What is situational leadership?

    December 5, 2019


    If you want to succeed as a manager, it’s important to keep expanding your knowledge and honing your skills. And one critical aspect of your development should be learning about the various leadership styles and when to use them.

    Situational leadership

    Maybe you’re thinking, “I have my own leadership style, so why should I learn any others?” The answer is that according to experts, the most effective leaders adhere to situational leadership — a theory that states no single form of leadership is best. Instead, the situations and tasks at hand define the required leadership style. 

    The four leadership styles 

    In her article “The Situational Theory of Leadership” for VeryWell Mind, Kendra Cherry lists Hersey and Blanchard’s four primary leadership styles (S):

    1. Telling (S1): The leader tells employees what to do and how to do it in a one-way communication. 
    2. Selling (S2): The leader encourages employees to buy into the process that must be completed by offering guidance and support.
    3. Participating (S3): The leader encourages employees to suggest ideas and facilitates shared decision making.
    4. Delegating (S4): The leader delegates the responsibilities to the individual employees while he or she monitors progress.

    The four maturity levels

    In addition, HR Zone advises that there are four different maturity levels (M) of the audience — or employees — who are being led:

    • M1: The audience doesn’t possess the required skills and won’t or can’t take responsibility for the task that must be completed.
    • M2: The audience demonstrates the willingness to complete the task at hand but doesn’t possess the skills to do so.
    • M3: The audience is sufficiently skilled but lacks the will or confidence to assume responsibility for the task.
    • M4: The audience is sufficiently skilled — plus, they possess the confidence and willingness to assume responsibility for the outcome of the task.

    When to use each leadership style

    In general, the four leadership styles correspond with the four maturity levels. For example, if you have a group of enthusiastic entry level employees who qualify as M2, a selling — or S2 — leadership style would be most appropriate. Similarly, if an employee is highly skilled and experienced — M4 — delegating is likely most appropriate. 

    Flexibility is key

    To be a good manager, flexibility is key. By analyzing what type of audience you’re working with for each task, you can select the appropriate leadership style — and that will increase your chances of success.



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