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Situational Leadership: An Introduction


Every day is different. People are unique. Business cycles vary. How you show up to any given situation matters a lot. The way you engage, communicate, make decisions, and interact will all impact the way your team respond.

Situational Leadership: Adapting Your Style for Team Success

Effective leadership is far from a one-size-fits-all solution. It requires adaptability, keen perception, and an understanding of the varied needs and dynamics of a team. This is where the concept of situational leadership, introduced by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard, comes into play. This leadership model suggests that successful leaders adapt their style based on the needs of their team and the circumstances they face.

Understanding Situational Leadership

Situational leadership is a flexible approach that shifts depending on the competence and commitment of the leader’s followers. It proposes four main leadership styles – directing, coaching, supporting, and delegating – and leaders oscillate between them depending on the situation.

As Blanchard explains in his book, “Leadership and the One Minute Manager: Increasing Effectiveness Through Situational Leadership”, the key is to diagnose the development level of the person or the team and then use the appropriate leadership style that will help move them up to the next stage of development.


This style is often used when a team member is new and still learning the ropes. Leaders provide specific instructions and closely monitor the performance of their team members.


Here, the leader continues to direct and closely monitor task accomplishment but also explains decisions, seeks ideas, and facilitates skill development.


The leader takes a step back, allowing the team members to take responsibility for day-to-day tasks. The leader facilitates and supports the team members’ efforts towards task accomplishment.


In this style, leaders pass the responsibility for decision-making and problem-solving to their team members. This approach is used when the team members are highly competent and committed, and the leader trusts them to handle tasks independently.

Adapting Leadership Styles

The best leaders recognize that they need to adapt their leadership style based on the maturity and competence level of their team. As per TeamGantt’s “Situational Leadership: Adjusting Your Leadership Style for a Virtual Team”, successful leadership depends on identifying which leadership style is most appropriate based on the team’s readiness and the specifics of the task at hand.

For instance, a new hire might need a directing style, with explicit instructions and regular follow-ups. On the other hand, a seasoned team member working on a familiar project might only require a delegating approach, offering them autonomy and trusting their judgement.

This adjustment of leadership styles is not an easy task. It demands emotional intelligence and empathy to understand and anticipate a team member’s needs.

The Importance of Situational Leadership in Today’s Workplace

In the era of digital transformation and remote work, situational leadership is more important than ever. The diversity in skills, experiences, and backgrounds in today’s global teams means that a static leadership style is unlikely to yield positive results.

Moreover, situational leadership fosters an environment of trust and empowerment. It communicates to your team that you recognize their abilities and are willing to adapt your style to support their success. This fosters increased engagement, productivity, and job satisfaction, ultimately driving team success.

The Challenges of Implementing Situational Leadership

While situational leadership offers many advantages, it’s not without its challenges. Adapting your leadership style requires a deep understanding of each team member’s individual needs, strengths, and areas for growth. It can be time-consuming and may initially take you out of your comfort zone.

However, as emphasised in the “The Situational Leadership Theory: A Startling Revelation About Leading People” podcast, the initial effort pays off in the long run. It leads to a more engaged and productive team and a more effective and respected

Book: “Leadership and the One Minute Manager: Increasing Effectiveness Through Situational Leadership” by Ken Blanchard

Article: “Situational Leadership: Adjusting Your Leadership Style for a Virtual Team” by TeamGantt

Video: “Adapting Your Leadership Style” by Blanchard LeaderChat

Podcast: “The Situational Leadership Theory: A Startling Revelation About Leading People” by Leadership Podcast

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