Situational Leadership
Situational Leadership suggests leaders should focus on three facets–leaders, followers, and the situation (Fiedler, 1967; Hersey & Blanchard, 1982; Hersey, 1985; Daft, 1999) prior to acting. This model has directive and supportive components which must be adjusted based upon the organizational maturity of the employees and the environment in which they operate.

The Situational Approach Model suggests leaders should focus on leaders, followers, and the situation (Northouse, 2004). This model has directive and supportive components which can be adjusted based upon the organizational maturity of the employees. Additionally, this model recommends more emphasis on either task or relationship behaviors, based upon the situation faced by the organization. Leaders, according to the model, adjust their involvement based upon the maturity of the relationship and the ability of the follower to accomplish the work.

Style 1—High task and low relationship. The “telling” style is very directive because the leader produces a lot of input but a minimum amount of relationship behavior. An autocratic leader would fit here.

Style 2—High task and high relationship. The “selling” style is also very directive, but in a more persuasive, guiding manner. The leader provides considerable input about task accomplishment but also emphasizes human relations.

Style 3—High relationship and low task. In the “participating” leadership style, there is less direction and more collaboration between leader and group members. The consultative and consensus subtypes of participative leader generally fit into this quadrant.

Style 4—Low relationship and low task. In the “delegating” leadership style, the leader delegates responsibility for a task to a group member and is simply kept informed of progress. If carried to an extreme, this style would be classified as free-rein.

The situational leadership model states that there is no one best way to influence group members. The most effective leadership style depends on the readiness level of group members. Readiness in situational leadership is defined as the extent to which a group member has the ability and willingness or confidence to accomplish a specific task. The concept of readiness is therefore not a characteristic, trait, or motive—it relates to a specific task.

Readiness has two components, ability and willingness. Ability is the knowledge, experience, and skill an individual or group brings to a particular task or activity. Willingness is the extent to which an individual or group has the confidence, commitment, and motivation to accomplish a specific task.

The key point of situational leadership theory is that as group member readiness increases, a leader should rely more on relationship behavior and less on task behavior. When a group member becomes very ready, a minimum of task or relationship behavior is required of the leader.

Situation R1—Low readiness. When followers are unable, unwilling, or insecure, the leader should emphasize task-oriented behavior and be very directive and autocratic, using a telling style.

Situation R2—Moderate readiness. When group members are unable but willing or confident, the leader should focus on being more relationship-oriented, using a selling style.

Situation R3—Moderate-to-high readiness. Group members are able but unwilling or insecure, so the leader needs to provide a high degree of relationship-oriented behavior but a low degree of task behavior, thus engaging in a participating style.

Situation R4—High readiness. When followers are able, willing, or confident, they are self-sufficient and competent. Thus the leader can grant them considerable autonomy, using a delegating style.

Hersey and Blanchard developed the situational leadership theory and model (Daft, 1999). This model stresses the directive and supportive dimensions, illustrated as telling, selling, participating, and delegating: where the leader determines the levels of usage with each employee independent of one another. Different situations require different levels of directive and supportive behavior (Hersey & Blanchard, 1982). The readiness levels, capabilities of employees in a particular work situation, are keys to application of directive and supportive behaviors. The figure below addresses the major components of the Situational Leadership Model.

The four styles depicted are telling (S1), selling (S2), participating (S3), and delegating (S4) identifying the style to be used based upon the capabilities and readiness of the followers. The telling style (S1) is designed for subordinates who are not organizationally mature or when new tasks are being assigned. The subordinates need some direction and close supervision in order to be effective. Leaders who find subordinates in this category need to spend time providing cogent and detailed instructions. The relationship behavior is low because the interactions are directive in nature and this behavior does not allow for development of a lasting leader-follower relationship, at this juncture.

In (S2), telling style, the leader allows some input from the subordinate as the understanding of organizational tasks gain clarity and the subordinate (s) become more organizationally mature. Subordinates have input and ask questions increasing their chances of success. The task behavior is high and a deeper relationship is allowed to develop. The participating style (S3) reflects continual advancement of subordinate maturity. In this box, the subordinate is maturing where they can actively suggest improvements and their ideas are solicited by the leader. Relationship intensity is maintained and task behavior is diminished because of substantial organizational maturity. Finally, the delegating style (S4) allows subordinates to begin to make decisions alone and with little external guidance. Task behavior and the relationship behavior are low because of the maturity of the subordinate and their ability to work independently from the leader.

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