Situational Leadership
Keeping a Level Head in Chaos

Situational Leadership / Dealing With One Circumstance At a Time

The best action of the leader depends upon the prevailing situational factors.

When a quick decision is opted the effective leader never follows any single style. Instead, the leader tends to change leadership styles according to the change in any given situation. Researchers have put different theories to define leadership which is situational. Those are:
  • Hersey and Blanchard's Situational Leadership
    This leadership approach is based on the assumptions that each instance of leadership is different and they may have unique set of leaders, followers and situations that are appropriate for one another. We can understand these situations with the following diagram.
situational leadership


Leaders have to choose different styles according to the competency of their followers. The changes in style would be in accordance to the changes in situations.

The behavior of a leader in different situations would be in the 5 following ways:

1. Directing behavior
: For people who lack competence but are enthusiastic and committed. They need direction and supervision to get started.

2. Coaching behavior: For people who have some competence but lack commitment. They need direction and supervision because they are still relatively inexperienced. They also need support and praise to build their self-esteem, and involvement in decision-making to restore their commitment.

3. Supporting behavior: For people who have competence, but lack confidence of motivation. They do not need much direction because of their skills, but support is necessary to bolster their confidence and motivation.

4. Delegating behavior: For people who have both competence and commitment. They are able and willing to work on a project by themselves with little supervision or support.

5. Skill/Will matrix
: A smart leader is always sensitive to the willingness of their followers and he/she may assign the task according to the will and skill set of the followers.

Situational Leadership / Process

  • Takes overview of the task per employee
  • Assess the employee on each task
  • Makes a decision of leadership style per task
  • Takes a review of the situation with each employee
  • Charts out a plan with each employee
  • Follow ups, checking and making corrections whereever needed

Situational Leadership / Advantages of the model      

  • Easy to understand
  • Easy to implement

Situational Leadership / Disadvantages of the model  

  • No distinguishing line drawn between leadership and management.

  • This style does not mean to make decisions but is only for inspired action and change the directions.

  • Over-emphasizes what the person in charge does.

  • Different behavior in different situations is nothing but the trivial facts of life. Vroom and Yetton's Normative Model: Vroom and Yetton (1973) proposed a Situational leadership model called Normative model. This model advocates greatly the participation of employee in decision making at every stage - as participation increases the acceptance of decisions increases.

Vroom and Yetton defined five different decision procedures.
Two are autocratic (A1 and A2), Two are consultative (C1 and C2) and One is Group based (G2).

  • A1 method: In this method the leader takes known information and then decides alone.
  • A2 method: In this method the leader gets information from followers, and then decides alone.
  • C1 method: In this method the leader shares the problem with followers individually, listens to ideas and then decides alone.
  • C2 method: In this method the leader shares the problems with followers as a group, listens to ideas and then decides alone.
  • G2 method: In this method the leader shares problems with followers as a group and then seeks and accepts consensus agreement.

Situational Leadership / Situational factors that influence the method are relatively logical

  • A1 and A2 are not recommended when decision quality is important and followers possess useful information.
  • G2 is inappropriate when the leader sees decision quality as important but followers do not.
  • G2 is best when decision quality is important, when the problem is unstructured and the leader lacks information / skill to make the decision alone.
  • A1 and A2 are inappropriate when decision acceptance is important and followers are unlikely to accept an autocratic decision.
  • A1, A2 and C1 are not advisable when decision acceptance is important but followers are likely to disagree with one another, because they do not give opportunity for differences to be resolved.
  • G2 is the favorable method when decision quality is not important but decision acceptance is critical.
  • G2 is most applicable when decision quality is important, all agree with this, and the decision is not likely to result from an autocratic decision.

Situational Leadership /
House's Path-Goal Theory of Leadership

According to this theory leaders support their employee/followers to achieve the predefined goal by carving a clear and easy path. In this process the leader will:

  • Clarify the path properly.
  • Remove obstacles to attain goals.
  • Increase the rewards in due course to achieve the goal.

Situational Leadership / Four Styles of Leading Subordinates

  • The directive path-goal clarifying leader behavior.
    Refers to situations where the leader clearly defines their expectations from the followers and also instructs them how to perform their tasks. This theory argues that this behavior has the most positive effect when the subordinates' role and task demands are ambiguous and intrinsically satisfying.

  • The achievement-oriented leader behavior.
    Refers to situations where the leader sets challenging goals for followers, expects them to perform at their highest level, and shows confidence in their ability to meet this expectation. Fields in which the achievement motives found most predominant those are technical jobs, sales persons, scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs.

  • The participative leader behavior.
    Involves leaders consulting with followers and asking for their suggestions before making a decision. This behavior is predominant when subordinates are highly personally involved in their work.

  • The supportive leader behavior.
    Is directed towards the satisfaction of subordinates needs and preferences. The leader shows concern for the followers’ psychological well being. This behavior is especially needed in situations in which tasks or relationships are psychologically or physically distressing.

Vroom, V.H. and Yetton, P.W. (1973). Leadership and decision-making. Pittsburg: University of Pittsburg Press

House, R.J. and Mitchell, T.R. (1974). Path-goal theory of leadership. Contemporary Business, 3, Fall, 81-98

For more information on leadership and how you can learn from successful entrepreneurs follow these links:

Leadership Styles

Define Leadership

Leadership Qualities

Transformational Leadership

Leadership Theories

Read some Success Stories of Entrepreneurs. Prepare to be inspired.

To learn about the Definition of an Entrepreneur follow this link.

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