Variations in Situational Leadership®

This post is continuation of earlier posts – What is Situational Leadership® means? , Knowing and switching Leadership styles. In the earlier post on Situational Leadership®, we reviewed Hersey & Blanchard’s Situational Leadership® Model and its key components.

Few points on History

In the late 1960s, Ken Blanchard & Paul Hersey came up with breakthrough Situational Leadership® model. After almost 20-25 years, in 1985, Blanchard and the his associates (who founded Ken Blanchard Companies) came up with variations to earlier Situational Leadership® model and called it as Situational Leadership® II (acronym: SLII®).

Hersey founded The Center for Leadership Studies which provides training in Situational Leadership® whereas Ken Blanchard’s Ken Blanchard Companies provides training and focuses on SLII®.

Let us review earlier variations within Situational Leadership® before touching SLII®.

Follower’s Maturity Level Vs Development Level

Maturity levels are used in the original version of the life-cycle theory of leadership. This was the one used to explain follower’s readiness level for Situational Leadership® in earlier post.

Overtime, H & B changed maturity levels to development levels as the word – ‘maturity’ seen as somewhat inappropriate as wide usage of this leadership model. Also, the development level is goal or task specific and not to be confused with person’s skills. The development levels (denoted by D) correspond with S levels the same way the older M levels did.

Follower behavior competent vs commitment

Also, the identification of Follower’s maturity level based Skill & Will behavior is changed to Competence & Commitment behavior without changing the underlying meaning.

Competence—the follower’s ability/knowledge/skills to do a particular task; and
Commitment—the follower’s willingness and confidence to do a particular task.

Competence and commitment of followers varies according to skill levels. As followers’ skills develop they move up from D1 to D4.

As far as the Leadership styles are concerned – task and relationship behavior used to identify the leadership styles are changed to directive & supportive behavior. This also pretty much renaming of earlier words and not much change in the meaning.

Directive Behaviorexplaining what each follower is to do, as well as when, where, and how tasks are to be accomplished & its a one-way communication; and

Supportive Behaviorextending help to complete a task and facilitating behaviors.

The match between S levels and D levels are

S1 -> D1 ,S2 -> D2 ,S3 -> D3,S4 -> D4

Situational Leadership 2

SLII® – the Purpose & Goal

SLII® is more practical approach to leadership style switching based on task and follower’s development level on that task. It provides more meaningful name to development levels & partnering between leaders and followers for effective outcome.

The key concept of SLII® model is – It is not something you do to people; it is something you do with them. And its main purposes are to

1. Open up communication—increase the frequency and quality of conversations about performance and development
2. Help others develop competence and commitment
3. Teach others how to provide their own direction and support

SLII® also follows leadership switching depends on the task & its goal is to match the leadership style that is appropriate to an individual’s development level at each stage of development on a specific goal or task.

What is SLII®?

SLII® defines three important skills for an effective leader. An effective situational leader is able to use three skills:

1. Diagnosis: Assess the follower’s development level

2. Flexibility: using a variety of leadership styles comfortably

3. Partnering for Performance: reaching agreements with individuals about their development level and the leadership style they need to help them achieve individual and organization goals

SLII® Development Level

In SLII®, Blanchard named the four development levels as:

D1: Enthusiastic Beginner
D2: Disillusioned Learner
D3: Capable but Cautious Contributor
D4: Self-Reliant Achiever

For further studies, one can go through below references & can attend workshops & seminars in Ken Blanchard companies website, nineth house leadership solutions website.

Note: Situational Leadership® is a registered trademark of the Center for Leadership Studies,, Situational Leadership® II(SLII®) and The One Minute Manager® are registered trademark of The Ken Blanchard Companies

References and further reading:

1) An article by Ken Blanchard – Recognition and Situational Leadership® II, 1997

2) Above article in one website –

3) Situational Leadership®: Conversations with Paul Hersey

4) Blanchard, K., Zigarmi, D., and Nelson, B., “Situational Leadership® after 25 Years: A Retrospective.” The Journal of Leadership Studies – Nov ’93.

5) Blanchard, K & others , Leadership and the One Minute Manager®, ’85.

6) A blog post –

7) A blog post –

4 thoughts on “Variations in Situational Leadership®

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