In some of the continuing executive education classes I’ve taught where we did the Leader Effectiveness and Adaptability Description (L.E.A.D.) self-assessment questionnaire exercise developed by Paul Hershey and Kenneth Blanchard, I found out that many managers and executives are not familiar with the concept of Situational Leadership.
For those who did the exercise for the first time, it was definitely an eye opener for them to discover that their preferred or default leadership style may not always be the most appropriate in all situations. There is no one size that fits all in terms of leadership styles. It was also an eye opener that there is a model that one can use to assess the readiness of one’s team and team members and then adapt one’s leadership style.
In a nutshell, the Hersey-Blanchard Situational Leadership Theory states that instead of using just one style, successful leaders must change their leadership styles based on the task maturity of the team they are leading, and the realtionship and support the team needs to get the work done.
As tasks vary in complexity while the team’s ability to do the task also varies, managers can give more or less attention to the task vs. the realtionship and support to the team.
According to Hersey and Blanchard, there are four main leadership styles:
- Telling (S1) – Leaders tell their people exactly what to do, and how to do it.
- Selling (S2) – Leaders still provide information and direction, but there’s more communication with followers. Leaders “sell” their message to get the team on board.
- Participating (S3) – Leaders focus more on the relationship and less on direction. The leader works with the team, and shares decision-making responsibilities.
- Delegating (S4) – Leaders pass most of the responsibility onto the follower or group. The leaders still monitor progress, but they’re less involved in decisions.
Leadership Styles S1 and S2 focus on getting the task done, while Styles S3 and S4 focus on developing the team members’ abilities to work independently.
One interesting discovery I had is that Situational Leadership is also applicable to Executive Coaching. Read more about this in Part 2.
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