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This overview of Situational Leadership Theory was prepared by Christopher Grady while a Accounting major in the College of Business at Southeastern Louisiana University.
Exploring people’s behavior when they try to work together to accomplish a goal gives excellent insight into the role of a leader. How well a leader understands himself and those he wishes to lead can differentiate an effective leader from an impotent one. Leadership skills are especially valuable to those in charge large groups of people, especially in business. A theory, Situational Leadership Theory, was developed specifically to define and illustrate this practice. The theory examines the role of the follower and his capability and willingness to accomplish a task.
The Idea in a Nutshell
Situational leadership is a theory that looks at a group of people at different degrees of maturity and how each degree should be approached and handled from a position of leadership. It illustrates how involved the leader will have to be depending on the follower’s stage of ability and willingness. The theory was developed by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard during the mid 1970’s. They recognized that there was a connection in task behavior and relationship behavior, then determined that there were four distinct leadership styles. The styles include: Telling, Selling, Participating, and Delegating. When determining which leadership style to apply, you will have to look at the distinct level of maturity that will be appropriate for a specific follower. When examining a well rounded manager, consideration of the manager’s ability to analyze the situation and apply various leadership styles to shifting environmental position will determine the specific leadership style being applied.
The Top Ten Things You Need to Know About Situational Leadership Theory
1. Situational Leadership Theory brings attention to the role of the follower. A leader’s success is dependent on the willingness of the follower to affirm or abandon the leader. A leader is only as effective as the followers behind him, thus making a focus on the follower a true mark of a good leader.
2. The second dimension of the Situational Leadership Theory is the ability and willingness of the followers to perform a task. Exploring and defining the follower’s maturity is paramount in the decision of how to lead the followers toward a particular goal.
3. The Telling style is a high task-low relationship in which the leader explains the roles and assignments for each follower. There is a one way communication between leader and follower whereas the leader informs the follower of what task needs to be performed.
4. The Selling style is a high task-high relationship that deals with the leader still explaining the roles and assignments but asking for the follower’s insight. This uses a two-way communication, giving reinforcement so the follower will adopt the leader’s idea.
5. The Participating style is a low task-high relationship, in which the decision making process is shared. The leader takes part in the decision, but leaves it to the followers to make the choice on how the task will be performed.
6. In the Delegating style, the leader has a low task-low relationship with the follower. The follower makes the decisions and chooses the way in which he or she believes will create the best results. The leader is involved with the decisions, but mainly oversees the process.
7. The first Maturity level is a person that is unable and unwilling, meaning the individual might not have the skills to perform the task or the courage to take charge of the project. To get the response that the leader wants the Telling style would work best in this situation.
8. In the second Maturity level, the person is unable but willing. The person is not skilled to take on the task, but has a good work ethic and will attempt to take on the work anyway. A Selling style would be appropriate when attempting to convince the follower to gain the skill needed to complete the task.
9. Maturity level three will consist of people that are able but unwilling to do the task by themselves. The person has the experience and skills to complete the task, but lacks the confidence. The Participating style should be applied here by the leader. The leader needs to help motivate the follower to complete the task.
10. The most advanced Maturity level is a person who is able and willing. The person is experienced and highly skilled. The individual will be confident in completing the task. This type of person adapts to change. The Delegating style is used when the leader only needs to oversee the situation.
The Video Lounge
This video is of Dr. Paul Hersey speaking of how and why he came up with his theory. He focuses on how relevant this theory is in today’s marketplace with leaders being found at a variety of levels.
This clip is of Aubrey Warren discussing his use of Situational Leadership Theory in his leadership program. He draws attention to the benefits of this leadership style.
The Situational Leadership Theory is very easy to apply to all types of leadership challenges. The theory is adaptable and simple to use. This theory’s greatest strength being available to anyone with basic training and can be used immediately. The basic skill is identifying and diagnosing a follower’s capabilities, then applying the appropriate level of leader involvement. The obvious benefit is the flexibility to change as the staff changes. The theory is highly practical, and can be used at high level leadership, lower level leadership, and even parental leadership. The theory’s flexibility makes it even more relevant today due to the absolute certainty of change.
Situational Leadership. (06-27-2010). Retrieved from [http://www.money-zine.com/Career-Development/Leadership-Skill/Situational-Leadership/]. (06-27-2010).
Situational Leadership theory. (06-25-2010). Wikipedia. Retrieved from [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Situational_leadership_theory]. (06-27-2010).
What is the Situational Leadership Theory?. (05-28-2010). Retrieved from [http://businessmate.org/Article.php?ArtikeID=191]. (06-27-2010).
To contact the author of “Top Ten Management on Situational Leadership Theory,” please email Christopher Grady at Christopher.Grady@selu.edu.
David C. Wyld (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the Robert Maurin Professor of Management at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, Louisiana. He is a management consultant, researcher/writer, and executive educator. His blog, Wyld About Business, can be viewed at http://wyld-business.blogspot.com/. He also serves as the Director of the Reverse Auction Research Center (http://reverseauctionresearch.blogspot.com/), a hub of research and news in the expanding world of competitive bidding. Dr. Wyld also maintains compilations of his student’s publications regarding management concepts (http://toptenmanagement.blogspot.com/), book reviews (http://wyld-about-books.blogspot.com/) and international foods (http://wyld-about-food.blogspot.com/).
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Top Ten Management on Situational Leadership Theory: An Overview of How to Match The Right Leader to The Right Group of Followers