The situational theory of leadership refers to those leaders who adopt different leadership styles according to the situation and the development level of their team members. It is an effective way of leadership because it adapts to the team’s needs and sets a beneficial balance for the whole organization.
The best known situational leadership model in the field of psychology and HR is the one established by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard. These two experts established two basic levels of leadership behavior:
- Management: The managerial behavior of the leader is focused on the definition of tasks. The what, when and how to perform them is established.
- Support: The supportive behavior is focused on team development, with emphasis on the participation of all its members. It provides cohesion and motivates people.
As the leader moves among these behaviors, we can talk about four leadership levels:
1. The Leader Tells
The main function demanded for a leader is to lead and make decisions. In order to do so successfully, while encouraging and motivating our team, it is essential that the instructions you give to your colleagues are clear and concise.
The leader must ensure that, from the outset, their team members know what they have to do. Only then will they be able to take small steps and achieve success after success, to ensure and maintain the motivation of the whole group.
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2. The Leader Sells
At this second level, the leader offers constant supervision to their team, providing constant feedback. It is also during this stage that the leader asks its coworkers for information to gather suggestions, improvements and new ideas that may contribute to the project.
The final decision is up to the leader, but thanks to those questions, he involves the whole team teaching them to think and discern.
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3. The Leader Advises
Leaders must facilitate and encourage teammates. This is the only way to ensure getting the best out of them, since they have received guidance and motivation towards the same objective.
When this stage is reached, leadership provides opportunities for the team to discuss and exchange views as well as different perspectives, thus enriching the collaborative process.
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4. The Leader Delegates
It is essential that leaders want and know how to delegate tasks to their team. At this level of situational leadership, individuals are mature; they know how to behave, what their role is, and what is expected of them, because their leader has been able to explain everything clearly.
For this reason, the leader is able to delegate responsibilities to colleagues and respect their way of carrying out the tasks entrusted to them and the decisions they make.
What can we learn from the teachings of Hersey and Blanchard and the situational leadership theory? A valuable lesson: leaders must not be static. To lead successfully, in any aspect of life, leaders must learn to adapt to the circumstances, and even more, to the people we live and work with every day.
And you, do you apply situational leadership?