Situational Leadership – When How Depends on Who

Posted on October 19, 2014 in Tips & Tricks by Slideshop

  • SumoMe

How do you manage your subordinates at work? Do you give detailed instructions or do you let them use their own initiative? How do you make decisions in times of crisis? Do you consult colleagues or do you prefer to think things through on your own?

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Since everyone is unique, we expect different readers to have different answers to these questions. But while personal leadership styles may vary, Dr. Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard encourage leaders to adapt their approaches based on task complexity and people’s maturity. These two reputable authors call this theory Situational Leadership.

What is Hersey-Blanchard Situational Leadership Theory?

Listed in the first column below are four leadership styles embraced by this theory. Beside each style is its description, the type of person it’s best used with, and a sample scenario.


Style description

This style is good for people who have…

Example: What a leader would tend to say

S1 – Telling You describe in detail what to do, how to do it, and the end results expected. You follow up regularly to check progress. M1 – Low competence, high commitment “Update our Facebook, Twitter and Google+ every day. Share blog posts, infographics and images related to our niche. Include 2-3 hashtags. You can also check our standard procedures and guidelines for reference.”
S2 – Selling You provide information, but two-way communication has already been estalished. You find ways to “sell” your idea to convince people to work toward a specific goal. M2 – Low to some competence, low commitment “I suggest you update our social networks regularly to be able to generate new leads, get customer feedback and improve online presence. Do you think this would be an effective strategy?”
S3 – Participating You emphasize relationship rather than direction. You  work with your people and share decision-making responsibilities. M3 – Moderate to high competence, variable commitment “What are the social media strategies you have implemented? Let’s discuss them later and then decide which ones are most applicable to our website.”
S4 – Delegating You delegate responsibilities to your people. You still monitor progress, but you’re less involved in making decisions. M4 – High competence, high commitment “Based on your expertise in online marketing, come up with and implement social media strategies. After a month or two, I will check to see if they’ve had an effect on sales.”

Advantages and Limitations

The Hersey-Blanchard Situational Leadership Theory has been used by different organizations all over the world. In fact, 70% of the Fortune 500 companies have used this model in developing leadership strategies. It is widely recognized as practical and applicable in many situations. This general impression seems consistent with what Dr. Paul Hersey said in this video:

“Who can be a situational leader? A sales manager, a night shift supervisor, an MBA, an elementary school teacher, a plant manager, the parent who has three kids. A situational leader is anybody who recognizes that influencing behavior is not an event but a process.”

Some people have criticized this model, claiming that it revolves around management, not leadership, and that it focuses exclusively on what the person in charge does in a given situation.

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If you are looking for leadership or management-related slide decks for your next presentation, you’re invited to check our pre-designed slides. All are fully editable – change colors or shapes, add, change or remove text, graphics or images, add your company logo and more – all with your own familiar presentation software tools.


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