Effective management requires the appropriate leadership approach. The theory of situational leadership was created to adopt the leader’s behavior and approach to his or her subordinates by diverse circumstances, such as the followers’ individual needs and competency. While some workers feel more confident under the leadership of autocratic and demanding people, other employees show the best results when they are allowed to work autonomously. The purpose of this essay is to examine situational leadership, its fundamental principles, philosophical assumptions, and main elements.
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Principles of Situational Leadership
Situational leadership is regarded as a model that underlines the significance of multiple leadership styles for highly effective management and problem-solving instead of the single pattern’s usage. The theory of situational leadership was elaborated by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard, and “evolved from a task-oriented versus people-oriented leadership continuum” (McCleskey, 2014, p. 118). In recent years, it has been evaluated as an essential and transformative new way to lead and manage (Thompson & Glasø, 2015).
Situational leadership proposes that “effective leadership requires a rational understanding of the situation and appropriate response, rather than a charismatic leader with a large group of dedicated followers” (McCleskey, 2014, p. 118). In other words, a competent leader cannot depend on only one style of management in every situation to achieve the necessary objectives (Sethuraman & Suresh, 2014). At the present day, supervisors, leaders, employers, or managers should be flexible and adaptive for the requirements and the level of maturity and professionalism of their teams or individual employees for successful mutual development.
Philosophical Assumptions of Situational Leadership
Similar to other theories, situational leadership theory was examined based on its fundamental principles. According to this analysis, various scholars classified the theory of situational leadership as a contingency theory or a behavioral theory, and both conceptions are relatively valid (McCleskey, 2014). The focus of situational leadership on the leader’s behavior supports the theory’s relatedness to the behavioral leadership approach. Such inclusion comparatively unites situational leadership theory with the Ohio State initiation versus consideration dichotomy, the leadership styles approach, the directive versus participative approach, and the Michigan production-oriented versus employee-oriented approach (McCleskey, 2014).
Moreover, as the theory portrays competent and effective leadership as circumstantial or contingent on the maturity of followers, it may be related to contingency-based leadership theories as well. These theories include path-goal theory, Fiedler’s contingency theory, Vroom’s normative contingency model, and leadership substitutes theory (McCleskey, 2014). Both conceptualizations admit the interdependence of relation-oriented and task-oriented behaviors for situational leadership.
A successful leader is responsible both for task performance and the creating of working relationships with employees. However, task-oriented leaders are prevalently concentrated on their organizational roles. They give definite and precise instructions, define the employees’ roles and responsibilities, create the patterns of working processes, and establish communication channels. On the contrary, relation-oriented leaders aim to establish a good relationship between team members for effective performance. They focus on their followers’ support, regulate equal participation, and attempt to reduce all kinds of emotional and professional conflicts.
Main Elements of Situational Leadership
According to the situational leadership model’s creators, there are four basic elements or styles of leadership – telling, selling, participating, and delegating. The choice of a leadership style is substantially determined by the level of the followers’ maturity and competence, training interventions, and previous education (Almansour, 2012). The leadership style of telling reflects an almost autocratic behavior or high-directive behavior in conjunction with low supportive behavior.
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It is appropriate for enthusiastic beginners, “characterized as low on competence but high on commitment” (Thompson & Glasø, 2015, p. 527). Telling is required when individuals or teams have a lack of maturity and did not obtain the necessary skills for proficient activity. That is why these followers need constant guidance, clear direction, and tight supervision. A leader delegates tasks and explains the algorithms of work to his or her subordinates.
The second style of situational leadership, selling, or a coaching style, is the next step in the cycle that implies the subordinates’ professional development. It may be defined as “high-supportive behavior in conjunction with high-directive behavior” (Thompson & Glasø, 2015, p. 527). It refers to a considerably more democratic behavior that implicates certain discussions between a leader and followers. However, the level of the supervisor’s control is still substantively high, even if a leader starts to give explanations concerning the expediency of tasks. This style is suitable for so-called disillusioned learners characterized by some competence and low commitment (Thompson & Glasø, 2015). This approach has a substantially positive impact on the development of the employees’ skills.
The third model, participating, may be defined as a democratic approach when a leader offers more freedom to his or her subordinates. It is characterized by “high-supportive behavior in conjunction with low-directive behavior” (Thompson & Glasø, 2015, p. 527). The leader’s supervision remains limited, and employees may take an active part in decision-making, express their creativity, and define their ways to complete essential tasks.
In turn, a manager focuses more on the relationships between team members and the working atmosphere rather than activity direction. Participating is appropriate for cautious performers with moderate or high competence and variable commitment (Thompson & Glasø, 2015). The primary goal of this model is to develop the employees’ self-leadership and the ability of a team to work autonomously and take necessary actions to solve working issues.
The last model of situational leadership identified by Hersey and Blanchard is delegating. It is characterized by a hands-off approach that may be defined as “low-supportive behavior in conjunction with low-directive behavior” (Thompson & Glasø, 2015, p. 527).
A leader does not substantively involve in the process of decision-making and allows followers to take all responsibilities for their work. At this point in the employees’ development cycle, individuals or a team are competent, that is why delegating applies to self-reliant achievers with a high level of competence and commitment (Thompson & Glasø, 2015). All decision-making and the creation of targets and plans belong to team members who have all the necessary work for autonomous work while a leader is responsible for regular updates.
Situational leadership is regarded as a model that underlines the significance of multiple leadership styles and requires a rational understanding of the situation and an appropriate response by diverse circumstances. Various scholars classified the theory of situational leadership as a contingency theory or a behavioral theory as a successful leader is responsible both for task performance and the creating of working relationships with employees. There are four basic elements or styles of leadership – telling, selling, participating, and delegating, and the choice of a leadership style is substantially determined by the level of the followers’ maturity and competence. All styles may be defined as the step in the cycle that implies the subordinates’ professional development.
Almansour, Y. M. (2012). The relationship between leadership styles and motivation of managers conceptual framework. Journal of Arts, Science & Commerce, 3(1), 161-166.
McCleskey, J. A. (2014). Situational, transformational, and transactional leadership and leadership development. Journal of Business Studies Quarterly, 5(4), 117-130.
Sethuraman, K., & Suresh, J. (2014). Effective leadership styles. International Business Research, 7(9), 165-172. Web.
Thompson, G., & Glasø, L. (2015). Situational leadership theory: A test from three perspectives. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 36(5), 527-544. Web.