Situational Leadership Style

This leadership style is considered an adaptive leadership or management style. Situational leadership encourages leaders to take stock of their current team and the many variables in their workplace or context. The leader then chooses the specific leadership style or styles that best fits their goals and circumstances. 

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There are two popular models that attempt to describe situational leadership or management. The two mainstream models that are commonly referenced include one introduced by Ken Blanchard and Paul Hersey as part of their book Management of Organizational Behavior. Another widely accepted version of situational leadership was described by the author of Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman. The two models are detailed below:

The Goleman model

Daniel Goleman

Daniel Goleman’s model includes 6 styles.

Goleman’s book Primal Leadership describes his version of situational leadership which includes six styles associated with the model. These management styles are detailed below:

  1. Coaching leaders – focused on staff’s personal development and the team’s job-related skills
  2. Pacesetting leaders – very high expectations for teams
  3. Democratic leaders – allowing teams a vote or input in most decisions
  4. Affiliative leaders – puts the team first. This leader uses praise to build up the team’s confidence
  5. Authoritative leaders – good at identifying problems and challenges
  6. Coercive leaders – directs teams with specific instructions. They have a clear vision of the outcome and how to get there

The Blanchard and Hersey model

Blanchard Hersey

The Blanchard and Hersey model includes 4 styles.

Their model is based on two concepts: leadership and the follower. Blanchard and Hersey have developed a matrix including the four styles:

  1. S1 or Telling leaders – providing specific guidance and close supervision. The leader makes decisions for the team and communicates them to the team
  2. S1 or Selling – using explanation and persuading. The leader designs the roles and objectives of the team but this leader is open to suggestions and opinions
  3. S3 or Participating – about sharing and facilitating. These leaders may have input but leave the decision to their followers.
  4. S4 or Delegating – lets others do it for them. The leader takes responsibility for their teams but provides minimum guidance to help them solve problems.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Situational Leadership

This style of leadership tends to work well in a team environment that has frequent changes or turnover providing an opportunity to apply situational leadership. Situational leadership provides the leader with the flexibility to mold their style to the current team situation and environment.

How does this leadership style compare with your own style? How does it compare to your manager? Whether you are a situational leader, another style, or a combination of styles, below are some advantages and disadvantages to being a situational leader to consider:

Pros:

  • Molds the leadership style to the team and the context
  • Ability to change management styles as needed

Cons:

  • Changing styles can set confusing expectations for teams

Yes, there are pros and cons to each of the leadership styles, but understanding the balance is key to being a successful leader.

Famous Leaders with the Situational Leadership Style

Below are a few of the many leaders that have displayed the situational leadership style.

  •   U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower 
  •   Patricia Sue Summitt Head Basketball Coach
  •   John Wooden
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RECAP: Situational Leadership Style

Adapting the leader’s style to the context. The situational leader has the awareness and ability to adjust the nature of their leadership to get the best outcome from the team. Want to understand more about your own leadership style? Take our quick quiz now.

Important Disclosure

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Want to know more about other leadership styles? Select one of these links for more comprehensive information about each style: Servant Leadership | Democratic Leadership | Supportive Leadership | Transactional Leadership | Laissez-fair Leadership | Transformational Leadership | Charismatic Leadership | Autocratic Leadership

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