Here’s how situational leaders spend more time watching sunsets than watching their people

 Dec 03, 2014

Situational leadership is a leadership model developed by Hersey and Blanchard. A situational leader is one who can adopt different leadership styles depending on the task readiness of the team member. The Situational Leadership model addresses four types of situations:
  • Situation 1: Directing – ‘I’ll decide.’
  • Situation 2: Coaching – ‘We’ll talk, I’ll decide.’
  • Situation 3: Supporting – ‘We’ll talk. We’ll decide.’
  • Situation 4: Delegating – ‘You decide. I’ll be available.’

Here’s how situational leaders spend more time watching sunsets than watching their people

Situation 1: Directing The goal of the situational leader in the directing stage is to motivate the team member to rise to the next level of their ability.
  • Team member: low competence, low commitment, not confident/unable and unwilling or insecure.
  • Situational leader: high task focus, low relationship focus, key behaviour: telling.
When the team member cannot do the job and is unwilling or afraid to try, then the leader takes a highly directive role, telling them what to do but without a great deal of concern for the relationship. The leader may provide a working structure, both for the job and in terms of how the team member is controlled. If the leader tries to focus on the relationship, the team member may become confused about what must be done to what standard and what is optional. The leader therefore, maintains a clear ‘do this’ position to ensure the team member understands all of the required actions. The leader must be encouraging and motivational, offering praise for positive results and correction for less than positive results. Situation 2: Coaching The goal of the situational leader in the coaching stage is to fully engage the team member so they can develop to the next level.
  • Team member: some competence, variable commitment, unable but willing.
  • Situational leader: high task focus, high relationship focus, key behaviour: explaining.
When the team member can do the job, or at least to some extent, and perhaps is over-confident about their ability in this, using the 'directing' style of telling them what to do may de-motivate them or lead to resistance. The leader must still focus highly on tasks and this still requires much of the leader’s time, but the focus now also includes developing a relationship with the employee, building upon the trust that has begun to develop and the encouragement that has been demonstrated. The leader must spend time listening and advising, and where appropriate, helping the team member to gain necessary skills through coaching methods. Note: directing and coaching are both leader-driven. Situation 3: Supporting The goal for the situational leader in the supporting stage is to motivate the team member to a higher level of commitment and willingness.
  • Team member: high competence, variable commitment, able but unwilling.
  • Situational Leader: low task focus, high relationship focus, key behaviours include supporting and encouraging.
When the team member can do the job, but is refusing to do it or otherwise showing insufficient commitment, the leader need not worry about showing them what to do, and instead is concerned with finding out why the team member is refusing and then persuading them to cooperate. There is less excuse here for team members to be silent about their ability; the key is very much around the motivation level of the team member. If the causes are found then they can be addressed by the leader. The leader therefore spends time listening, praising and making the team member feel good when they show the necessary commitment. Situation 4: Delegating The goal of the situational leader in the delegating stage is to let the team member decide because they are able, willing and confident.
  • Team member: high competence, high commitment, able and willing.
  • Situational Leader: low task focus, low relationship focus, key behaviour: delegating.
When the team member can do the job and is motivated to do it, then the leader can leave them to it. Largely trusting them to get on with the job although they also may need to keep a relatively distant eye on things to ensure everything is going to plan. Team members at this level have less need for support or frequent praise, although as with anyone, occasional recognition is always welcome. To conclude, how do you know which of the four leadership styles to use and when? Kris Cole believes…
The task-readiness level of each team member for each task provides the answer. Hersey and Blanchard suggest that a leader’s style should vary according to each team member’s task-readiness level. Two things make up a team member’s task-readiness level. The first is their competence, or ability to do a particular task. Competence is a combination of skills, knowledge and experience in doing a particular task. The second is their willingness to take responsibility for doing the task. This is a combination of motivation and self-confidence. Please remember the concept of task-readiness level can relate to one task only, not to people’s overall competence for their job as a whole. This means that a team member’s task readiness level can be high on some tasks (Situation 4) and low on others (Situation 1). Therefore the Situational Leader will use different situational leadership styles with the team member for different tasks.
So there you have it, a leadership model where the ultimate goal is to develop all of your team members to the delegating level so that you and your family can spend more time watching more sunsets together. This also means your team members can become all that they can become because they are led by a situational leader. To learn more about how to become a situational leader and other areas of leadership, take a look at New Horizons' Management and Leadership training programs. Take good care and ‘enjoy’ today because ‘tomorrow’ is promised to none of us.

How do your Excel skills stack up?   

Test Now  

About the Author:

Stan Thomas  

Stan has been working in a professional training capacity for over 15 years and possesses a wealth of knowledge in the areas of adult education gained through both formal study and practical training delivery both nationally and internationally. As the Professional Development Manager for New Horizons Melbourne, Stan is responsible for the delivery, quality control and enhancement of existing and new programs at New Horizons.

Read full bio
Back to top