Situational leadership is best described as an adaptive leadership style. This strategy encourages leaders to take stock of their team members, weigh the many variables in their workplace, and choose the leadership style that best fits their goals and circumstances. The old concept of a leader as a “boss” has completely gone from the building.
The fundamental principle of the situational leadership model is that there is no ideal style. Effective leadership is task-bound, and the most successful leaders are those who adapt their leadership style to the will and abilities of team members.
Any company interested in developing people and workgroups, building relationships, and bringing out the best in their employees uses situational leadership as their role model.
Situational leadership is flexible. It adapts to the existing working environment and to the needs of the company. It is not based on the specific skills of the leader. Instead, he or she changes the management style to meet the demands of the business.
The critical skill of situational leadership is therefore adaptability. Leaders must be able to switch from one leadership style to another to meet the changing needs of a business and its employees. These leaders must have the insight to understand when to change their management style and what leadership strategy fits each new paradigm.
A common mistake in leadership is the manager trying to treat everyone the same. A leader’s approach should be dictated by the nuances of each situation he encounters. Here are the four common strategies used by situational leaders:
• Telling – Telling, or leading, is useful when a member of a group or team needs close supervision and regular counseling. The leader makes decisions and directs the team or team members about their roles. This may include providing instruction to new team members or taking care of an emergency.
• Selling – Selling, or persuading, is useful when a member of a group or team has skills, but perhaps not enough to be successful, or when they are unmotivated. The leader is open to comments and collaboration in order to stimulate participation of the group or team members. Leaders using this style can help team members develop or improve their skills or encourage buy-in to a larger vision.
• Participate – Participation, or sharing, is useful when a member of a group or team has the skills required to actively participate in planning and decision-making. Leaders using this style are generally collaborative in their approach to problem solving and decision making, letting their groups and team members make decisions in their areas of expertise.
• Delegate – Delegation is useful when a member of a group or team has a high level of competence and is motivated. Leaders who take advantage of this style will set a vision, describe the desired outcomes, grant clear authority, and then step out of the way.
• NB: Ian R Ferguson is a talent management and organizational development consultant, having completed graduate studies at regional and international universities. He has served organizations, both locally and globally, providing relevant solutions to their growth and business development challenges. He can be contacted at [email protected]