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Situational Leadership Theory

situational leadership theorySituational leadership theory argues that one style of leadership can’t work in every situation.  It was developed by the two human resource scientists. One is Paul Hershey a professor and author of the book Situational Leaders. Second one is Ken Blanchard, leadership expert and author of the famous book The One Minute Manager. It was earlier called “Life Cycle Theory of Leadership” and later on renamed in mid 1970.

The basic point of the situational leadership theory states that there is no single ideal and effective style of leadership for a specific situation to lead the followers to their set goals.  It means style of leadership can be applied according to a situation where it has to work effectively.


The concept of the situational leadership theory can be understood through a crude example taken from everyday life. For example if the democratic style of leadership works so well in a situation where youth are the key followers it doesn’t mean it can also work in a group of senior citizens. Old timers have usually more time and points to argue before taking any step and it will not be judicious to apply the democratic style of leadership there. In such situation an autocratic way would work more effectively. Generally speaking the senior lot may be led without several ifs and buts to take them to their defined destination.

Categories of leadership styles

Hersey and Blanchard viewed the leadership style in terms of how much level of followership a leader can attain by engaging the followers in assigned tasks for their accomplishment. They put all the leadership styles into four broad categories which have been discussed in Situational Leadership Model another informative article which can be found on this website. Here we would further discuss on situational leadership theory and its three main phases.


Under situational leadership theory, a leader takes on board all the followers through one-way communication. He or she informs them who to do what, when, where and how to accomplish the assigned task. This is called telling.


Thereafter, leader resorts to two-way communication and provide the followers socio emotional support. It is called selling.


After that discussion between followers and leader sets in to achieve the task more effectively and it is known as participating.

Ultimately leader poses trust in the followers and assigns the task to them to achieve it by their own and in this way he or she delegates the partial role of leadership to them.

How mature followers are?

We can use all the leadership styles all the times; this is the crux of the situational leadership theory. An effective leader must be flexible enough to modify his or her way of leading according to the changed scenario. If the owners of a company change it means now leaders of that company have to alter their leadership style according to the approach or priorities of the new owners who might have an aggressive approach to expand the business where there are lot of potential for it. In this way leaders have also to be aggressive and infuse more enthusiasm in followers to put their hard work for the expansion of the business. Task of leading becomes easier if followers are mature enough to adapt to changed scenario as soon as the style of leadership changes.

Do you think situational leadership theory is the right approach to ensure success accomplishing a task? Please share your comments below.

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About Team Editorial (693 Articles)
Team Editorial posts contents on this blog under the leadership of Edson Hale who is a pro blogger and widely acclaimed motivation consultant with twenty years experience of perception management on various issues of professional and personal development.

1 Comment on Situational Leadership Theory

  1. SassC' Shakoor // January 10, 2014 at 02:22 // Reply

    In re of an answer to my thoughts on “Situational leadership” and how this style of leadership will affect the success or not of its mission; I find is the type of macromananging; adversely impacts its organizational culture and socialization because they do not embrace the creative talents and innovative decision-making of its culture setting. I also feel that the behavior of this style of leadership has the propensity to be unethical; as well, they do not adapt well to change and unwilling to transform and accept the ideology of revision of its objectives to implement more effective strategic planning to mobilize towards its organizations vision. Given today’s prevalence of organizational culture and socialization, this type of leader would not `strategically communicate with the diverse dynamics of its culture setting, which will, futuristically annihilate its vision.

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