An Introduction to Situational Leadership—How it Leads to Better Work
You may have heard about the situational approach to leadership and wonder just what is situational leadership. Created by Paul Hersey and Paul Blanchard in the late 1960s, situational leadership refers to an adaptive management style where a leader’s style morphs depending on the task, the people, and the function being managed. Today, it may seem like common sense that not all employees react in the same way to different management styles. However, in the mid to late-21st century, this was revolutionary.
Situational leadership differs from past leadership styles in that the manager is more of a facilitator than an autocratic boss. They are successful by ascertaining how to motivate and relate to different types of individuals and address different types of situations. In situational leadership, simply having the title of “boss” isn’t nearly enough. This type of leadership requires the ability to read people and situations well and react accordingly.
The Six Styles of Situational Leadership
Situational leadership isn’t a “one size fits all” style of leadership. In fact, the Goleman Theory of Situational Leadership tells us there are six different styles within the umbrella term of situational leadership. Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence is well-known for his many situational leadership articles and is a recognized leader in the field of leadership training. According to Goldman, the style of leadership you should choose depends on the personality of the people you are working with as well as the project and situation itself. The six situational leadership styles outlined by Mr. Goldman are:
- Coaching leadership: This type of leadership style emphasizes personal development as well as learning job-related skills. Coaching leadership is best suited when working with employees who are open to change and in-tune with their strengths and weaknesses. A coaching leader may encourage team embers to read specific self-improvement or business books or have a team-building outing to a leadership class.
- Pacesetting leadership: Pacesetting leaders set very high expectations for their employees. This leadership style works best when working with high achievers who are goal-oriented. Typically, a pacesetting leader leads by example. The leader doesn’t expect anything of their employees that they aren’t willing to do themselves. One of the downsides to this type of leadership is that employees can quickly burn out and become discouraged if they fail to meet lofty goals.
- Democratic leadership: Those using a democratic leadership style seek to give employees or followers a vote in almost every decision. This practice fosters loyalty and team cohesiveness. However, this process is very time-consuming and can be problematic when used in fast-paced situations or when a deadline is looming.
- Affiliative leadership: Employees always come first with affiliative leadership. This style is useful in situations where morale is already very low and it can help to build self-esteem and confidence in team members. However, since there are no set goals or expectations with this leadership style, job performance and productivity may suffer.
- Authoritative leadership: Authoritative leaders are traditional “from the top” leaders who expect their employees and team members to follow them loyally and unconditionally. This style is useful where quick decisions are needed or when an organization drifts and lacks focus. However, too many authoritative leaders are hard on employee morale and even lead to a high turnover rate.
- Coercive leadership: Coercive leaders simply tell their team members what to do. While this leadership style may not seem ideal at first glance, it’s useful in disasters and in organizations that are undergoing a complete revamping, where someone needs to take charge and get things done quickly.