Is Situational Leadership Still Relevant?

What is Situational Leadership?

leadershipSituational Leadership is a model for effective task-relevant leadership developed by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard. First introduced as ‘Life Cycle Theory of Leadership’, the model was renamed Situational Leadership in the mid 1970s.

The principles of the model include the theory that there is no single best method of leadership. The model proposes that, in order to lead and manage individuals or teams in the most successful way, a leader must adapt his or her style to suit the Performance Readiness of those they are attempting to lead. It also states that an effective leader must be able to change their methods of managing, coaching and influencing depending on the task that needs to be accomplished.

Therefore, the two underpinning fundamentals of Situational Leadership are Leadership Style and the individual or team’s Performance Readiness.

Leadership Styles

Leadership styles are categorised by the balance of Task Behaviour and Relationship Behaviour that a leader must achieve in order to maximise the performance of those he or she is leading. Hersey and Blanchard developed four Leadership Styles, each appropriate for different tasks and the people involved. They are:

S1 โ€“ Directing/Telling. The leader defines the roles required from the individuals or teams and gives clear and comprehensive directions concerning how to accomplish the task.

S2 โ€“ Coaching/Selling. The leader still provides direction but enables two-way communication to enable everyone to be involved in the decision making process.

S3 โ€“ Supporting/Participating. This style involves shared decision making about the task and how best to approach it.

S4 โ€“ Delegating. The leader is still involved in the decision making process. However, he or she delegates responsibility for decisions to individuals or teams whilst monitoring the progress and outcomes.

Of these styles, each is appropriate for different circumstances and tasks. Situational Leadership requires the leader to be able to identify which style is the most appropriate and adapt as necessary.

We all naturally change our manner and methods depending on who we are working with and what we are trying to achieve. The skill in Situational Leadership is being able to proactively choose which style to adopt to optimise the performance of others.

Performance Readiness

Performance Readiness refers to the people being led, and can change depending on the task in hand. For example, a person may be highly skilled and motivated in one particular area, yet lack comparable abilities and motivation in another.

Performance Readiness comprises of two key levels, Maturity Level and Development Level.

Maturity Levels are categorised as:

M1 (Unable and Unwilling) โ€“ They don’t have the required skills for the task and are also unable to accept responsibility for the task.

M2 ( Unable but Willing) โ€“ They don’t have the required skills but are keen to take on the responsibility.

M3 (Able but Unwilling) โ€“ They are experienced but don’t want to take on the responsibility.

M4 (Able and Willing) โ€“ They are experienced and also willing to take on the responsibility for the task.

Development Levels are categorised as:

D1 โ€“ Low competence but high commitment.

D2 โ€“ Low competence and low commitment.

D3 โ€“ High competence but low or inconsistent commitment.

D4 โ€“ High competence and high commitment.

By studying and applying the principles of Situational Leadership, individuals or teams can be categorised and led more effectively.

What is Situational Leadership Used For?

Situational Leadership is a popular and highly effective leadership style. The model can be adapted to suit many organisation’s requirements. With versatility being the key skill required from the leader, Situational Leadership can help leaders, managers, consultants and trainers to get the best out of those they work with. In business, optimising the performance of individuals and teams, results in better morale, higher productivity and reduced costs.

In any circumstance where people need to be led, directed or influenced, Situational Leadership provides a proven model to refer to and definitions to follow.

Is Situational Leadership Still Relevant Today?

In modern times, there are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of different leadership styles to study and adopt. However, many of these styles rely heavily on the fundamentals that form the principles of Situational Leadership. Unlike some other models, this is an easy approach to learn and can quickly have a measurable positive impact on an organisation’s processes and productivity. Tried and tested by thousands of organisations worldwide, Situational Leadership continues to be one of the best leadership styles to adopt.

It’s all too easy to find a leadership style that has worked well in one particular circumstance and then continue to lead in the same way. Learning to adjust your approach, depending on the task and the people involved, is a highly successful way of ensuring you are the best leader you can be in any situation.

At Illumine we have leadership training courses covering leadership styles and in particular Illumine’s Essential Management and Line Manager Training. All our courses can be tailored to your requirements.


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