a one size doesn’t fit all leadership approach will not work. You need to be able to adapt to the individual context of the contract in order to achieve its goals. In this post we look at the personal adaptation you will need, to tailor your leadership style to the given situation.

Such a change in your natural style requires a high degree of situational leadership. You will need to match the way you communicate to the circumstances the contract finds itself in. Armed with such clarity, you can design your plan to manage the contract and yourself.

Assessing the Business Situation

Using the STaRS model you should be able to recognise the clear differences between a realignment situation you may be heading into, where clouds are gathering but the storm hasn’t hit yet and where a dramatic turnaround may be required, where urgent needs, demand urgent action.

In a turnaround, there is a burning platform where the problem is driving the people who are very aware fo the situation they are in. In a realignment, there is likely to be a lot of denial by the team and it leaders. Your job is to open your staff’s eyes to the fact that a problem even exists.

You cannot treat both situations the same way. If you treat a realignment as a turnaround and try to conduct radical surgery, you will incur both active and passive resistance, undermining your ability to realise needed change, and you will remain vulnerable to being isolated and undercut. You will need to secure early wins differently in the two situations. In turnarounds, leaders must move people from being in a state of despair to seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. In a realignment, by contrast, your most important early win is to raise people’s awareness of the need for change by putting more emphasis on facts and figures that can back up your assessment and make the situation real to the non-believers.

Personal Change

The state of the contracts under your leadership has implications for the adjustments you’ll need to make to manage yourself. This is particularly true when it comes to determining leadership styles and figuring out whether you are reflexively a “Hunter” or a “Farmer”


One Leadership Style Does Not Fit All

Once you have achieved clarity about which situation is applicable to which contract, you now need to consider two dimensions. Focus and outlook refer to Learning and Doing and whether these should be used in defensive or offensive situations. What do we need to do to get early wins?


  • Turnarounds & Start-ups– As the leader you are dealing with people who are hungry for hope, vision, and direction. This necessitates a Hunter style of leadership, fighting for survival in times of hardship and leading the charge with your spear in hand. The focus is on taking action moving fast and taking chances. Your staff will understand the need for a direct and radical approach and will follow commands. You need to make decisive early calls often without the full picture. If you take too much time trying to learn and understand the situation, events will overtake you to overtake you and create a vicious cycle. You need to Ready, Fire, Aim!
  • Realignments & Sustaining Success– By contrast, these situations demand from leaders something more akin to stewardship. You are the Farmer cultivating an awareness and understanding a more diplomatic and less ego-driven approach that entails building consensus around the need for change. Farmers are more patient and systematic than Hunters in deciding which people, processes, and other resources to preserve and which to discard. The focus in on learning and empathy. You need to take the long-term view. Because you are dealing with people who believe they are successful, they will not be hungry for change or too much command and control type behaviour.


  • Start-ups & Realignment – is all about offence. Action is the key as things need to get done and there is nothing to defend. The agenda is to make corrections and take the contract in a new direction so whilst you will need to defend existing services your best energies are spent on a new offensive plan.
  • Turnarounds & Sustaining Success – are all about primarily a good defence. In a turnaround you need, to identify the remaining strengths and cut back to a defendable core. Only then can you shift to offence to begin identifying and developing platforms for growth (Crisis cycle)
    In a sustaining success scenario, it is wise to consolidate and bag the wins and not to overextend your reach and understand fully what makes you successful. Over time you can gradually shift to how to take the contract to the next level.

The message here is situational, don’t arrive with your spear if you need to be ploughing!

Whether any leader in transition can adapt his or her personal leadership strategy successfully depends greatly upon the ability to embrace the following pillars of self-management: enhancing self-awareness, exercising personal discipline, and building complementary teams.

Enhancing self-awareness.

It’s critical for leaders to understand their reflexive responses to the management challenges: How do you prefer to learn in new situations? Is your personal bent more about Hunting or Farming? Psychometric testing such as the Enneagram can help you get a baseline reading of your leadership style, as can 360-degree and other observational feedback.
If you are 100% “Hunter” then it may be best for you to stick to turnaround opportunities, eschewing other leadership assignments. For most leaders, though, reflexive responses can be adapted when necessary, so long as people clearly understand their tendencies and are willing to make changes.

Exercising personal discipline.

Wise leaders consciously and deliberately fight to improve themselves in their areas of weakness every day. Having understood themselves through self-awareness they are acutely aware of their strengths and weaknesses and seek to downplay and improve them respectively. They know that they cannot be excellent in all areas but work hard to round the rough edges off those areas that will hold them back.

Building complementary teams.

You simply can’t do it all, regardless of the business context, and you can’t completely turn into something or someone you’re not—which makes the precise mix of Hunters and Farmers (every organisation needs both) on your leadership team all the more critical.


In these 3 posts on The STaRS model, I have attempted to provide you with a tool that will enable you to regularly review your entire portfolio of contracts and engage your teams in understanding where their contracts are on the continuum. We have explored the process that needs to be undertaken to course correct your contracts to stop them drifting off into the need for realignment  or worse still turnaround. Lastly, I have attempted to outline the type of leadership required in any of the given situations to maximise your chances of success.

I have really enjoyed writing these three posts and I hope in some way you are able to use this information. If you have, then please let me know, if you have any other comments or observations please leave a comment below. All comments are welcome and are read and will be responded to.