Situational leadership is a widely accepted and effective leadership model that can provide many benefits in the workplace.
The theory, developed by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard, proposes that the best leadership style is one that is adapted to the maturity and ability of the people being led. By using the appropriate leadership style for the situation, leaders can motivate and engage employees to perform at their best.
5 benefits of situational leadership
Flexibility: Situational leadership allows leaders to adjust their leadership style based on the situation and the individual or team being led.
Improved performance: By using the appropriate leadership style for the situation, leaders can motivate and engage employees to perform at their best.
Increased employee satisfaction: When employees feel that their leader is responsive to their needs and is providing the appropriate level of support, they are more likely to be satisfied with their job.
Better decision-making: By considering the situation, leaders can make more informed decisions that take into account the needs of the individual or team.
Better communication: Situational leadership helps leaders to communicate more effectively by understanding the needs of the individual or team and providing appropriate feedback.
What is situational leadership?
Situational leadership is a leadership theory developed by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard. The theory was first introduced in the late 1960s and early 1970s and it was first published in their book “Management of Organizational Behavior: Utilizing Human Resources” in 1969.
Situational leadership is a leadership theory created by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard that claims that the optimal leadership style is one that is adapted to the maturity and capacity of the people being led.
The theory identifies four leadership styles, which are:
Directing: This style is used when the team or individual is new to a task and requires close supervision. The leader gives clear and specific instructions and closely monitors progress.
Coaching: This style is used when the team or individual has some understanding of the task but still needs guidance and support. The leader provides feedback and support, but also encourages the team or individual to take on more responsibility.
Supporting: This style is used when the team or individual is capable of performing the task but needs reassurance and recognition. The leader provides praise and support, but also allows the team or individual to take the lead.
Delegating: This style is used when the team or individual is fully capable of performing the task and only needs minimal supervision. The leader provides minimal guidance and allows the team or individual to take full responsibility.
The key characteristics of situational leadership are that it is adaptable, responsive, and flexible.
What are downsides of situational leadership?
While situational leadership is a popular and successful leadership style, there are several downsides to consider:
- Complexity: The theory involves assessing the maturity and ability of individuals or teams, and then selecting the appropriate leadership style. This process can be complex and time-consuming, and it can be difficult for leaders to accurately assess the maturity and ability of the people they are leading.
- Limited application: The theory is primarily focused on the leader’s behavior, and it may not take into account other factors that can influence the success of a team or individual. For example, it does not take into account organizational culture, external factors or an individual’s personality.
- Lack of clear guidance: The theory does not provide clear guidance on how to move from one leadership style to another. This can make it difficult for leaders to know when to adjust their leadership style.
- Dependence on leader: The theory is heavily dependent on the leader’s ability to adjust their leadership style and it does not take into account the fact that different people may require different styles of leadership.
- Risk of over-generalization: The theory is based on the idea that individuals and teams progress through a series of stages, but this may not always be the case. Over-generalizing the stages of the theory can lead to a lack of flexibility when dealing with different individuals.
Situational leadership is a widely accepted and effective leadership model that has been around for over 50 years, but it doesn’t mean it’s outdated. The theory has been adapted and developed over the years, and it is still widely accepted as a flexible and effective leadership model.
For what type of organizations is it a good fit?
Situational leadership may be particularly well-suited for organizations that:
Have a diverse workforce: The theory is adaptable and responsive, which makes it well-suited for organizations with a diverse workforce that has different levels of maturity and ability.
Have a high degree of change and uncertainty: The theory is flexible and allows leaders to adjust their leadership style based on the situation. This makes it well-suited for organizations that operate in fast-paced, dynamic environments where change and uncertainty are the norm.
Have a focus on employee development: The theory is designed to help leaders to provide the appropriate level of direction and support to the people they are leading. This makes it well-suited for organizations that place a strong emphasis on employee development and engagement.
Have teams that work on projects with clear objectives: The theory can be useful in organizations that have a project-based structure, as it helps leaders to align the objectives of the team with the objectives of the project, and to provide the appropriate level of direction and support.
Have leaders that are willing to adapt: The theory depends on the leader’s ability to adjust their leadership style and it requires leaders to be open-minded and willing to adapt. It may not be a good fit for leaders who prefer a more rigid and unchanging approach.
Becomming a situational leader
Here are some steps that can be taken to achieve situational leadership:
Assess the maturity and ability of the people you are leading: Assessing the maturity and ability of the people you are leading is the first step in achieving situational leadership. This can be done through observation, feedback, and performance evaluations.
Select the appropriate leadership style: Based on the assessment of the maturity and ability of the people you are leading, select the appropriate leadership style from the four styles identified in the theory: Directing, Coaching, Supporting, and Delegating.
Communicate effectively: Effective communication is key to achieving situational leadership. Communicate the expectations, goals, and objectives clearly and provide regular feedback.
Be flexible: Be prepared to adjust your leadership style as the situation changes and the maturity and ability of the people you are leading changes. Be open to new ideas, perspectives and feedback.
Provide development opportunities: Provide opportunities for the people you are leading to develop their skills, knowledge, and abilities. This will help them to progress to the next level of maturity and ability, which will require a different leadership style.
Continuously evaluate and improve: Continuously evaluate the effectiveness of your leadership style, and be open to making changes when necessary. Seek feedback from your team and adapt your approach accordingly.
Do a training. You could check The center for leadership studies.
If you’d like to read more about situational leadership, it is best to read the original book that introduced the concept of situational leadership:
“The Situational Leader” by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard
If you’d like to compare Situational leadership with other styles of leadership, you can read the following post: Leadership Styles, Why and When They Matter.