Situational Theory of Leadership
The situational theory of leadership suggests that no single leadership style is “best” – the type of leadership and strategies that are best-suited to the task depends on the situation at hand.
According to this theory, the most effective leaders are those that are able to adapt their style to the situation and look at cues such as the type of task, the nature of the group, and other factors that might contribute to getting the job done.
Situational leadership theory is often referred to as the Hersey-Blanchard Situational Leadership Theory, after its developers Dr. Paul Hershey, author of The Situational Leader, and Ken Blanchard, author of One-Minute Manager.
Hershey and Blanchard’s leadership styles
Hershey and Blanchard suggested that there are four primary leadership styles:
- Telling (S1): This style involves the leader telling people what to do and how to do it.
- Selling (S2): This style involves more back-and-forth between leaders and followers. Leaders “sell” their ideas and message to get group members to buy into the process.
- Participating (S3): In this approach, the leaders offers less direction and allows members of the group to take a more active role in coming up with ideas and making decisions.
- Delegating (S4): This style is characterized by a less involved, hands-off approach to leadership. Group members tend to make most of the decisions and take most of the responsibility for what happens.
The SLII model
The Situational Leadership II (or SLII model) was developed by Kenneth Blanchard and builds on Blanchard and Hershey’s original theory. According to the revised version of the theory, effective leaders must base their behavior on the developmental level of group members for specific tasks. The developmental level is determined by each individual’s level of competence and commitment.
SLII also suggests that effective leadership is dependent upon two key behaviors: supporting and directing. Directing behaviors include giving specific directions and instructions and attempting to control the behavior of group members. Supporting behaviors include actions such as encouraging subordinates, listening, and offering recognition and feedback.
The theory identifies four basic leadership styles.
- Directing (S1): High on directing behaviors, low on supporting behaviors.
- Coaching (S2): High on both directing and supporting behaviors.
- Supporting (S3): Low on directing behavior and high on supporting behaviors.
- Delegating (S4): Low on both directing and supporting behaviors.
The main point of SLII theory is that not one of these four leadership styles is best. Instead, an effective leader will match his or her behavior to the developmental skill of each subordinate for the task at hand.
Drawn from Cherry, K. A. What is the Situational Theory of Leadership, at http://psychology.about.com/od/leadership/fl/What-Is-the-Situational-Theory-of-Leadership.htm, accessed 31 December 2015.
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Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified on 31 December 2015.
Image: From SlideShare at http://www.slideshare.net/DarylTabogoc/hersey-blanchard-19344122, accessed 31 December 2015.