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Situational leadership theory as developed by Heresy and Blanchard

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Paul heresy and ken Blanchard have developed a leadership theory that has gained a strong following among management development specialists. This model called situational leadership theory. It is a contingency theory that focuses on followers’ readiness/development level of follower and leader behavior/leadership styles, it created by Hersey and Blanchard (see Exhibits 1.1 or 1.2). These two approaches concern for production and concern for people, together show that there is no best style of leadership.

The four leadership styles/leader behavior, According to Paul Hersey, a situational leader adapts “leadership behaviors to features of the situation and followers.” There are four styles:

S1: The “telling style”/directing (high task-low relationship). The leader defines roles and tells people what, how, when, and where to do various tasks. It is appropriate when the members are new or inexperienced, and need a lot of help, direction, and encouragement to get the job done.

S2: The “selling style”/coaching (high task- high relationship). The leader provides both directive and supportive behavior. It is useful when group members are a little more responsible, experienced, and willing to do the task but do not have the necessary skills. S3: The “participating style”/supporting (low task-high relationship). The leader and follower share in decision making; the main role of the leader is facilitating and communicating. It is a supportive style used when groups have the ability to do the job but may be unwilling to start or complete the task.

S4: The “delegating style” (low task-low relationship). The leader provides little direction or support. It is useful when group members are willing and able to take responsibility for directing their own behavior.

In sum up, Hersey and his theory focus on the followers’ behavior and define which style is appropriate, rather than the complex thinking and idea in mind of the followers. Hersey estimates which stage the follower belongs to through communication with followers and their behaviors, and then define which leadership style is more appropriate to each one of the employees. In the practice, a model like this was proved so effective and useful in routine.

Second is development level of follower(s)/Follower readiness, which includes competence and commitment of the followers. The competence of the followers refers to followers’ knowledge, experiences, skill and eventually has an ability to identify the outcome in working (be able to do something). And the commitment of the followers refers to followers’ confidence, promises, motivation and eventually willing to identify the outcome in working (willing to do something). Therefore, we might treat the employee as four stages (see Exhibits 1.2)

R1: people are both unable and unwilling to take responsibility for doing something. They’re neither competent nor confident.

R2: people are unable but willing to do the necessary job tasks. They are motivated but currently lack the appropriate skills.

R3: people are able but unwilling to do what the leader wants.

R4: people are both able and willing to do what is asked of them.

Focus on the stages, at the time the follower who is asked to accomplish the certain task; the employee might behave in three different fettles (emotion): it will be higher, moderate and low. R1 is low, R4 is high and both of R2 and R3 are in the moderate. It could not be easy to say which one is the best stage of follower in specific task, because of the employees might have different behaviors and fettles depend on certain situation while they were asked to do specific tasks.

Anyone of the employees could find out one place or position clearly that is belongs to themselves, since one organization accomplished the certain project. By way of the leader of organization, he/she should ensure to understand the fettle of each follower. Otherwise, the leadership performance is inefficiency and useless. Thus, to make certain emotion and follower readiness is a key approach to perform situational leadership.

As an illustration, “a subordinate who has fifteen-year working experience in the production department but is not confident to take on a new task”. Obviously, we believe that this subordinate has good competences (task, knowledge and skill) because he/she has a long time working experience, and have the ability to do the job but may be unwilling to start or complete the task; he/she just lacks interrelated commitment (motivation and confidence). So, follow by component in the model, a subordinate like this person would be ranged into stage R3, and the “participating style” should be applied in the low task-high relationship, leader and follower may share in decision making, and the leader should pay more attention and more communication with this subordinate, help he/she create a strong confidence and improve relationship between leader and followers.

In fact, situational theories tell us that effective leadership depends on the situation at hand. They require us to interact with our employees. They encourage us to listen, to involve, to coach, to develop, to enrich, to motivate, to risk, to credit, to care, and to express concern for those that we manage. In other words, a leader in the organization or team the method of the lead and management should be adjusted continually depends on the different situation and environment; a leader cannot use the same method to perform lead and management without change. Therefore, the core of the situational leadership theory is that a leader leads or manages followers in accordance of their personality, development level and behavior. Besides, continually to innovate the manner of management is important and should be emphasis.

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