What is Situational Leadership® means?

Around the world, there is always a debate going on about leadership styles. There is no one-size fits all leadership style exist. Successful leaders are those who can adapt their behavior to meet the demands of their own unique situation. This is called ‘Situational Leadership®‘.

General human tendency in decision making differs time to time and depends on the circumstances. Applying this general behavior into leadership gives excellent results in achieving the success & one becomes Leadership Champions.

Below are the lines that explains briefly about Situational Leadership®. These lines are from HOW TO CHOOSE A LEADERSHIP PATTERN by Robert Tannenbaum and Warren Schmidt.

“The successful leader is one who is able to behave appropriately. … If direction is in order … able to direct; if considerable participative freedom is called for … able to provide such freedom.”

The concept of Situational Leadership® was proposed by Ken Blanchard (who later wrote the famous – One Minute Manager book) and Paul Hersey. According to them – “Leadership is the process of influencing the activities of an individual or group in efforts toward goal achievement in a given situation”

The Blanchard & Hersey Situational Leadership® Model helpful to managers in diagnosing the demands of their situation has been developed as a result of extensive research.

Situational Leadership® model is based on relationship among the amount or the extent of:

  • Direction (task behavior) a leader gives
  • Socio-emotional support (relationship behavior) a leader provides
  • “Readiness” level that followers exhibit on a specific task, function, activity, or objective that the leader is attempting to accomplish through the individual or group

Task behavior is the extent to which a leader engages in one-way communication by explaining what each follower is to do, as well as when, where, and how tasks are to be accomplished.

Relationship behavior is the extent to which a leader engages in two-way communication by providing socio-emotional support, “psychological strokes”, and facilitating behaviors.

Readiness is the ability and willingness of a person to take responsibility for directing his own behavior in relation to a specific task to be performed.

According to this model, as the level of readiness of the follower continues to increase in terms of accomplishing a specific task, the leader should begin to reduce task behavior and increase relationship behavior. This should be the case until the individual or group reaches a moderate level of readiness.

As the follower begins to move to an above average level of readiness, it becomes appropriate for the leader to decrease not only task behavior but relationship behavior as well. Now the follower is not only ready in terms of the performance of the task but also is confident and committed. People at this level of readiness see a reduction of close supervision and an increase in delegation by the leader as a positive indication of trust and confidence.

They define four leadership styles:

1. Telling/Directing Leader — a leader provides detailed instruction and closely coaches the follower.
2. Selling/Coaching Leader — a leader provides explanations and principles, engages the follower in a discussion of the work, and coaches as needed.
3. Facilitating/Counseling Leader — the leader assists the follower with goal clarification and ideas, then coaches as needed
4. Delegating Leader — the goal is clarified and the work turned over to the follower.

Situational Leadership Styles

Any or all of these leadership styles can be used effectively, depending on the readiness of the follower as determined by:

• The ability of the person to do the job (Skill) —has the necessary knowledge and skills to do the work.
• The willingness of the person to do the job (Will) —has the necessary confidence and commitment to do the work.

Following picture shows various stages of Follower’s Readiness/Maturity Level based on Skill & Will.



Four stages of follower readiness according to Hersey & Blanchard are as follows:

* People who are both unable and either unwilling or too insecure to take responsibility to do something. They are neither competent nor confident. (M1)

* People who are having less skill level, but willing to do necessary job task falls into this M2 category. They are motivated but currently lack of the appropriate skills.(M2)

* People who are able but unwilling or too apprehensive to do what the leader wants (M3)

* People who are both able and willing to take responsibility and do what is asked of them (M4)

We can have better understanding of the Maturity Level & Situational Leadership® Model by integrating their views.

As followers reach high level of readiness, the leader responds by not only continuing to decrease control over activities, but also by continuing to decrease relationship behavior as well.

* At stage M1, followers need clear and specific directions. So the appropriate style is high-task and low-relationship or Telling/Directing (S1).

* At stage M2, both high-task and high-relationship behavior is needed or Selling/Coaching (S2). The high-task behavior compensates for the follower’s lack of ability, and the high-relationship behavior tries to get the followers psychologically to “buy into” the leader’s desires.

* Stage M3 represents motivational problems that are best solved by a supportive, non-directive, participative style. The right approach would be low-task and high-relationship or Facilitating/Counseling (S3).

* At stage M4, the leader doesn’t have to do much because followers are both willing and able to do the job and take responsibility. The followers need neither task directions nor motivational support, thus low-task and low-relationship style or Delegating (S4) work best for this kind of subordinates.

Note: Situational Leadership® is a registered trademark of the Center for Leadership Studies, Inc.www.situational.com

More articles on Situational Leadership®

1. variations in situational leadership® models

2. Knowing and switching leadership styles for managerial effectiveness

3. What, why and How of delegating