Situational Leadership: How It Fosters Flexibility and Team Growth

leadership Jan 28, 2021
If there is one person inside of any organization, that always works hard to inspire growth; it would be "The Leader". The leader's actions affect how their team tackle tasks, as well as drive success for certain goals and objectives. But, because of circumstances or changing events that can happen in the organization, it often causes a ripple in a team's progress. Thus, it is an important ability for a leader to look at situations from different perspectives. He/She can assess the situations and behaviors of the team members in play, and have ready access to different ways of thinking or approach, enabling a shift as things change.
Moreover, a leader handles the learning, development, and daily oversight of each individual in his/her team. This means taking ownership and making a commitment to coach, mentor, and see to the success of their team.
As one the of things John Maxwell points out, "Great leaders value people equally and treat people equitably." It means that everyone is valued (considered important) and seen as having value (holds something important). A leader should set up everyone according to his or her skill, talent, role, and potential to foster success.
Moreso, it will be vital for a leader to have a leadership style dictated by the nuances of each situation that can be encountered by his/her team.

What is Situational Leadership?

Situational leadership is a leadership theory developed by Dr. Paul Hersey and Kenneth Blanchard. It suggests that no single leadership style is best. Instead, it depends on which type of leadership and strategies are best-suited to a task.
Also, the theory points out that the most effective leaders are those that are able to adapt their style to diverse situations and look at cues such as the type of task, the nature of the group, and other factors that might contribute to getting the job done.
For example, a team member functions better under a leader who is more autocratic and directive. While others are more productive if a leader can step back and trust the team to carry out plans without the leader’s direct involvement.

How does it work?

The situational leadership theory focuses not only on the leader but also on the follower (a team member). It allows a leader to use one of four leadership styles that provide the highest probability of success in every 'situation' that may happen. Also, it suggests the need to match two key elements appropriately: the leader’s leadership style and the followers’ maturity or preparedness levels.
Below are its leadership styles:

Style 1– Directing

It is characterized by the leader using high directive behavior and low supportive behavior. The leader makes decisions surrounding the timely completion of the task and provides the follower with specific guidance using his/her experience. In this style, the flow of communication is one way — leader to follower, where the responsibilities and objectives are directly communicated.
Furthermore, this leadership style is a short-term approach intended to create movement. This works well for followers who have limited experience or skill performing a task, even for those who are insecure or unmotivated to try. It will need a leader's close supervision to explain the tasks and make sure the follower is on the right track, both skills and speed.
This approach is also recommended in case of a crisis and when repetitive results are expected.

Style 2 – Coaching

This leadership style describes an approach that high on both directive and supportive behavior. Here, the leader still maintains decision rights about what the follower needs to do, how they should be doing it, and when it needs to be completed, but also guides the follower throughout the process.
Also, the flow of communication changes from one-way to two-way, with the learner providing suggestions and opinions, and the leader taking them seriously. Through this, a leader can actively recognize the enthusiasm, interest, and commitment of the follower for learning and gaining task-related experience.
Plus, this style of leadership aligns followers, who have adequate experience or knowledge, to perform tasks and show both confidence and motivation toward their process of skill development.

Style 3 – Supporting

It is a leadership style that is different from the previous leadership styles that are “leader driven”, as this style is “follower driven”. It depicts low directive behavior and high supportive behavior. Also, the communication flow stays two way.
Here, the follower has a high level of ability to perform the task and a variable commitment. Meaning, a follower is highly skilled but lacks either the confidence or the motivation/commitment to do the task. Thus, the aim of this leadership style is to create alignment by getting out of the way and only offer direction when the follower asks for it.
At this part also, the follower is at the peak learning point that needs freedom and trust, not someone who doubts their competence. The follower will show growth while developing and showing skill proficiency in the task, despite having some fear about performing on their own.
The leader can still supervise a few areas to avoid potential risks, such as when the follower is regressing, and foster encouragement to let the follower continue to overcome challenges and generate a viable solution.

Style 4 – Delegating

This delegating leadership style is another “follower-driven” characterized by its low directive behavior and low supportive behavior. The flow of communication shifts back to one-way (from the follower to the leader) and is usually initiated by questions from the leader that feature significant degrees of freedom.
Here, a leader can see the follower's capability to take responsibility, make good decisions, consistently perform tasks at an acceptable level, and is both confident and motivated to do the tasks.
As a leader needs to delegate with trust and offer the least guidance (only when it’s asked for), this style of leadership creates/enhances task mastery and autonomy. A leader can step in if some decisions need more insights and more experience, but that should not happen without the follower understanding why.
Furthermore, the follower that have significant or above expectation experience in performing a task, is aligned with a level of intrinsic motivation that drives their ongoing commitment to excellence.

What are the other benefits?

The situational leadership theory and its model work to ensure not only business success but team growth as well. Here other things that it can help:
  1. As it is a more flexible leadership approach, it encourages successful collaboration, adaptability, guidance, and emotional support for the team members;
  2. It assesses the maturity levels of the team, and boost employee motivation, and enhances their work productivity; and
  3. Situational Leadership can enable rapid change from unpredictable or worse circumstances, decipher situational complexity, and beat undefined situations (i.e. undecided project deadlines).


Leaders are role models who influence the culture, values, thoughts, and actions of the organization and its people. Either the middle or top managerial level, where leaders work closely with people at a higher level, leaders are responsible to many people as their actions have an impact on the motivational levels in the organization. The situational leadership model encourages leaders (i.e. Managers, Directors, CEO, and etc.) to flexibly use their leadership style based on the situation while influencing the performance and productivity at the workplace. Thus achieving effective results.


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