Situational Leadership

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Leadership is a practice of motivating and making others capable enough to accomplish shared dreams. Situational leadership is an approach to leadership that is based on the fact that there is no sole best leadership style. It includes identification of a particular situation, and accordingly the leadership style is altered. In fact, an efficient leader always adapts the style that fits the variables of a given situation, which includes the employees, work area and the other situational factors. Situational leadership style is a part of the situational leadership model.

This model provides a framework that a person can use to identify what kind of leadership style will be most effective to use.

Three stages of the Situational Leadership

The three stages of the situational leadership model involve:

Identifying the Priorities

The first stage of the model emphasizes on prioritizing the tasks. One must be capable enough to decide which task is to be kept at priority one. Moreover, at times a person may become uncertain about the completion of the task in a given period. Here arises a situation, when one must concentrate on performing the task rather than thinking negatively on whether it will be accomplished or not.

Diagnose the Level of Readiness of the Followers

The second step in the situational leadership model, defines assessing the readiness or checking that the person is competent enough to do the job. According to a given situation, a leader must be able to diagnose the capability of a person in order to get the job done.

Decide The Matching Leadership Style

This is the third level in the situational leadership model. It signifies, deciding which type of leadership style must be appropriate for the other person according to the level of his understanding. It is one of the most important step in the leadership as if the leadership style is not in matching with the situation, the whole of leadership can be affected.

In order to become a situational leader, one must find the task, access the person’s or the team’s ability and willingness to complete the desired task. Lastly, he must match the leadership behaviors to that individual’s performance requirements.

A good situational leader must possess efficient leadership skills that include:


Whatever ethical plane, a person holds himself to, when he is responsible for a team of people, it is necessary to raise the bar even higher. A leader’s business and its employees are the reflection of the leader. And, if he makes honest and ethical behaviour a key value, the team will follow the suit.

Ability To Delegate

Refining your brand vision is necessary to create an organized and effective business. But if a leader does not learns to trust the team with that vision, he might never progress to the next stage. Delegating tasks to the appropriate teams and groups is one of the most important skills of an effective leader. The key to delegation is, finding the strengths of the team and capitalizing on them.

Ability to Inspire

Creating a business, requires a bit of forecasting. An effective leader must make the team feel invested in the accomplishments of the company. Being able to inspire the team for focusing on the future goals is one of best leadership skills that a good situational leader must have.

Situational leadership calls for the superiors to consider the particular situation at hand and adapt their leadership styles to it. This style of leadership is proven the best, as the organizations that have managers practicing this kind of leadership tend to be more successful than the others are. However, at times some obstructions come in the way of leadership and give it a negative approach.

Factors effecting situational leadership

Enlisted are the factors that affect the situational leadership are 

Structure of the organization

The organizational structure is always a concern in the situational leadership process. It mainly depends on the size of the organization. If the organizational structure will be more rigid, the more will be the complexities faced by the employees of that organization. The size varies differently from organization to organization and the activities or operations in which the company is involved. The size of the organization demands certain type of leadership skills that help in providing the right direction. These include:

  • Leaders of small organizations : These can be the sales people, marketing manager and the production manager. The approach of these organization is more entrepreneurs.
  • Leaders of large organizations : Their main focus is on creating public image and future investment plans. 

Thus, the organizational structure can have a great impact on the situational leadership.

Task Structure

Every situational leader’s duty is to perform or get the task performed by the employees perfectly. Whether the job is highly structured, fairly unstructured or somewhere in between, it determines the task structure. And, accordingly the situational leadership is also affected as the task structure is the basis of the organization’s empowerment.


Stress in the environment or the intensity under which a leader or the team works, also plays a vital role in the leadership process and the situation itself. When a leader or an employee is under stress, the work can get affected and thereby the output will not be effective. This have a great impact on the situational leadership phenomenon.


The environment itself have an impact on the situation that prevails in an organization. The macro and micro factors of environment always keep changing. This makes it difficult for the situational leader to keep a close eye on the ongoing changes in the situation and make the decisions accordingly. Thus, environment is a great factor that affects the situational leadership.

Leader or Member Relations

This element of the leadership phenomenon is very much vital. It applies to the amount of loyalty, dependability and support that a leader receives as a feedback from his employees. The manager has a highly formed task structure and is able to reward or punish his employees without any problems. In an unfavorable relationship, the task is usually poorly formed and thus the leader possess limited authority. Thus, it hampers the growth of the organization and in a way the situational leadership also get affected.

Positioning Power

It measures the amount of power and the authority that a manger perceives, the company has given him to direct, reward or punish the subordinates. It depends on taking away or increasing the decision making power of the employees. The employees, may get aggressive at times also, because of this and this is why it impacts the situational leadership.

Patterns of Employment

Employment is done by the leader, viewing different aspects of the employee. There are variety of the patterns of employment, according to which a leader makes the decision of getting the employee into the organization. This affects the situational leadership in a way, that a situation may come where the employee may not cooperate with the leader, and henceforth he has to take a hard decision.

Social and Psychological Climate

Every organization has its own environment of working. It affects the situational leadership, as the leader may get affected due to the various elements of social and psychological environment. Some of these factors are confusion, anxiety, conflicts, mistrust, politics and multiple others.

Culture of the Organization

The organizational culture is the system of shared values and beliefs. It is held by the organizational members or the system of the shared value norms and the behaviors that are held by the top management. Thus, organizational culture will also have an impact on the decision making power of the leader and in turn will effect the situational leadership.

Thus, a leadership model that connects the effectiveness of a leader’s style to the present work environment is referred to as situational leadership. A thorough understanding of the situational leadership allows the supervisors to change their leadership style as conditions warrant. A leadership theory given by Ken Blanchard and Paul Hersey enlists four types of situational leadership styles based on the amount of direction and support provided to the followers.

Situational Leadership Styles

These situational leadership styles include:


In this style, a leader will explicitly instruct his juniors what to do and how to do a particular task. It fits in the situation where the followers lack competence, and thus need some guidance on how the things can be done. These kinds of people need some direction and supervision to get started. An efficient situational leader, tackles this particular situation by providing lots of directions like solving problems, making the decisions and telling particular instructions covering the what, why and how of the work completion.

The style is also useful in emergencies where the leader takes the control. The manager assigns the roles and tasks for each of the subordinate and then supervises them very closely. All the vital decisions are made by the leader himself and announced to the subordinates. This means of communication generally in one way, tells other people what to do.


It describes the roles and task for each of the follower and seeks ideas and suggestions from the subordinates. The supervisor makes the decisions predominantly but the communication style that is used is two-way communication. These people are good in selling their information and ideas. An appropriate example of this style of leadership style is generally found in an internship situation. With the success of this approach depending on the belief that whether the student or the learner is excited and self - inspired to be on the job.


A participating leader delivers along day-to-day decisions and divides the task load among his subordinates. They help in facilitating the discussions and take part in the decision making process. But the final control is in the hand of the followers only. Here the leaders can have their attention more on the relationships rather than direction. By doing it this way, the situational leadership supervisor works in close supervision with his employees and shares the decision-making responsibilities. The corporate individuals most probably use this style. They attempt to influence the board of directors to develop a new policy for which there has been no proven history or an established practice.


This kind of leadership approach is perfect when the subordinates show high willingness and ability. Leaders must rely on delegating when the subordinates can do the task and is totally self - motivated to do so. There is huge amount of trust build inside the leader that the follower will perform well with just little supervision and support. Delegating keeps the manager involved in the supervision and decision-making, but the execution part is in the hands of the followers only. Now, as the follower has most of the control, he is responsible for communicating the information back to the supervisor. At this level, the subordinates need very less supervision and appraisal, though occasional recognition is always supported.

These were the four basic situational leadership styles that a person needs to learn to become a successful situational leader. There are pros and cons of every leadership style.
The strength of situational leadership lies in the very fact that it is directive and very flexible in nature. It identifies and values the differences among the group members. Identifies the stronger areas of the person and work towards development of their weak areas.

Moreover, the circumstantial nature of the leadership style requires that the manager or the leader adapts to the behaviour according to the change in the situation. Hence, the leader can re-access the degree of direction and support the subordinates’ needs throughout the continuum from the goal inception to the goal attainment.

The shortcoming of the situational leadership style can be explained, as it requires incredible judgment that is based on the knowledge of the work and the human assessment. Not every person has the sight, character, perception, strength, tenacity, luck or constituent buy to lead every situation despite of their traits, skills and style.

Henceforth, situational leadership has its own strengths and weaknesses but despite the shortcomings, it can be a valuable tool if used appropriately.

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