What Is Situational Leadership?
Usually, situational leadership can be best explained with the use of examples. As the ideas of leadership are often based on so many different sources both in current literature and on the internet, there is no such thing as the “right” style of leadership. The right one can only be determined depending from the condition and the case in which it occurs. The concept that the best leadership strategy depends heavily on the specific environment in which it will be implemented is known as situational leadership.
There have been many ideas and efforts made to address this concept and at one time, there was a popular situational leadership model that was introduced by Blanchard and Hersey, pioneers so to speak of the efforts to quantify or better define the situational leadership concept. The model of situational leadership that they introduced was widely accepted and internationally recognized. According to them, leaders must above all be flexible and must have the capacity to make adjustments to address the specific circumstances with a very short response time. The situational leadership model that they introduced is based primarily on the concepts of Development and Leadership. That is, develop a plan, develop your leaders and instill solid leadership practice.
Situational Leadership Focus
This concept suggests that when speaking of situational leadership, one of the main focuses of the concept is the actual leadership portion itself. That is, the right leadership strategy should be based on sound leadership principles. There are of course many leadership styles. Some of the more popular being, the concepts of Directing leaders, the Coaching Leaders, Supporting Leaders as well as the Delegating Leaders.
Situational Leadership – Leader Types
- Directing leaders – The people who are under the “directing” situational leadership model aka directing leaders, are individuals who are capable of leading in front. These people have the ability to communicate tasks to their other group members or subordinates. These leaders are rarely discussing the high level overview or main ideas or conceptual leadership unlike the Coaching Leaders. The main focus of this category within the situational model is to provide specific direction and delegate tasks.
- Coaching Leaders – On the other hand, the Coaching leaders are those who have the situational leadership capacity that is open for the ideas and the suggestion of the other people. It is generally a bit more flexible and in most cases, these kinds of leaders will implement some the best ideas and suggestions from his subordinates. This therefore implies that the ideas of others enable the Coaching Leaders to come up with the best decision to certain things. In this portion of the model, the focus is certainly more conceptual rather than specific task oriented.
- Supporting Leaders – In the case of the Supporting Leaders, there is greater control from his subordinates unlike in the other previous leader types mentioned. The full decisions depend on the ideas of the people around him and in this kind of situational leadership; the leader is only in charge of facilitating the whole process required. Project management often employs this type of leadership to a large extent.
- Delegating Leaders – The last type of leaders under the situational leadership model is the Delegating Leaders. These kinds of leaders are entrusting the work to the other members of the group. Even though this kind of leader is involved in the decision making, there is encouragement to the subordinates to give them the chance to be involved with the process of decision making and to take on more responsibility.
Situational Leadership – Follower types
In situational leadership as well as any other type of leadership model, there are also some challenges. Followers or subordinates are a larger piece of the total picture than the leadership itself and it stands to reason that as leaders, a strong understanding of that group is needed. For instance, competency levels displayed by the followers or the subordinates must be understood and accurately accounted for. Moreover, their commitment with the task they take is also varying. This can be the fault of the individual or the fault of management but the reason is immaterial. The important thing is to simply understand it and use that knowledge accordingly.
The reason may be based on their likes, views or personal determination to get involved with the tasks they have or it may be based on their employment agreements or level of compensation earned. For instance, don’t expect a $15 per hour technician to take on responsibilities for coordinating project tasks in the absence of a PM. His or her motivation to do so will likely be nonexistent since his compensation is far below that of a PM. There are many subordinates that are highly skilled but may not provide commitment within the work areas that they have been asked to cover. On the other hand, there are some followers who may show high level of commitment but they are not as skilled. And of course every point in between, there are some subordinates that may exhibit moderate commitment as well as moderate skill level.
So whatever the type of followers you have in a particular situation, situational leadership requires proper adaptation to the abilities and limitations of those subordinates, other resources, the needs of the organization as well as the overall situation as a whole. The situation dictates the leadership approach and will define the priorities.