The Situational Leadership Model Analysis


The situational leadership model, founded in 1982 by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard, still remains one of the most efficient (Anderson & Anderson, 2001, p. 153). According to this model, leaders should always take into consideration the circumstances and respond to their followers’ behavior. Compared with the great man or trait leadership theories, as well as with the behavioral approaches, the SL model is much more people-oriented and flexible. Besides, it is also more useful in practice, since it has a prescriptive value while the majority of other theories are descriptive in their nature. Additionally, situational leadership turns out to be useful within the transformational type of organizational change, which is the most difficult to manage. This research paper examines the SL model, revealing its strengths and possible weaknesses, and shows how it works in practice by investigating particular case studies.

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Main Body

The situational leadership model is one of the most useful and widely accepted theories that can help different kinds of leaders to influence their teams more effectively. I have chosen this model since I believe that it is the most powerful one. According to it, a leader works by the light of nature and reckons with his or her team. As a result, a better teamwork is provided.

To examine this topic, support my point of view and find some counterarguments, I have used several resources from the CSU Online Library. All of them are the scholarly ones. In the research paper, as well as in this draft, the readers can find a brief annotated bibliography of two scholarly resources I have chosen. Besides, additional info about all books and articles used in the research can be found in the reference list at the end of the paper.

This work is divided into several parts with subheadings and organized in the following way.

Defining Situational Leadership Model

The first part of the paper is rather short, and it is about the situational leadership in general. The situational leadership (SL) model assumes that there is not any general leading behavior to use in every possible case. Therefore, a leader’s choice should always depend on a situation. The model was founded in 1982 by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard (Anderson & Anderson, 2001, p. 153). Now, it still remains one of the most efficient.

The Structure of the Model

The second part of the research covers the behavior models of both the leaders and their followers.

Types of Leadership Behavior

According to Obolensky (2010), there are four possible behavior styles for a leader to use:

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  • S1 – Telling,
  • S2 – Selling,
  • S3 – Consulting,
  • S4 – Delegating.

Depending on the followers’ behavior and the aim that has to be achieved, leaders should choose one tactic or another.

The Response of the Followers

The response of the followers can be described in the terms of the developmental levels. There are four of them, and they vary from low competence and low commitment (D1) to high competence and high commitment (D4) (Farmer, 2005). Considering which of the levels their followers obtain, leaders choose different types of behavior.

Analysis of Situational Leadership

The third part of the paper discusses the strengths and weaknesses of the situational leadership theory and explains why this model is better than the others are.

Model’s Strengths and Weaknesses

The situational leadership model is easy to both comprehend and apply in a variety of situations. Since this model is flexible and considers the followers’ behavior, it is people- and team-oriented. Besides, while many other theories are descriptive in their nature, the SL model has a prescriptive value. However, it has also been criticized many times. Its main weaknesses are the lack of a strong theoretical basis, a few number of studies, which prove the model’s effectiveness and others.

Comparison with Other Theories

For a better understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of this theory, it should be compared with several others. For this purpose, I have chosen the trait and great man theories and behavioral approaches (Komives, Lucas, & McMahon, 2013).

Situational Leadership within Organizational Change

The fourth part of the paper investigates how the SL theory can address organizational change.

Types of Organizational Change

According to Anderson & Anderson (2010), there are three different types of organizational change; those are developmental, transitional, and transformational. Every one of them has its strengths and weaknesses, as well as divergences in structures and applications.

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When and Why Can the SL Model be Useful?

The most difficult type of organizational change is transformational, and that is exactly where the situational leadership model can be the most useful. As Anderson and Anderson (2001) state, there is no best leadership style to use in the case of change, and the situational theory assumes the same. With different approaches in different situations, it helps to overcome many challenges on the way.

The Model in Action

Finally, the last part of the paper encompasses two studies, which show how the situational theory can be applied in practice.

The Situational Approach and Air Traffic Control

The first study tells how the SL model can be useful in air traffic control: how it helps to maintain safety culture, which of four behavior styles are the most helpful and so on.

Arvidsson, M., Johansson, C. R., Ek, A., & Akselsson, R. (2007). Situational Leadership in Air Traffic Control. Journal of Air Transportation, 12(1), 67-85.

In this article, Arvidsson, Johansson, Ek, and Akselsson describe the research conducted by them in two separate Swedish air traffic control centers. As far as the air traffic control environment is connected with numerous risks, safety is imperative, and any mistakes should be minimized. This article analyzes how the fore mentioned issues can be addressed with the help of the situational leadership model and how effective it is in this matter. To estimate the efficiency of the applied model, questionnaires were used. The results showed, which of four possible leadership styles (S1-S4) were the most commonly/rarely used, how leadership style adaptability changed in Group/Individual and Success/Hardship situations, and how those results varied depending on different air traffic control centers.

The SL model and Managing Telecommuters

The second study tells how situational leadership can be useful for helping care leaders to work with telecommuters.

Farmer, L. A. (2005). Situational leadership: a model for leading telecommuters. Journal of Nursing Management 13, 483–489.

Considering the number of employees, who telecommute and work from home in the US, as well as the growing character of that tendency, leaders should learn how to work with telecommuters and do it efficiently. Farmer states that the situational leadership model is rather useful not only for working with on-site employees but for managing telecommuters as well. To prove it, she examines the effectiveness of the situational leadership approach within a particular case study. The results have shown, that the used model meets the needs of telecommuters, increases the productivity of work and makes the employees rise to the highest developmental level – D1 (high competence and high commitment).

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To conclude, the situational leadership approach is indeed one of the most efficient. This fact can be proved by the comparison with other popular leadership theories, as well as by particular examples of how this theory works in practice.


Anderson, D., & Anderson, L. A. (2001). Beyond Change Management: Advanced Strategies for Today’s Transformational Leaders. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Anderson, D., & Anderson, L. A. (2010). Beyond Change Management: How to Achieve Breakthrough Results Through Conscious Change Leadership (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer.

Arvidsson, M., Johansson, C. R., Ek, A., & Akselsson, R. (2007). Situational Leadership in Air Traffic Control. Journal of Air Transportation, 12(1), 67-85.

Farmer, L. A. (2005). Situational leadership: a model for leading telecommuters. Journal of Nursing Management 13, 483–489.

Komives, S. R., Lucas, N., & McMahon, T. R. (2013). Exploring Leadership: For College Students Who Want to Make a Difference (3rd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Obolensky, N. (2010). Complex Adaptive Leadership: Embracing Paradox and Uncertainty. Farnham, England: Gower Publishing Limited.

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