The Hersey and Blanchard Leadership Model takes a situational perspective of leadership.
This view suggests that the appropriate leadership style is determined by the level of development or maturity of the followers.
Their theory is based on the amount of task oriented direction and relationship / personal support oriented direction a leader needs to provide given the requirements of the situation and the level of development or maturity of the followers.
Task oriented behaviour is the extent to which the leader engages in spelling out the duties and responsibilities to an individual or group. This behaviour includes telling people what to do, how to do it, when to do it, where to do it, and who's to do it. In task behaviour the leader engages in one-way communication.
Relationship oriented behaviour is the extent to which the leader engages in two-way or multi-way communications. This includes listening, facilitating, and supportive behaviours.
Maturity is the preparedness and ability of a person to take responsibility for directing his or her own behaviour. The level of maturity displayed will depend on the nature of the specific task, function, or objective that a leader is attempting to accomplish through their efforts.
Determining the appropriate leadership style
The appropriate leadership style to use in a given situation is determined by the leader's assessment of the maturity level of the followers in relation to the specific task that the leader is attempting to accomplish through their efforts.
As the level of followers' maturity increases, the leader should begin to reduce his or her task behaviour and increase relationship behaviour until the followers reach a moderate level of maturity.
As the followers begin to move into an above average level of maturity, the leader should decrease not only task behaviour but also relationship behaviour. Once the maturity level is identified, the appropriate leadership style can be determined.
Leadership styles matching evolving levels of followers' maturity
Four distinct leadership styles are identified in the Hersey and Blanchard Leadership Model - each reflecting the evolving levels of maturity of the followers:
(1) Directing - the leader provides clear instructions and specific direction.
(2) Coaching - the leader encourages two-way communication and helps build confidence and motivation on the part of the employee, although the leader still has responsibility and controls decision making.
(3) Supporting - the leader and followers share decision making and no longer need or expect the relationship to be directive.
(4) Delegating - the leader uses this style when his / her followers are ready to accomplish a particular task and are both competent and motivated to take full responsibility.