Situational leadership: The key to lead your team successfully

Jan 14, 2022

It is not an easy task to lead a high-performance team. To achieve this goal, management that takes into account the experience and motivation of employees is absolutely necessary. The situational leadership model, proposed by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard, shows ways to manage and designate tasks to employees in which maturity and commitment are considered.

The situational leadership theory suggests that there is no single style to lead, but that it depends on the situation and strategies adopted for the team to execute a task. According to Hersey and Blanchard's approach, effective leaders can adjust their style and observe the characteristics of the group, the type of work, and other factors.

Maturity, in terms of capabilities and commitment, plays a vital role in situational leadership.

This model highlights four levels:

L1: Those who lack knowledge and skills and, consequently, lack motivation.

L2: Those who are willing and enthusiastic, but who do not yet have the knowledge.

L3: Those who have the tools, skills, and experience, but are cautious or under-committed.

L4: Those who are capable and willing to meet the objectives set in the department.

Types of leadership

For each level of maturity and depending on the situation, Hersey and Blanchard proposed these four types of leadership:

Executive. This is the leader who issues a direction to define tasks and roles, pointing out what to do and how to do it. It applies to new employees or apprentices, usually located in the L1 of maturity.

Persuasive. They maintain high levels of direction and top support for workers who are motivated but have little capacity to perform a task. This style works better with N2 maturity enthusiasts.

Participatory This is the manager who focuses on support and communication for employees with the capacity and experience to do the job but with little motivation (N3 maturity).

Delegative This is the leader who has a competent team and delegates the tasks to his collaborators (of N4 of maturity).

Styles of Situational Leadership

Situational leadership is one of the most flexible management models. The leader shapes their behavior and the level of support according to the circumstances, something that organizations value. It also adjusts to the professional moment of each employee with tailored practice and advice. Likewise, it creates a work environment of trust and respect, from which the company and the workers benefit.

In this sense, the situational leadership model presents these four styles:

Directing (ordering). In this level, it is usual to deal with employees who have not yet reached the competence for the task or are demotivated. Usually, they are inexperienced workers who cannot complete the work independently. The leader must give detailed instructions and follow-up to guarantee the fulfillment of the objective.

Persuade (coaching). The leader must encourage employees who want to work independently but are not yet able to do so because they do not feel prepared to perform a task. In this case, the manager must make the workers interested in the task and, at the same time, convince them that they can do it. With specific instructions and a high level of communication, the leader accompanies the employee’s progress. Enthusiasm is one of the characteristics of the person in this level, so leadership style should help them acquire the skills and knowledge needed.

Participating (supporting). In this level, we find qualified employees, but for some reason, they are not willing to do a job. Perhaps due to work overload, some bad experience, or simply demotivation, the worker feels insecure or reluctant. Since they are people with expertise and capacity, the leader supports them and invites them to participate in decision making. With this encouragement, the employee will regain confidence and work independently, until motivated and decides to take some risks.

Delegating. With a group of independent collaborators, with a high degree of maturity and capacity, the leader focuses on delegating. Workers are motivated due to their independence, which is why the leader generally does not have to consult them about the progress of the tasks as in previous levels.

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