Situational leadership is my favorite leadership model. Why? Because it essentially embraces and leverages all leadership models! Realistically, Kenneth Blanchard and Paul Hersey developed a model that considers the type of leadership style of the leader, the maturity level of the individual or group being led (more associated with skill and desire), and the development of people and self-motivation. Let’s break it down a bit.
There is a litany of leadership styles that leaders rely on. Many stick with one style that suites their own personality, but is not conducive to individual, team, or organizational success. Generally, there are four (4) methods of communicating the leaders’ intent or they style of – Blanchard and Hersey call these telling, selling, participating, and delegating. I like directing, convincing, partnering (although participating works well) and delegating. The leadership style is dependent upon the competency of the team, individual, and task. The leader must be able to identify which style is appropriate to the situation.
Directing occurs when the leader merely directs exactly what is to be done. This is a one-way conversation with little to no feedback from the follower. This is generally for the newly formed team or the individual that thrives best on clear task and purpose with close boundaries.
Convincing occurs when the leader opens up from the directing approach and allows for two-way conversation, intended to get the follower(s) on board with the plan. This will be found in a forming team or when the team needs more convincing to “buy into” the plan. Sometimes the leader just has to make the less popular decision and needs to get the rest of the team on board.
Partnering occurs when the leader works closely with the team and shares the decision making responsibility, placing more ownership with the team. Developing leaders is a key function of the leader. By partnering with the team, the leader is able to lead by example and share in the decision making process.
Delegating occurs when the leader gives the authority to the team or a subordinate follower to make certain decisions. This may not include the responsibility of the decision (sometimes responsibility just cannot or should not be delegated). When the individual or team is trusted to make the right decision, delegation should be leveraged. This enables the team to make quicker decisions and empowers the team, building confidence and self-motivation.
The maturity level focuses on the level of skill and/or responsibility of the follower. The maturity level ranges from unable to take responsibility but willing to work to fully proficient at the task and responsible. An individual or team may be “immature” – less experience – at a given task, but highly mature at another task. The maturity level is task, individual, and group dependent.
Development and Self-motivation
One of the leader’s key responsibilities is to develop and motivate others. Development involves motivating, educating, mentoring, and providing opportunities for the individual members and team to grow. This is generally a slow process, even for the highly competent member or team – so take the time to do it right – get to know each other, learn what motivates each other, find out what each other likes and dislikes – this helps to build team cohesion and an understanding of how each member “ticks”.
Developing others also involves helping others become self-sufficient. Becoming self-sufficient requires a certain level of competency – that level is, again, dependent on the situation, the individual and team, as well as the amount of risk the leader, team, and organization can tolerate. Along with becoming self-sufficient, is self-motivation, the innate desire to achieve more. Inspiring others to achieve more for themselves, their team, and the organization is essential to individual and team success. Most people are willing to work when someone is watching them, but about when they are left alone to accomplish a task? Inspire and motivate others to be or become self-sufficient and self-motivated, and you are on the right path to developing the next generation of leaders.
Applying Situational Leadership
With these three (3) aspects in mind, situational leadership is all about understanding the situation – including the task and members of the team, their skill, and motivation – and leading the individual members of the team in a way that motivates and inspires them to achieve, resulting in group and team success. Each situation is different, and requires the art and finesse of leadership to be applied in order to successfully leverage the skills and abilities of the team to achieve their desired result. An experienced team with great skill needs less directing and more delegation, whereas the newly formed team needs greater development and convincing or partnering to become cohesive and succeed.
As you strive to identify where your team currently resides, consider the knowledge, skills, and abilities of the individual team members, the collective skills of the team, and the level of cohesion and motivation. Your leadership style should be driven by these traits. Lead with confidence in your skills and abilities and that of your team.
Jared W. Snow
The transformational leader inspires, motivates, and encourages other members of the team to accomplish the mission of their organization. The transformational leader is able to cast a vision the team embraces and strives for each day. Working to accomplish a goal as a team, creates a cohesion and builds the team into a single entity, moving in unison.
Doesn’t this sound like the type of leader you would like to follow? Someone who provides inspiration and motivation to achieve, possibly more than you thought you could yourself? What does it take to be this type of leader?
Well, it starts by listening to others. Listening is probably one of the easiest things to do – literally, you do nothing but let someone else do the talking. In some cases, you “listen” to body language, facial gestures, changes in personality, and so on. Listening should be easy, right? The challenge is, so many of us are stuck in our own heads, planning our next action or comment, or thinking about a task that needs to be addressed or what to have for dinner. If you want to inspire others, start by listening to what they are telling you. Often, they are telling you everything you need to know.
Listening is not enough, you must respond to what is being said in order to meet their needs.
Motivating others requires understanding what motivates them – what is it that really gets them going, excited, and so on. What are they passionate about? Identify that one thing, and you will be well on your way. Too often, leaders think the key to motivating someone is throwing money towards the team. Well, what if your team makes enough money, but their work week consists of 10 hour days, 6 days a week, and their spouse works the night shift while they work the day? Money is not a motivator, but time just may be. Offer some time off, a flexible schedule, and so on. Actually, if your team is working excessive hours, perhaps the issue is a lack of efficiency and proper planning?
The point here is, find out what motivates your team and do that. It could be as simple as recognition in a meeting. You will not know until you ask and listen.
Inspiration is easier for the charismatic leader, the one that seems to know just what to say at the right time. Charisma is often associated with a tyrannical leader. This occurs when charisma is used by the tyrannical leader get others to accomplish something for them, whereas the transformational leader uses charisma to inspire others to achieve more for themselves, others, and the organization. Inspiring is less about motivating others such as providing a reward or recognition. Inspiration is helping others find the passion within themselves to strive for more – whatever that more is.
As you lead your team, focus on listening to what they are telling you. Remember, sometimes they are telling you exactly what you need to know through words and actions, you must learn to pay attention. Respond to what they are telling you in ways that motivate them. Motivation is different for everyone, so as you listen, pay attention for what motivates them. Inspire others to find their passion, and let them take it from there. There is more to successful leadership than just this, but do these 3 things and see where it takes you.
Jared W. Snow
Leading people or teams that want to be led is much easier than leading a team that would rather not. This makes perfect sense and is likely not a surprise for anyone. The question, and challenge, is how do you motivate a team to accomplish a task that they would rather not do. How do you get someone to complete a project that they could care less about? A leader must motivate and inspire and provide task and purpose.
Motivation is the force that gets you going – the carrot or the stick. For some, being a member of a team is motivation enough. Others need a bonus, raise, or praise (the carrot) while some need the fear of demotion, losing a bonus or even their job (the sick). As the leader, you need to find what motivates your team members and get them going. Each team member is different and needs different motivation. Some are self-motivated, some need the carrot, and some need the stick.
Inspiration may be synonymous to motivation in many cases, but when it comes to leading, they are different. Motivation may become inspiration if done correctly; however, inspiration focuses on energizing the individual or team to achieve or exceed their potential, and becomes a part of who they are. Motivation is the carrot or stick, whereas inspiration becomes the innate desire to succeed. A motivated individual will accomplish a task as quickly as possible to get home and watch the game while an inspired individual will strive for better results.
Task and purpose.
Task and purpose must go together. Always. A task in and of itself is meaningless without purpose. Have you ever been assigned the task of producing a report knowing (or thinking) that nobody will read it? How does that make you feel? I have had my fair share of such tasks, often asking myself “why am I even doing this?” Would it change if you thought someone would read it or if you knew why you were completing it? Have you ever assigned someone a task without providing purpose? Try telling them why the seemingly meaningless task is so important and that you actually do need it. Show your team how important it is that the task is completed. What if the report isn’t really that important? What if the task really is meaningless? Then you may want to stop the report or task and focus your teams’ energy on something that is more valuable.
Motivate your team and inspire them to succeed more. Provide clear task and purpose. When you do, step back and see what they will do. You may just be amazed.
Jared W. Snow