Situational leadership theory

Right person, right place at the right time


In essence, situational leadership theory emphasises 2 areas:

(1) "Different strokes for different folks" - different leadership styles are applicable to different situations

(2) "Cometh the hour cometh the man" - leadership extends potentially to just about everyone in an organisation - at some time

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Dr Paul Hersey, who is closely associated with the development of situational leadership theory, suggested in a fairly recent presentation that:

"... a situational leader is anyone, anywhere who recognises that influencing behaviour is not an event but a process. The process entails assessing followers' performance in relation to what the leader wants to accomplish and providing the appropriate amounts of guidance and support."

According to John Kotter "...today's organizations need heroes at every level. To truly succeed in a turbulent world, more than half the workforce needs to step up to the plate in some arena and provide change leadership."

To my mind, the idea that effective leaders change their leadership styles to fit the situation is an expansion of Robert Blake and Jane Mouton's "Managerial Grid" theory which suggest that the effective leader "moves appropriately" along the spectrum of task versus relationship orientation.




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4 communication components


According to a recent study [Baker, Brown], successful use of situational leadership relies on effectiveness in four communication components:

  • Communicating expectations
  • Listening
  • Delegating
  • Providing feedback




3 situational roles that impact leadership


In their study The Role of the Situation in Leadership Vroom, and Jago have identified three distinct roles in which the situation affects leadership:

(1) In situations outside of their control - the effect on leadership is often that they get blamed - the measure of the leader's effectiveness lies in how they control those elements such that they can protect subordinates.

(2) Situations shape how leaders behave - according to Vroom and Jago, situation accounts for about three times as much variance as does individual differences.

(3) Situations influence the consequences of a leaders behaviour - so the choice of leadership style one uses may bring about both positive or negative consequences depending on the given situation.

In each of these instances, the situational leadership theory allows leaders to make a choice which ultimately predicts their effectiveness.




See this short presentation by Dr Paul Hersey






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For more information see the Hersey and Blanchard Leadership Model

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practitioners masterclass,change management training,change managers,change management



practitioners masterclass,change management training,change managers,change management



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practitioners masterclass,change management training,change managers,change management


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