Situational leadership is an adaptive leadership style. Situational leadership theory was conceived by Professor Dr. Paul Hersey and management guru and author Ken Blanchard. This strategy encourages leaders to take stock of their team members, weigh the many variables in their workplace and choose the leadership style that best fits their goals and circumstances. In the words of leadership theorist Ken Blanchard, “In the past a leader was a boss. Today’s leaders can no longer lead solely based on positional power.”
Definition of Situational Leadership:
Situational leadership is flexible. It adapts to the existing work environment and the needs of the organization. Situational leadership is not based on a specific skill of the leader; instead, he or she modifies the style of management to suit the requirements of the organization.
One of the keys to situational leadership is adaptability. Leaders must be able to move from one leadership style to another to meet the changing needs of an organization and its employees. These leaders must have the insight to understand when to change their management style and what leadership strategy fits each new paradigm.
4 Basic steps in Situational Leadership:
1. Assess tasks and priorities:
The first step in the Hershey-Blanchard model is to assess the most important tasks for your company or department. Outlining your most important, pending tasks is a key consideration in the selection of the right style. When tasks are more routine and production-oriented, a manager may take on a more directing role. If tasks involve selling, customer service or other types of employee-customer interactions, the manager may take on more of a coaching role.
2. Assess Employee Readiness:
In many cases, the level of readiness and maturity of your workforce has a greater impact on your style selection. Readiness includes the confidence, skills and qualities to perform the necessary tasks. The more ready your employees are, the less hands-on or direct your leadership involvement needs to be. With newer or less-experienced workers, you often need to get more actively involved. Your role in training a new retail sales associate is likely much different than in leading a veteran employee with proven abilities.
3. Leadership Style Selection:
Based on the combination of tasks and readiness, you select the best matching leadership style. The Hershey-Blanchard model outlines four basic styles, though some discussions of leadership look at even more types. Telling or directing, selling or coaching, participating or supporting, and delegating are the four situational theory styles. Directing is a more hands-on approach. Selling and coaching is commonly used in employee development. A participation approach involves more-mature employees and a desire to maintain high morale. The delegating approach is used with knowledgeable and accomplished workers performing comfortable tasks. It is a more hands-off approach.
4. Review Performance:
A leader should always take the time to assess her performance over the course of time, during a project or following a task. This analysis allows you to gauge whether you effectively prioritized tasks and accurately assessed the preparedness of your workers to perform them. Additionally, you can get more familiar with the styles and become better at applying the right style to the right situation.
Situational leadership quotations
How do professionals become better situational leaders? It might be helpful to consider these quotes from experienced leaders and apply them to your circumstances:
- Margaret Wheatley: “Leadership is a series of behaviours rather than a role for heroes.”
- Colin Powell: “Leadership is solving problems.”
- Mahatma Gandhi: “I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles, but today it means getting along with people.”
- John D. Rockefeller: “Good leadership consists of showing average people how to do the work of superior people.”
- Margaret Thatcher: “You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.”
- John Wooden: “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”
Situational leadership style requirements
Here are some of the characteristics of the situational leadership style:
- Insight: The situational leader must be able to understand the needs of the followers, then adjust his or her management style to meet those needs
- Flexibility: Situational leaders must be able to move seamlessly from one type of leadership style to another
- Trust: The leader must be able to gain his or her followers’ trust and confidence
- Problem-solving: The situational leader must be able to solve problems, such as how to get a job done using the best leadership style available
- Coach: The situational leader must be able to evaluate the maturity and competence of the followers and then apply the right strategy to enhance the follower and their personal character.