Advantages and disadvantages of situational leadership
This article evaluates some of the advantages and disadvantages of situational leadership style. Paul Hersey and Ken Blanshard developed ‘Life Cycle Theory of Leadership’ long time ago which was later renamed as Situational Leadership Theory.
What is situational leadership style?
According to St Thomas University (2023), situational leadership adapts to the existing work environment and the needs of the organization. It is widely observed that managers often may have to adjust their style to fit the development level of their followers.
According to Imperial College London (2023) the key idea concerning situational leadership is that there is no single most effective leadership style out there, rather there are different leadership styles which could be appropriate for different tasks and people. Those who are successful as leaders can adapt their style to the people that they work with.
Components of situational leadership model
This model comprises of two things i.e.: learners’ development level and the leaders’ leadership style.
Learner’s development level
Competence and commitment are two principles that define an individual’s development level (Imperial College London, 2023).
D1: It refers to an individual’s low competence (skills, ability, experience etc.) in doing a particular task, but high commitment to it.
D2: It refers to an individual’s low/some competence in doing a particular task and low/some commitment to it as well.
D3: It refers to an individual’s moderate/high competence in doing a particular task, but variable commitment to it.
D4: It refers to an individual’s high competence in doing a particular task, and high commitment to it as well.
Situational leadership styles
Telling style: When individuals need close supervision, this style works very well. Leaders make decisions and pass them on to the followers.
In this style, the leader provides clear and specific instructions to their followers, closely supervising their performance and ensuring that tasks are completed according to the desired standards. It is most appropriate when followers are new to a task, have low competence, or lack confidence in their abilities.
Selling: This style can work well when employees are not motivated to do their jobs. It involves a combination of directive and supportive behaviours, with the leader providing guidance and direction while also encouraging their followers to develop their own skills and abilities.
Participating: This style works well with people who, though competent, are not committed to doing a particular job.
Delegating: This style works very well in D4 situation where people are both highly competent and committed to doing their jobs. It is characterized by a high level of trust and autonomy, with the leader essentially handing over responsibility for a task or project to their followers.
Advantages of situational leadership style
Situational leadership is dependent on the scenario at hand and the development level of the individuals concerned. This style allows leaders to meet every scenario that arises as things unfold. It also enables them to bring out the best in their followers and give them the very best likelihood of achieving success.
Situational leadership is perhaps the most widely used leadership style in the world. It has gained popularity over the years particularly because it enhances employee commitment and retention.
There is no doubt that different circumstances require different types of management. Situational leadership addresses each worker’s ability level and desires which is useful to delegate responsibilities at a given time to get the job done.
Situational leaders can make employees feel comfortable and accepted since their style matches the latter’s character. They focus on the circumstances and the people concerned and then consider the scenario to create action plans.
Instead of considering all employees as one generic category, they try to understand each employee differently yet equally. The goal is to judge the competency of each employee, then increase motivation levels primarily based on the style which is most helpful for a particular individual.
Situational leaders employ their style of working as per the situation. Their decisions and actions depend on the maturity level of workers, the complexity of duties, and the needs of the organisation.
Therefore, leaders can fit into all kinds of teams, business demands, and leadership roles. They achieve the capacity to show multifaceted management ideas depending upon the demands of their business.
Disadvantages of situational leadership style
As situational leaders may regularly change their approach to cater to everyone’s needs, it may cause confusion and may not be helpful to build long-term work culture (Indeed, 2023).
A key element of this leadership style is the ability of the leaders to assess an employee’s maturity level. However, the challenge is that not all leaders are capable of doing so, and may in fact apply a style that is not suitable for some employees.
Applying situational leadership style can be challenging and exhausting for some leaders. Imagine keeping an eye on and catering to the needs of everyone involved! Moreover, if the leaders fail to evaluate the situation, it can bring about negative outcomes. Likewise, if leaders lack in people skills, the style may not work at all.
Summary of advantages and disadvantages of situational leadership
In today’s fast-paced and ever-changing business environment, leaders must be able to adapt to new challenges and changing circumstances in order to succeed. Situational leadership provides a flexible and adaptive approach to leadership, which enables them to tailor their approach to suit the specific needs of their followers and the situation at hand.
While there are challenges and criticisms associated with the model, the benefits of situational leadership are clear. By embracing this approach, leaders can improve communication, increase motivation and engagement, enhance decision-making, and build a more adaptable and resilient organisation.
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Last update: 05 May 2023
Imperial College London (2023) Situational leadership, available at: https://www.imperial.ac.uk/media/imperial-college/administration-and-support-services/staff-development/public/impex/Situational-Leadership.pdf (accessed 04 May 2023)
Indeed (2023) What is situational leadership, available at: https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/situational-leadership (accessed 05 May 2023)
St Thomas University (2023) What Is situational leadership®? How flexibility leads to success, available at: https://online.stu.edu/articles/education/what-is-situational-leadership.aspx (accessed 05 May 2023)
Author: Joe David
Joe David has years of teaching experience both in the UK and abroad. He writes regularly online on a variety of topics. He has a keen interest in business, hospitality, and tourism management. He holds a Postgraduate Diploma in Management Studies and a Post Graduate Diploma in Marketing Management.