This article is part of The Ascender, the Highrise platform for articles and resources.

What are some Examples of Situational Leadership?

Andrew Langat
February 23, 2023
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In the past a leader was a boss. Today’s leaders can no longer lead solely based on positional power.”.-Ken Blanchard.

Is there a perfect leadership style? Are there the best management styles?

Probably Not.

Different leadership styles work best for different scenerios. Some swear by democratic leadership, while some say that the servant leadership style is, perhaps, the closest thing to true leadership.

We can however, agree that leadership needs to have a purpose. In the office setting, this can mean organizing employees to realize business objectives such as sales targets or superior customer experience.

In leadership, you might have found yourself adapting your leadership to suite various scenarios this may entail: explaining more, accessing your team's ability, close supervision, or delegating more. Knowingly, or unknowingly, you were doing what is known as situational leadership.

Situational leadership examples are everywhere and when implemented, greatly improve a leader's ability to get the best out of their team.

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What is Situational Leadership?

Situational leadership is the ability of the leader to switch styles to adapt to the situation at hand.This leadership style is premised on its flexible and adaptable style that meets individual needs and situations.

Situational leadership theory

Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard first suggested situational leadership theory in 1969 in their book Management of Organizational Behavior. It was first called the “Life Cycle Theory of Leadership" before adapting to the modern name.

Ken Blanchard is perhaps well known as the co-author of the The One Minute Manager, one of the most popular management books ever published.

Blanchard and Hersey's main argument in the situational leadership model is that in leadership, there is no single factor that decides the correct type of leadership in any given situation.

This means that situational leadership is an adaptive leadership style that adapts to a constantly changing working environment and the needs of an organization. Moreover, it is based on the level of readiness of the followers and the leadership style of the leader.

The Situational Leadership theory is widely used in organizational development and management training. It can be a useful tool for leaders who need to adjust their leadership style to different situations and followers.

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What are some examples of when a situational leadership style might best be used?

The following are some examples of situational approaches in leadership in practice:

Example One: restaurant manager

It is super bowl Sunday, and a restaurant used to low foot traffic suddenly experiences a surge in customer numbers eager to watch the annual event in a social setting. A restuarant manager faced with the new dynamics opts for situational leadership to guide the various competency among staff.

For efficiency and to ensure that all customer orders are delivered on time, possibly creating an impression for future business. The manager implements a telling leadership style for inexperienced waiters and a delegative style for experienced staff and carefully watches to ensure everyone plays their role.

Example Two: During Employee training

When new team member is recruited, they may need in-job training to refine their skillsets.

In this situation, a leader might use a directing style, providing clear instructions and closely supervising the new employee's work.

As the team member becomes more comfortable with their role, the leader might switch to a coaching style, providing guidance and support to help them develop their skills.

Example three: A College Coach

A college coach constantly has to balance their sports teams annually because unlike a professionally run team, a college team is a revolving door with rookies coming in and more experienced players leaving college or joining professional teams.

As a situational leader, the coach has to to use telling, persuasion and delegating styles of leadership to make the team gel.

Moreover, as the head coach, knowing how to adapt to various situational leadership styles makes it easy to deal with fans, management and unique player characteristics.

Example Four: Crisis Management

In a crisis, such as when a natural disaster like an earthquake strikes, an emergency response team leader may need to use a Directing management style to provide clear instructions and closely supervise their team as the first responders.

As the crisis evolves, and the situation is brought under control, the leader may switch to a supporting or delegating style, depending on the readiness level of their team members.

Example Five: In Project management

A team is usually composed of members with varied skillsets, emotional intelligence,and committment levels.

To get the best our of the team and to effectively delegate tasks, an effective situational leader might use a supporting style for team members who are experienced and motivated, while using a directing style for new team members.

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What are the four styles of situational leadership?

The situational leadership model comprises four core elements of leadership styles: Telling, selling, participating, and delegating.

Telling leadership style(S1)

This style of leadership mirrors the Autocratic leadership style. The leader tells his employees what to do, in addition to how to do it. It works best when team members show low competence, low commitment, low initiative, or cannot work without constant supervision.

This leadership approach is critical when the task at hand is critical, and failure to deliver can lead to dire consequences.

How leaders can practice telling

  • Clearly explain the project scope. Starting from A to Z
  • Don't move to the next step until everything is clearly understood.
  • Be friendly, but not familiar. Team members should clearly understand the source of authority.
  • Make conversation one-direction, but give room for questions

Selling leadership style(S2)

This style of leadership mirrors the democratic leadership style. The leader sells their vision to their employees to get their cooperation. Usually, these employess have high commitment, but low ability, so the leader offers more direction.

To get them in-line, the leader offers socioemotional support so that employees can buy into the vision.

How leaders can practice selling

  • Emphasize what needs to be done, and by whom
  • Give room for team members to ask questions
  • When instructions are followed, compliment where necessary
  • Remember that you are the ultimate decision maker

Participating leadership style(S3)

In this leadership style, the leader gives more leeway to their team members in the decision making process. It is more of a low task focus, and high relationship focus.

Communication is now a two-way process as followers have demostrated competency in allocated tasks.

How leaders can practice participating

  • Let team members offer suggestions
  • practice self-awareness to improve the relationship
  • Note where team members excel
  • Create an environment that offers psychological safety
  • Avoid the temptation to give too much responsibility

Delegating leadership style(S4)

In this leadership style, the followers decide when and how the leader will be involved. This mirrors the laissez-faire leadership style. This style works best when team members can do the job and are motivated to do it. That said, the leader needs to keep a relatively distant eye on things to ensure everything is going to plan

Of the above, telling and selling are focused on getting the work done, while participating in a delegating leadership style focuses on improving team members' autonomy.

How leaders can Practice Delegation

  • practice letting-go
  • In a team, delegating to match team members' strenghts
  • Clearly define your expectations
  • Trust and routinely verify
  • For consistency, invest in personnel development, such as

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Maturity Levels

Blanchard and Hersey further argue that for each leadership style to be effective, employees must have a certain maturity level. These maturity levels are divided into four levels:

Maturity level 1:

Employees at this level lack the knowledge, skills, or confidence to work independently. They often need constant supervision to work effectively.

Maturity level 2:

Employees might be willing to work on a given task, but they lack the requisite knowledge for optimum performance.

Maturity level 3:

Here, employees are ready to work on a given task, but their confidence level has not matured to facilitate complete autonomy.

Maturity level 4:

These employess show strong skills, maturity levels, and strong skill sets. They are in a position to work independently on delegated tasks.

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Differences between Situational Leadership and other leadership styles

Situational Leadership differs from other leadership styles in the following ways:

1. Flexibility:

One of the significant differences between situational leadership and other leadership styles, such as democractic or autocratic, is flexibility. Situational leadership gives room for a leader to adjust leadership based on the needs of team members.

For example, a leader can study group dynamics and weigh on the best approach to elicit performance. If the team lacks motivation, he can devise appropriate leadership skills that promote employee motivation.

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2. Development level focus

Situational leaders prioritize the development level of their followers. When they first identify the most important tasks or priorities and then secondly diagonalize the followers' readiness, they will create plans for the appropriate development plans for the employee before finally applying the right management style to elicit the best response.

For example, if a new sales associate has difficulties converting sales, but shows readiness for the task, the leader can provide constant supervision and supervision until the employee's competence improves.

3. Adaptability

The cornerstone of Situational Leadership is an adaptation to different situations. Leaders must constantly apply situational leadership to match an employee's maturity level.

This differs from other leadership styles, such as transactional leadership style, that is premised on rewards and punishment.

For example, a leader may apply various leadership styles to match an employee's skill level. When dealing with highly skilled or motivated employees, a democratic leadership style will deliver the best results.

What are the qualities of a situational leader?

A situational leader can work well and lead a team when:

  • They chart the right direction toward a goal
  • They show ambition, robustness, intelligence, a desire to lead, and self-confidence.
  • They show proper knowledge of their task,
  • They can patiently maintain situational stress and resolve conflicts
  • They can analyze the situation and mold themselves to suit the situation

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What are the Advantages of Situational leadership?

Situational leadership comes with the following advantages.

  • Is a multidirectional model that can be used for influencing across the organization.
  • It is very easy to understand and comprehend.
  • It creates a common theme of performance across an organization.
  • It Accelerates the pace and quality of employee development.
  • It is a repeatable process that can be leveraged to improve the performance of others, including new employees or employees' maturity levels.
  • It is a great tool for addressing situations where employees are performing or regressing.
  • By understanding the level of readiness of their followers, and adapting their leadership style to meet their needs, situational leadership leads to more leadership effectiveness.

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What are the disadvantages of situational leadership?

Some potential disadvantages of the situational leadership model include:

  1. Complexity: The situational approach can be complex, with multiple variables that need to align, such as the readiness level of followers, the leadership style of the leader, the right coaching skills, and the the situation at hand that can constantly evolve.
  2. Absence of clarity: The Situational Leadership model can lack clarity. For example, it may not be easy to determine the clarity of followers with certainty.
  3. Overreliance on the leader: The is a great reliance on the situational leader for this model to work. The consequence is that followers may become too reliant on the leader, rather than modeling their own competency.
  4. Potential for inconsistency: The Situational Leadership theory suggests that leaders should adapt their style to meet the changing needs of their followers. However, this can create inconsistencies, potentially creating conflict especially when dealing with difficult workers.
  5. Absence of empirical evidence: there is little evidence to support its effectiveness. Moreover,few research studies have been conducted to justify the assumptions and propositions set forth by the approach. This can make it difficult for leaders to evaluate the impact of their leadership style on their followers and the organization.
Inspiring, isn’t it ? Want to learn more about connecting self-awareness to professional development? Get in touch today.

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More Clarity with Highrise

Leaders who can adapt their leadership style to the needs of their followers and the situation can create a more productive and effective work environment leading to cohesive teams.

Highrise coaching is a unique coaching program that combines the latest insights from neuroscience, psychology, and leadership theory to help ambitious individuals develop their leadership skills.

One of the key areas that Highrise coaching focuses on is situational leadership. By understanding the level of readiness of their followers and adapting their leadership style to meet their needs, leaders can create a more productive and effective work environment.

Highrise coaching can help individuals develop their situational leadership skills, providing them with the tools and techniques they need to be successful in any leadership situation.

In addition to situational leadership, Highrise coaching covers a range of other essential leadership skills, including emotional intelligence, communication, and conflict resolution.

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Andrew Langat
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Andrew Langat is an experienced content specialist in Leadership, Productivity, Education, Fintech, and Research. He is an avid reader and loves swimming as a hobby. He believes that quality content should be actionable and helpful.