Situational Leadership

This paradigm shift creates the need for leaders to also adapt their style of leadership. Situational Leadership (SC) lends itself well to this due to its inherent flexibility. It allows room for adaptation to both the fluctuating complexities of the project and varying abilities of the followers. Paul Hershey and Kenneth Blanchard developed their Situational Leadership approach in 1969, based on Redskin’s 3-D management style theory, which is grounded on 3 dimensions; task orientation, relationship orientation and effectiveness (Hershey, 1 969, p. 28-29). For some time now it was believed that task and relationship were either/or styles of leader behavior and should therefore be depicted as a single dimension along a continuum” (Hershey, 1969, p. 26). This is no longer the case. SSL takes into consideration both the nature of the task, the abilities of the followers and how the relationship between the leader and the follower ultimately affects attaining the common goal. The development in psychological testing largely lead to the discrediting of the idea that leadership was largely based on a personal trait, which originated from the great man theory in the early eighteenth century.

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This discrediting lead to the importance of the role the situation has in leadership (Broom, 2007, p. 17). According to Robinson, SSL states that leaders “should adapt their leadership styles based on the readiness, current skills, and developmental level of team members” (201 3, p. 1). SSL takes into consideration two categories, task behavior and relational behavior. Task behavior is ‘the extent to which the leader engages in spelling out the duties and responsibilities of an individual or group” (Robinson, 2013, p. 2).

Relational behavior is “the extent to which the leader engages in two-way or multi- way communication” with the follower (Robinson, 2013, p. ). A leader must address both of these dynamics to accurately assess the appropriate type of leadership to engage in. According to Hershey (1969) there are four types of leadership styles within SSL. 1. Directing: One-way communication, the leader provides the specifics of a task. This entails high directive and low supportive behavior from the leader. 2. Coaching: Two-way communication, the leader provides direction and influence.

High directive and high supportive behavior of the leader are required. 3. Supporting: Two-way communication, leader provides high supportive, but low directive behavior. The subordinate is free to make sections independently. 4. Delegating: Two-way communication. Leader provides low directive and low supportive behavior. The leader is involved in the decision-making, however the responsibility has been passed on to the individual. “Leader behavior research was a step in the direction of acknowledging the role of situation or context in leadership.

Unlike traits, behavior is potentially influenced not only by the leaders’ dispositions but also by the situations that leaders confront” (Broom, 2007, p. 19). A leader must take into account how a situation could influence behavior and ultimately productivity of their group. SSL predicts that an optimal style of supervision (definable by specific combinations of leader relationship-focus and leader task-focus) can be prescribed for given levels of subordinate maturity’ (Thompson, 2009, p. 837).

They must assess the situation accordingly and decide how best engage the subordinate in a way that will deliver the desired results. As observed by Robinson (2013) in a case study in accreditation of a local health agency, situational leadership is applicable. Organizational leadership was a main part of the accreditation process. Early in the process the health agency leader was well aware agency staff had little knowledge of the accreditation process; she first adapted a leadership style of Directing.

She transitioned her leadership technique to Coaching, then to Supporting and finally to Delegating as her staff grew more knowledgeable and confident in their responsibilities and knowledge of the accreditation process (Robinson, 201 3, p. 3). As a highly functioning team is preferred in most organizational institutions, leaders must first assess their followers knowledge and developmental stage in order to properly guide them to the place where the leader is able to delegate tasks with little directive and supportive behavior.