What is Situational Leadership?

What is Situational Leadership?


The Situational Leadership Model was developed about 40 years ago by Paul Hersey, professor and author of the book The Situational Leader, and Ken Blanchard, leadership trainer and author of The One Minute Manager, while working on the first edition of Management of Organizational Behavior.

I think they nailed the first step to being a great leader.  It all boils down to understanding your inherent leadership style and then figuring out how you can learn to use those other styles which you are not so comfortable with.

The four basic styles identified by their research are directing or telling people what to do, coaching or selling people on what you want them to do, participating or facilitating people in what you want them to do and delegating to people what you want them to do.

Most of us are comfortable only with one or two of these styles.  In line with the DISC profile, a popular management assessment tool, those of us who are high in the direct behaviors tend to be comfortable with telling people what to do.  On the other hand, those of us who are high in the more indirect behaviors tend to be more comfortable participating with people on the work we want to do.

However, the right leadership style depends on the commitment and competency of the employee we are leading.  The dilemma we all face is that all four of the basic leadership styles that Hersey and Blanchard identified are needed to be effective in all the leadership situations we face.

Only 1% of the management population are competent in all four basic leadership styles.  For the rest of us, true excellence in leadership will only be reached when we recognize our leadership style weaknesses and start to develop our skills in all of them.

The good news is that with training and commitment we can become proficient in all four – and be on our way to becoming a truly effective leader.

By Dave Cleveland

Business Owner Briefings (“BOB”) is a coaching blog for business leaders and owners. Advice provided in BOB comes from our experience in helping hundreds of business owners become more effective leaders, improve the performance of their companies, and monetize maximum value when they recapitalize or sell their company.