Discover one of the most popular leadership models of all time with us today as we look at the basics of Hersey and Blanchard’s well loved and heavily utilised model.
This is the first of 7 articles that explores this widely used model. Our release schedule for the Situational Leadership articles can be found below. Across our journey, we will explore the positives of the model, the negatives of the model and take a deeper look at each of the Leadership styles in more detail – concluding on the 20th of March 2022. Make sure you subscribe today so you don’t miss out on any of this content!
10/10/2021 – Telling Leadership Article
21/11/2021 – Selling Leadership Article
02/01/2022 – Participating Leadership Article
13/02/2022 – Delegating Leadership Article
13/03/2022 – Pros of Situational Leadership
20/03/2022 – Shortfalls of Situational Leadership
What is Situational Leadership?
Situational Leadership is a model created by Hersey and Blanchard that was initially named the “Life cycle theory of leadership” which puts forward the idea that a Leader should change their Leadership style based on the readiness (or maturity/ developmental) level of their Follower.
It is a structured style of leadership, based on the situation at hand instead of trait leadership which focuses on the Leaders behaviour, character and overall style.
Below is the Situational Leadership model. The 4 quadrants indicate Follower Readiness levels (R1, R2, R3 and R4) and the arrows moving their way through each quadrant represents the ideal leadership style for that readiness level.
The model comprises of 4 main styles of Leadership; Telling, Selling, Participating and Delegating. Each leadership style matches the readiness level of your Followers, typically known as R1 (Readiness level 1), R2, R3 and R4.
- R1 Followers are described as: “Unable and Insecure or Unwilling”
- R2 Followers are described as: “Unable but Confident or Willing”
- R3 Followers are described as: “Able but Insecure of Unwilling”
- R4 Followers are described as: “Able and Willing or Motivated”
The horizontal axis focuses on directive or task orientated behaviour or how much “Telling” you need to do. The vertical axis places its focus on supportive or relationship focussed behaviour and how much time you need to invest in your Followers.
As you can see from the above image, R1 Followers need a Telling Leadership approach, R2 a Selling approach, R3 a Participating approach and R4 a Delegating approach. The model advises that you should change your Leadership style based on the Readiness level of your follower in order to provide them the leadership style that they will benefit from the most.
It’s important to understand that Follower Readiness level can move forward or backwards based on the situation at hand.
Why is it used?
Situational Leadership has been a popular Leadership style since its inception in 1969. Businesses use it to gain a consistent yet fluid approach to Leadership, whilst Learning and Development professionals have seen success when using this as part of a learning journey or embedding it into the learning cycle.
The Leadership model has been continually adapted by its authors (albeit separately) over the years, keeping it relevant and adjusting their model based on evidential research.
Whilst some models prefer Leaders to have specific traits or a key mentality, such as Servant Leadership, the Situational model calls for a combination of task and relationship focus, leading to an easy to assimilate and consistent formula for Leaders to use.
We go into more detail on the pros and cons of this model alongside each of the 4 styles in separate articles but one thing is clear, Situational Leadership has maintained its popularity amongst organisations since 1969.
How is it used?
For specifics, check out each individual article on the styles involved but we will give you a brief overview below of the Directing, Selling, Participating and Delegating styles, enabling you to grasp the high level theory behind the model.
Telling – or Directive Leadership
This autocratic or ‘Telling’ approach to Leadership is a method best used on R1 Followers. Here, you tell people what they need to do and why they need to do it. It works well when outlining a process or have new starters that are unable to perform the tasks required. It’s useful you’re your Follower lacks the confidence or desire to take necessary action.
This is a coaching centred approach where you “sell” your ideas and is best used with R2 Followers. The ideal time to use this style is when your Follower still lacks the skill to succeed but their confidence and/or enthusiasm overrides their skill level.
This is a facilitation style and is an ideal approach for an R3 follower. This style works well for people who have the skills but are lacking the motivation or will to do the job. It can be a time consuming approach as it requires little direction and lots of support, with a high focus on relationships. This approach is designed to engage your skilled Followers and help them see the value in themselves and their work.
This style of leadership is reserved for your R4 Followers. People who are motivated and have the skills to do the job to a high standard. It’s a hands off approach to leading, requiring little direction or support from the leader, this is where you want your Followers to be.
Situational Leadership is a model developed to aid a Leader in establishing an appropriate style to use, based on Follower readiness levels and the situation at hand. It outlines key attitudes and tools to use in each situation, giving the leader easy and quick reference on how to be effective at any given moment.
There are 4 Readiness levels and 4 accompanying Leadership styles – Telling, Selling, Participating and Delegating. If you are ready to engage in the leadership styles in more detail, the individual guides and their accompanying courseware should give you everything you need to utilise this model effectively.
Thank you for spending time with us and getting a foundational understanding of this theory. Consider downloading the below resources, sharing them amongst your team and developing your own styles.
1) Situational Leadership one page guide
2) Situational Leadership quiz – what’s your natural style?
3) Situational Leadership quiz – how flexible a leader are you?
If you want to take your Leadership skills to the next level, book in your free consultation today: