Situational Leadership in Current Times
In my previous blog, we discussed different types of leadership and concluded that influential leaders embrace multiple styles depending on the situation. Since no two cases are alike, assessing the situation and referencing which kind will help you get to the best possible outcome will always be necessary.
While some styles may seem easier to embrace and own and give a sense of warmth and fuzziness, our role as leaders is only sometimes to make easy, warm, and fuzzy decisions.
In today's fast-changing business environment, leaders must take an agile and situational approach when issues arise in their team, work environment, and organization.
This article will discuss Situational Leadership not as a style but as a state of being for the road ahead.
What is Situational Leadership?
It is a model created in 1969 by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard in their groundbreaking book Management of Organizational Behavior. It is a flexible and adaptive leadership approach that involves leaders taking stock of their team members, weighing each situation individually and deciding which leadership style should be applied. In other words, it enables leaders to tailor their approach to meet their team's or individual members' needs, serving in a way that gets everyone working toward a collective vision.
Situational leadership is unique to traditional leadership styles because it recognizes that there is no one-size-fits-all approach, allowing leaders to adapt their behaviours to suit the individual needs of each situation and the option to apply more than one leadership style to a problem.
Let's examine the four situational leadership styles developed by Blanchard and Hershey, ranking from least ready (requiring the most amount of direction and support) to most ready (requiring the least amount of direction and support)
Telling (S1): The leaders provide support, guidance and close supervision through communication and interactions using a top-down approach, whereby employees follow their directions. It is a short-term approach intended to create movement. It is generally applied in situations when someone is new to their role.
Selling (S2): Selling leaders are influential and supportive and sell their concept to the team; the idea is to recruit their cooperation through debate and collaboration but still make decisions. This style provides motivation, builds buy-in, and trust.
Participating (S3): A participating leader creates a collaborative environment where input is welcome. They trust the team and expect them to make appropriate decisions. Less direction is offered, but the leader still oversees operations.
Delegating (S4): When leaders deal with experienced, competent, and motivated team members, they limit participation and leave most responsibilities to the group. Leaders may occasionally be consulted but primarily pass decision-making and direction to the team, providing them with the highest level of autonomy and taking a more hands-off approach.
As you can see, situational leadership incorporates many different techniques than traditional leadership styles, one crucial key being adaptability. Leaders must be able to pivot leadership styles to meet the changing needs of an organization and its employees and have the insight to understand when to change their management style and what leadership strategy fits each new paradigm. They must be flexible and gain the trust and confidence of the team while evaluating the competence and maturity of the group.
Situational leadership creates a common language of performance, allows leaders to effectively drive behaviour change, utilize task specificity as a measure of performance and, most importantly, teaches leaders to accurately interpret and effectively respond to the environment for the road ahead.