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