What is Situational Leadership? Does it Lead to Success?

What is situational leadership

What is situational leadership? Does it Lead to Success?

Why you need to adapt your leadership to the situation and how to do it.

I think it has become clear in recent times that there’s no single right way to lead. What works in one situation or with one person doesn’t seem to go so well with others. It reminds me why Hersey and Blanchard’s Situational Leadership theory is so important.

We don’t know how long the pandemic will last, what it will do to our companies or our people, and how long the fallout will be once the pandemic is under control. So what is situational leadership? In a nutshell, situational leadership theory tells us that the most successful leaders are those who can adapt their leadership style to the needs of the business and of each person they lead.

What is situational leadership and why is it so important in leadership?

Recently a client came to me saying that she’d been focusing on caring for and supporting her team, but they didn’t seem to be responding. They weren’t as productive and they should have been. My client is a caring and responsible leader, but she hadn’t recognised that her team needed direction. They were confused and hesitant. In this situation, she needed to adapt her style to be more directive, so they had the confidence to start working again.

Seek to understand.

What is situational leadership? How can leaders decide which leadership style to adopt for best results?  Situational leadership theory tells us that they first need to be aware of the environment in which they are working – business and interpersonal – and understand the needs of each individual.

For example, when an urgent task is assigned to people of limited experience, they will need a directive style of leadership to help them stay on track. If the team was experienced, the leader could delegate with confidence and allow the team to self-manage.

Leaders choose their leadership style based on the complexity of the task, and the experience and needs of their teams. This kind of leadership allows leaders to adapt and respond to change and supports the development of their team members.

Choosing a leadership style

  1. Know your leadership style: We all have a natural leadership style; one which is most comfortable to use. What is your preferred style? Do you prefer to coach people or tell them what to do? To consult or to control? Each style has a purpose. If your natural leadership style is not bringing results, it could be telling you that it’s time to adapt and adopt a different style for the task.
  2. Practice other leadership styles: The best leaders have a range of leadership styles at hand and adopt the right one for the situation. Using a leadership style very different from your natural style isn’t easy.
  • Give yourself time to practice.
  • Think about what situation each style would suit.
  • What signs (people and task) might you see which tell you it’s time to adopt a different style?
  • How will you present your choice of leadership style?
  • What might you say or do, and how will you do it?
  1. Be prepared to adapt: Becoming stuck in one style of leadership is limiting, despite its comfort. It can also lead to unhappy and frustrated team members who can’t produce the results you need. Be willing to step out of your comfort zone and give your people the leadership they need.

Building your situational leadership skills can be a challenge, but it’s worth the effort. When you can tailor your style to suit the needs of your people and the circumstances, you can generate real results. The skills are vital right now, while people are struggling in this crazy world, but they are the skills which will help you adapt to any change that is still to come.

My coaching is situational because it needs to be specific to the individuals I work with and their current environment, needs and situations. There is no one size fits all approach here, situational coaching ensures rapid development.

If you’re ready to work on your leadership skills, I can help you. Book a free Leadership Mastery Analysis with me and become the best leader you can be.

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Caroline Kennedy, author of Lead Beyond 2030: The Nine Skills You Need to Intensify Your Leadership Impact, is an accomplished, award-winning CEO and global thought leader on business and leadership. She is a highly sought-after mentor and coach to top global executives. A respected keynote speaker and author, Caroline’s methods are neuroscience-based to achieve rapid development and growth.


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