The Situational Leadership Theory, is a leadership theory developed by Paul Hersey, professor and author of the book Situational Leader , and Ken Blanchard, leadership guru and author of The One Minute Manager , while working on the first edition of Management of Organizational Behavior (now in its 9th edition). The Theory was first introduced as “Life Cycle Theory of Leadership“. During the mid 1970s, “Life Cycle Theory of Leadership” was renamed “Situational Leadership theory”.
In the late 1970s/early 1980s, the authors both developed their own Models using the Situational Leadership theory; Hersey – Situational Leadership Model and Blanchard et al. Situational Leadership II Model.
The fundamental underpinning of the Situational Leadership Theory is there is no single “best” style of leadership. Effective leadership is task-relevant and that the most successful leaders are those that adapt their leadership style to the Maturity (“the capacity to set high but attainable goals, willingness and ability to take responsibility for the task, and relevant education and/or experience of an individual or a group for the task) of the individual or group they are attempting to lead/influence. That effective leadership varies, not only with the person or group that is being influenced, but it will also depend on the task, job or function that needs to be accomplished.
Hersey and Blanchard characterized leadership style in terms of the amount of Task Behavior and Relationship Behavior that the leader provides to their followers. They categorized all leadership styles into four behavior types, which they named S1 to S4:
S1: Telling – is characterized by one-way communication in which the leader defines the roles of the individual or group and provides the what, how, why,when, and where to do the task
- S2: Selling – while the leader is still providing the direction, he is now using two-way communication and providing the socioemotional support that will allow the individual or group being influenced to buy into the process.
- S3: Participating – this is now shared decision making about aspects of how the task is accomplished and the leader is providing less task behaviors while maintaining high relationship behavior.
- S4: Delegating – the leader is still involved in decisions; however, the process and responsibility has been passed to the individual or group. The leader stays involved to monitor progress.
Of these, no one style is considered optimal for all leaders to use all the time. Effective leaders need to be flexible, and must adapt themselves according to the situation.
The right leadership style will depend on the person or group being led – the follower. The Hersey-Blanchard Situational Leadership Theory identified four levels of Maturity M1 through M4:
- M1 – They generally lack the specific skills required for the job in hand and are unable and unwilling to do or to take responsibility for this job or task.
- M2 – They are still unable to take on responsibility for the task being done; however, they are willing to work at the task.
- M3 – They are experienced and able to do the task but lack the confidence to take on responsibility.
- M4 – They are experienced at the task, and comfortable with their own ability to do it well. They are able and willing to not only do the task, but to take responsibility for the task.
Maturity Levels are also task specific. A person might be generally skilled, confident and motivated in their job, but would still have a Maturity level M2 when asked to perform a task requiring skills they don’t possess.
Developing people and self-motivation
A good leader develops “the competence and commitment of their people so they’re self-motivated rather than dependent on others for direction and guidance.” (Hersey 91) According to Hersey’s “the situational book,” the leader’s high, realistic expectation causes high performance of followers; the leader’s low expectations lead low performance of followers. According to Ken Blanchard, “Four combination’s of competence and commitment make up what we call ‘development level.’”
D4:High competence and high commitment
D3:Moderate to high competence and variable commitment
D2:Some to low competence and low commitment
D1:Low competence and high commitment
In order to make an effective cycle, a leader needs to motivate followers properly. it helps