Ken Blanchard, a renowned speaker, best-selling author, and business consultant, says the traditional “boss” no longer exists. Today’s leaders can’t lead solely by asserting power but must adopt different styles depending on organizational and employee circumstances.
The Situational Leadership Models
Management experts call this leading “situational leadership.” Two accepted models of situational leadership include one developed by Blanchard and partner Paul Hersey, and another by Dr. Daniel Goleman, an internationally known psychologist and author of New York Times bestseller “Emotional Intelligence.”
Blanchard and Hersey developed the situational leadership theory and published it in the classic business book “Management of Organizational Behavior.” The model identifies four leadership styles:
- Telling– Tell employees what to do and carefully supervise their work. This approach works well in disasters or crisis situations.
- Selling– Tell others what to do, but remain open to feedback. A useful method for gaining cooperation.
- Participating– Participate in decision-making, but leave decisions to followers. Used with high-performing, capable employees.
- Delegating– Help with decision-making when needed, but leave problem-solving mostly to team members. Promotes a cohesive team and helps develop employee skills.
The Goleman theory of situational leadership outlines six styles:
- Coaching– Help with an employee’s job skills, performance, and personal development. An appropriate way to lead employees open to change.
- Pacesetting– Lead by example and set high expectations for team members. The risk of employee burn-out is significant with this style.
- Democratic– Allow subordinates to participate in all decision-making. This time-consuming technique may not work well in deadline-intensive environments.
- Affiliative– Put employees first and praise more often. A good style to use when morale is low.
- Authoritative– Analyze problems and identify issues, but also allow team members to participate in problem-solving. Works well when a situation requires direction.
- Coercive– Offer a clear vision and tell employees what to do. A good style in a disaster or crisis.
Situational leadership incorporates many different techniques. The style you choose depends on your organizational environment, employee competencies, employee commitment and your characteristics.
The best situational leaders possess the following traits:
- Insightfulness – They understand employee needs and adapt their style to meet those needs.
- Flexibility – They can move effortlessly from one leadership style to another.
- Trustworthy – They gain employees’ confidence.
- Analytical – They solve problems and know how best to get a job done.
- Coaching – They know how to evaluate employees and help them achieve high-performance levels.
Why Become a Situational Leader?
With its emphasis on adaptability, situational leadership offers profound benefits for the organization, managers, and employees:
- Companies address the needs of an increasingly diverse workforce and global market.
- By adapting to different circumstances, leaders solve a variety of workplace challenges.
- Situational leadership simplifies management. After you evaluate a situation, you can apply an appropriate style that best fits your team members, work environment, and organizational needs.
- When you match your style to workplace dynamics, you accomplish your goals more efficiently.
No one leadership style fits every situation. The best style will be the one you match with particular circumstances and people. The most successful leaders seamlessly switch among different leadership styles.