Thursday, 13 September 2012

The theories series volume 1: Situational leadership would you rather.

As previously announced via S Club 7 references (sidebar: S Club 7 is now following me on Twitter because of that last post... it's okay to be jealous), this week I am beginning the first volume of the Theories Series in order to make leadership theories make sense.

Volume 1: We will begin the series by talking about the ever-quoted Situational Leadership Theory. Originally "coined" by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard in the swingin seventies, the SLM dictates that there is no single "best" style of leadership. And thus, the most successful leaders are those who can adapt their style to the ever-changing environmental conditions that surround them. Furthermore, the theory rests on two fundamental concepts: leadership style and the "maturity level" of any given group/individual that is being led.

Now, at it's core, this theory seems quite simple. But, once we begin to unpack the different leadership styles and what a "maturity level" entails (no, unfortunately they are not talking about people who laugh hysterically at fart jokes vs. people who don't appreciate potty humour) things can become convoluted.

So instead of boring you all to tears with technical leadership babble and too many "et. al"s to count, we are going to play a game of Would You Rather. Here we go...

You are Lliam Neeson's daughter in the movie Taken. You are young, inexperienced, and very naive. Several large, hideous men have just broken into your apartment in France...

WOULD YOU RATHER ... 1) Papa Lliam phones you and asks you how you are feeling, supports you through these emotions and then works with you to decide your course of action together; OR 2) Papa Lliam says "Listen to me. You are going to be taken. I need you to do the following things and focus..."

The first option is the "Participating" leadership style and is often effective if the group or individual at the "Capable but Unwilling" maturity level. The group/individuals need guidance and support in order to take responsibility for the completion of their task. The second option (your choice, I assume), is an example of the "Telling" leadership style, paired with the "Unable and Insecure" maturity level. This style is most used in situations where the group or individuals being led lack necessary skills or are unable to complete the task at hand.

Okay ... next one - You are a good public speaker who has being speaking in front of groups for years. You are ready to take your career to the next level and seek out an experienced motivational speaker to help you progress.

WOULD YOU RATHER... 1) Your new leader listens to every presentation that you deliver, then sits you down and explains to you all the things you could do to improve, OR 2) Your new leader focuses on getting to know you and where your confidence comes from, helps you build a network and leads you to find the best ways to deliver your message.

The first option demonstrates the "Selling" leadership style, often most effective with the "Unable and Willing" level of maturity, which focuses on providing direction and support to enthusiastic learners. The second option (more favourable here), is an example of the "Delegating" style of leadership as it allows the "Capable and Confident" individual to take responsibility for their growth while being supported by their leader along the way.

Hopefully, the above examples have shown you the different situational leadership styles - Telling, Selling, Participating and Delegating in action and how they interact with the different maturity levels - Unable but insecure, Unable and willing, Capable but unwilling, Capable and confident. Another important thing to note is that, depending on the task, an individual or group can have a different level of maturity. It all depends on the SITUATION at hand.

So, next time you find yourself in any situation that calls upon your leadership ... think of what your team member would rather given their task-specific abilities and needs, instead of choosing your leadership approach based on your own abilities and needs ... you'll be surprised by what you come up with.

And, as always, I will leave you with a quote that sums up this theory in a wonderful way ...

"We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust our sails." - Bertha Calloway


  1. Kathryn, thanks for a great post. I am a big fan of the Situational Leadership II model. It's a great way to help leaders begin to understand the importance of adapting their behavior to their team rather than forcing the team to adapt to them. Thanks for the great post!

  2. Thanks for sharing this useful info. Keep updating same way.
    Regards,Ashish Situational leadership -

  3. Thanks for sharing this useful info. Keep updating same way.
    Regards,Ashish Situational leadership -