Situational leadership insights


Another useful leadership model that can provide coaching insights in context for some clients:

Situational Leadership Model

This is a term that can be applied generically to a style of leadership, but that also refers to a recognised, and useful, leadership model.

In simple terms, a situational leader is one who can adopt different leadership styles depending on the situation. Most of us do this anyway in our dealings with other people: we try not to get angry with a nervous colleague on their first day, we chase up tasks with some people more than others because we know they’ll forget otherwise.

Ken Blanchard, the management guru best known for the “One Minute Manager” series, and Paul Hersey created a model for Situational Leadership in the late 1960’s that allows you to analyse the needs of the situation you’re dealing with, and then adopt the most appropriate leadership style. It’s proved popular with managers over the years because it passes the two basic tests of such models: it’s simple to understand, and it works in most environments for most people. The model doesn’t just apply to people in leadership or management positions: we all lead others at work and at home.


Blanchard and Hersey characterised leadership style in terms of the amount of direction and of support that the leader gives to his or her followers, and so created a simple grid:

Directing Leaders define the roles and tasks of the ‘follower’, and supervise them closely. Decisions are made by the leader and announced, so communication is largely one-way.

Coaching Leaders still define roles and tasks, but seeks ideas and suggestions from the follower. Decisions remain the leader’s prerogative, but communication is much more two-way.

Supporting Leaders pass day-to-day decisions, such as task allocation and processes, to the follower. The leader facilitates and takes part in decisions, but control is with the follower.

Delegating Leaders are still involved in decisions and problem-solving, but control is with the follower. The follower decides when and how the leader will be involved.

Effective leaders are versatile in being able to move around the grid according to the situation, so there is no one right style. However, we tend to have a preferred style, and in applying Situational Leadership you need to know which one that is for you.




Clearly the right leadership style will depend very much on the person being led – the follower – and Blanchard and Hersey extended their model to include the Development Level of the follower. They said that the leader’s style should be driven by the Competence and Commitment of the follower, and came up with four levels:

High Competence
High Commitment

Experienced at the job, and comfortable with their own ability to do it well. May even be more skilled than the leader.

High Competence
Variable Commitment

Experienced and capable, but may lack the confidence to go it alone, or the motivation to do it well / quickly

Some Competence
Low Commitment

May have some relevant skills, but won’t be able to do the job without help. The task or the situation may be new to them.

Low Competence
Low Commitment

Generally lacking the specific skills required for the job in hand, and lacks any confidence and / or motivation to tackle it.

Development Levels are also situational. I might be generally skilled, confident and motivated in my job, but would still drop into Level D1 when faced, say, with a task requiring skills I don’t possess. For example, lots of managers are D4 when dealing with the day-to-day running of their department, but move to D1 or D2 when dealing with a sensitive employee issue.


Blanchard and Hersey said that the Leadership Style (S1 – S4) of the leader must correspond to the Development level (D1 – D4) of the follower – and it’s the leader who adapts.

For example, a new person joins your team and you’re asked to help them through the first few days. You sit them in front of a PC, show them a pile of invoices that need to be processed today, and push off to a meeting. They’re at level D1, and you’ve adopted S4. Everyone loses because the new person feels helpless and demotivated, and you don’t get the invoices processed.

On the other hand, you’re handing over to an experienced colleague before you leave for a holiday. You’ve listed all the tasks that need to be done, and a set of instructions on how to carry out each one. They’re at level D4, and you’ve adopted S1. The work will probably get done, but not the way you expected, and your colleague despises you for treating him like an idiot.

But swap the situations and things get better. Leave detailed instructions and a checklist for the new person, and they’ll thank you for it. Give your colleague a quick chat and a few notes before you go on holiday, and everything will be fine.

By adopting the right style to suit the follower’s development level, work gets done, relationships are built up, and most importantly, the follower’s development level will rise to D4, to everyone’s benefit.


The situational leadership model is founded on the belief that real leadership means managing people fairly for mutually rewarding and productive purposes and has nothing to do with manipulation – taking unfair advantage of or influencing others for self-interest, or making people feel uncomfortable.

It proposes that motivating, influencing and controlling people toward accomplishment of planned objectives requires 3 important skills:

1. Understanding past behaviour

2. Predicting future behaviour

3. Directing, changing and controlling behaviour.

From this perspective research studies indicate that effective leaders can be engaged in different types of behaviour: Task behaviour and Relationship behaviour.

Task behaviour provides guidance and direction – the leader clearly spells out duties and responsibilities to an individual or group about everything.

Relationship behaviour emphasises two-way communication with followers and exchanging information with them. This type tends to be more non-verbal than task behaviour.

Synonyms of relationship behaviour are listening,supporting, facilitating, and encouraging.

Some good leaders manage to combine both types of behaviour in their work, though all of them have different leadership styles.

Leadership style is defined as the leader’s patterns of behaviour including both words and actions as perceived by others.

Situational Leadership theory considers 4 leadership styles:

· High task, low relationship behaviour (the leader provides specific instructions and supervises followers closely, sometimes it’s called “telling”)

· High task, high relationship behaviour (the leader explains decisions and provides followers with opportunities for clarification “selling”)

· High relationship, low task behaviour (the leader shares ideas with followers and facilitates decision making “participating”)

· Low relationship, high task behaviour (the leader turns over responsibility for decisions and implementation to followers “delegating”)



For  customised coaching on leadership skills and personal development contact me –

For customised leadership coaching  and free exploratory chat please contact me –
NOW ACCEPTING NEW CLIENTS : Coaching via Skype / Facetime / 1 to 1 meetings

My career experience includes HR Director and senior executive roles in Barclays plc and Tesco plc leading major transformation and complex change programmes reporting at Board level .I have an MBA, BA and I am a member of the CIPD and Association for Coaching. I am an accredited coach with over 12 years of private client coaching experience and as an associate consultant with Penna (UK) dealing with career, life,executive and business coaching and counselling. I work in mentoring and coaching partnerships with executives to help achieve gains of importance to them.I help people of all ages, different cultures and job levels to understand more about themselves, their impact on others and how to develop across major dimensions in life.

I respect the integrity and confidentiality of my clients building on their existing great skills and abilities and evolving enhanced self guidance : ” No one in the world was ever you before, with your particular gifts and abilities and possibilities.”


  • Holistic / systemic approach to coaching
  • Remote coaching via Skype and Apple Facetime
  • Coaching for Executive performance /High Potential including C level
  • First 100 days
  • Career Coaching/portfolio lifestyle
  • Coaching for powerful presentations
  • Life Coaching
  • Executive advice on staff insight surveys
  • Facilitating key meetings and C- level strategic retreats engaging around people decisions that flow from business choices
  • Business/HR Strategy ,Change Leadership
  • Communications strategy
  • Psychometrics,NLP,Emotional Intelligence
  • Confidence&Self Esteem
  • Creativity coaching
  • Independent Consulting propositions coaching
  • Non Executive director coaching
  • Business Report/White Paper writing
  • Graduate career coaching

Just a thought :
Five frogs are sitting on a log.Four decide to jump off. How many are left? 
Answer: five. Why? Because there’s a difference between deciding and doing.
Mark Feldman




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s