Since man was a hunter-gatherer and lived in closely interwoven groups, they had leaders who ruled the hunting excursions and took more significant risks than the remnant group members. In turn, they were given a large share of the prey, respect and a higher rank in the group. Of course, how supervision is perceived has changed with changing times, but it remains an essential factor of the colonial fabric.
The initial theories presented that leaders cannot be created; they are born. Some men have unique distinguishing characteristics that make them leaders. However, in our current discussion, we will look closely at another exciting theory called Situational Leadership Theory. This principle states that uniform leadership styles can only be practiced in certain situations. Depending upon the possibility and environmental context, the supervision style also changes.
Ken Blanchard and Paul Hersey created the Situational Leadership Theory in 1969. They think there is no “one size fits all” supervision style. Instead, the Hersey-Blanchard model delivers a framework for leaders to analyze a worker’s or team’s development level. Once this is resolute, they can acclimate their leadership strategy accordingly.
Let’s discuss the significance of situational leadership and discover some real-world benchmarks.
What is Situational Leadership?
Situational leadership is a valuable, repeatable process for leaders to improve their effectiveness when trying to influence others. The method begins with a clear insight into the task or goal that needs to be accomplished. Additionally, the mission provides grounding for the captain and the team fellows to align on the supporter’s readiness to perform. That alignment proclaims the leader’s highest chance of success in choosing a style or an approach.
Every great leader comprehends there are a lot of things to consider when you function with a team. Each person has their own:
- Learning style
How we adjust our style to retort these variables define situational leadership.
Comprehending the situational leadership theory
Situational leadership can help leaders adapt their working conditions and those they oversee. Therefore, proficiency in adjusting your leadership style is crucial to master on your aspiring development journey.
This leadership model considers worker competence and affirmation levels. These can differ across various challenges and interpretation areas. It also considers the intricacy of the task and the level of supervision and support directed by the leader.
This flexibility permits leaders to encounter each condition with a leadership style that will certify their employees and fetch the best in them.
Here’s an instance to show how you can implement this theory at your workplace.
Imagine you’ve got a new employee under you in the company. You figured that this new worker needs more knowledge or expertise. In response to this, you adjust your tone of leadership consequently.
It means leading them in a manner that comforts them and builds their confidence.
This theory encourages leaders to diagnose a situation in depth and lead in the most suitable case. The three main factors to consider in a critical condition are:
- Workers’ competencies.
- Maturity of the workers.
- The intricacy of the task.
Primary situational leadership styles:
Hersey and Blanchard’s situational leadership theory is based on four primary leadership styles. Each style can be used depending on the circumstances.
1. Telling (S1)
This behavioral style is associated with managers who minutely oversee their associates and continuously guide them about why, how, and the job needs to perform.
2. Selling (S2)
When a leader provides a controlled path and is more open to communicating with the followers by ensuring that they buy into the strategy and outperform to achieve the desired goals.
3. Participating (S3)
This behavioral style is recognized when a leader seeks ideas and participation from subordinates to discuss how a task should be performed. In this case, the leader usually tries to create a relationship with the associate.
4. Delegating (S4)
Generally, leaders play a vital role in decision-making even if the responsibilities of the particular tasks have been commissioned to the follower. However, the leader analyzes and reviews the procedure.
Significantly, representing a leadership style depends upon the followers’ knowledge and competence. And to determine this, it is a must to understand four different maturity levels that include:
- M1: The follower must have knowledge, skills, and eagerness to fulfil the task.
- M2: The follower is keen and energetic at this level but still needs more capability to perform.
- M3: The follower at this stage accomplishes the task but hesitates in taking accountability for it.
- M4: At this particular level, the follower is skilled and is ready to be accountable for it.
As of now, you easily comprehend behavioral styles and maturity levels. According to the Hersey-Blanchard theory, there are subsequent matches of styles for each level:
- Low Maturity (M1)—Telling (S1)
- Medium Maturity (M2)—Selling (S2)
- Medium Maturity (M3)—Participating (S3)
- High Maturity (M4)—Delegating (S4)
How situational leadership works?
A follower may require a more “telling” style before initiating a project; followers lack the accountability or knowledge to work independently. The leader intends to shift towards a more delegating process as they become more skilled and knowledgeable.
The situational process of leadership avoids the traps of a single-style approach by identifying many different ways of dealing with a situation; leaders need to consider cases and the maturity levels of associates to determine the most effective behavioral style at any moment.
Situational strategies, therefore, give more significant consideration to the complexity of challenging social situations and people performing in different roles who will eventually contribute to the consequence.
Instances for best uses of situational leadership:
Situational leadership styles are most influential when paired with the four developmental stages of team associates. The developmental level determines each person’s level of competence and commitment. These levels include:
1. Energized beginner (D1) – Higher commitment, low competence:
Followers under this level usually have a higher commitment pace but may not have the required skills to perform the task. However, they commonly have high motivation and confidence.
2. Disillusioned trainee (D2) – Some competence, low commitment:
In this stage, the follower has sufficient competence but is low on commitment concerning the tasks. Despite having suitable skills, they try to seek help when they encounter a new situation
3. Capable but careful performer (D3) – High Competence, but the level of commitment ranges:
Under this category, the follower has the competence to perform but has an inconsistent commitment level. In addition, they tend to have a deficient confidence level to complete the task alone.
4. Self-sufficient achiever (D4) – High competence and commitment:
Followers falling under this category have a sufficient level of competence and commitment. In turn, it is seen that sometimes the followers outperform the task better than their leader.
Traits of a situational leader:
Leaders must own a natural tendency towards a specific management style. So might the company. This can make it hard to develop the scope required to be an influential situational leader.
Leaders must stretch this way, though different conditions require different supervision styles to achieve the best outcomes. Like we require many tools to make a house; similarly, we need many leadership approaches to fulfil the challenges of today’s working environment. It usually takes deliberate effort to conceive these skills. Therefore, great situational leaders share some common traits:
A situational leader concentrates closely on the team’s changing requirements, tasks, and association. They adapt their leadership style to obtain the best crew members and assure successful results.
2. Active Listening
To understand what’s happening and meet their team’s needs, the situational leader must leverage their functional listening skills. They must be patient and take the time to understand and know their team fully.
3. Ability to encourage participation
Situational leaders engage in behaviors that create psychological safety. They provide opportunities for team members to share their thoughts, experiences, and input. They also have the skills to delegate authority to team members effectively.
4. Coaching Skills
To be most influential, situational leaders must materialize their ability to coach at various developmental levels. This talent allows them to encounter team members and assist them in getting where they need to be.
Best real-world instances of situational leaders you might have heard of:
- Dwight Eisenhower
Dwight D. Eisenhower was the U.S. president after World War II. He was also the Allied Commander during the combat. We know him for his prudence and proficiency in getting the allied commanders to work jointly to defeat the war machine of the Nazis. In addition, his military experience taught him how to command and supervise military exercises.
- Pat Summitt
Patricia Sue Summitt was the Tennessee Lady Volunteers’ head coach for over 38 years. As a result, she faced building a whole new basketball team every few years. Despite that, she ended her career with an overall record of 1,098-208 as a basketball coach. In the 1984 Olympics, she was designated head coach for the U.S. women’s basketball team, and under her supervision, the team won a gold medal.
- John Wooden
UCLA’s designated John Wooden as the head coach of the men’s basketball team. First eight years, he triumphed in three Pacific Coast championships. During that time, he had graduate team members, and new members began on the team. As a result, the team won seven straight titles in the 1963-64 season.
UCLA’s record 88-game defeating streak and series of championships ended in 1974.
Is situational leadership effective?
Situational leadership is an easygoing leadership style that adapts to the necessities of followers and situations. It comes very ostensibly to many leaders and is direct to apply. Leaders assess the circumstances and determine which leadership tone is most supportive.
Situational leaders try to stay in close contact with the team. They evaluate their approach to give what’s needed to support a successful completion. Close interaction helps them build a healthy relationship with the team. As a result, it develops a better work atmosphere in which workers feel valued as individuals.
Disadvantages of situational leadership:
This style of leadership also has some drawbacks as other types had:
1. It creates a mess
This depends on how a situational leader interacts. A situational leadership style can create confusion between the teams and the company. It happens if workers perceive the leader as erratic in their leadership practice.
2. It is concentrated on short-term objectives
Situational leaders try to react to the present rising moment. This kind of focus shift can cause a disconnect from the bigger vision. Promising leaders will regard this and keep long-term objectives in sight, even when addressing short-term issues.
3. It risks on giving too much responsibility to the leader
Situational leadership must discern and evaluate what’s required in any situation. This lets the leader react appropriately.
When assessing the competence of each follower, leaders may need to gain all the knowledge necessary to make a precise judgment. As a result, they may even be deceived, especially if a worker is trying to appear acquainted.
Sometimes managers confuse emotional adulthood and conviction with experience-based competence.
Final opinions on situational leadership:
Can you recall any situational leadership examples you’ve encountered in your career?
Managers/ leaders practicing situational leadership makes you feel supported and esteemed in the workplace. In addition, the ability to adjust to different people and circumstances can make for a universal leader who does excellently in a mixed team.
But that doesn’t mean that other types of supervision can’t work. Every leader has their tone, solidities, and flaws.
Sometimes, being aware of the diverse styles can make leaders more mindful of their own. In addition, they can borrow pieces from each type to enhance their leadership skills.
So, this was our take on situational leadership. Let us know in the comments how and when you encountered a leader/ manager with a situational leadership style. And what traits are you going to adopt from this article?