The situational approach emphasizes the situation and how a leader must change their style to fit the demands of different leadership (PSU, WC, L. 5, p. 7, 2020). There are three main competencies of a situational leader: diagnosing, flexibility and partnering. If a leader would like to have a high level of leadership is desired, flexibility is 100% necessary (Kaifi, Noor, Nguyen, Aslami, & Khanfar, 2013). The situational approach is prescriptive not descriptive (PSU, WC, L. 5, p. 7, 2020). There are two types of behavior that are necessary for the situational approach which are directive and supportive. Directive behavior is the extent of which a leader spells out the responsibilities of an individual or group. Supportive behavior is listening, encouraging, facilitating, clarifying and giving emotional support (PSU, WC, L. 5, p. 9, 2020).
The situational approach breaks down leadership styles into four categories: directing, coaching, supporting and delegating. Style 1 (S1) is directing which is a high directive and low supportive style. Coaching (S2) is a high directive and high supportive style. Supporting (S3) is a low directive and high supportive style. Delegating (S4) is a low directive and low supportive style (PSU, WC, L. 5, p. 9, 2020). There are also four developmental levels in the situational approach. Developmental level 1 (D1) is having low competence and a high commitment. D2 is low to some competence and low commitment. D3 is moderate to high competence and variable commitment. D4 is high competence and high commitment (Book).
At the restaurant that I work at, there is a very intense training program for new servers. There are four training servers, or leaders, that run the training program. The training servers have to use directive behaviors to go over the rules and regulations of the restaurant, the responsibilities of being a server at Redstone American Grill, the knowledge of the food menu, the knowledge of the drink menu and training the new servers how to use the Aloha system for placing orders. The training servers also use the supportive behavior by listening to the concerns and questions of the new servers, encouraging them throughout their training shifts, clarifying the menu, the systems used to place orders and any other concerns they are having, and lastly giving the new servers emotional support.
The new servers come to training at different developmental levels, but most come in at D1, throughout the training the new servers will gain the skills and knowledge needed to advance to D3, where they have moderate to high competence but variable commitment levels. It is not until the new server begins to serve on their own where they get to D4 level, high competence and high commitment. The new servers’ commitment is high because it is their serving skills that will influence how much money they will make and their competence is high because of everything they have learned throughout their training.
The training servers at first take on a directive leadership style because they need to address the rules and regulations as well as menus and ordering system. Then they take on the coaching leadership style because they become highly directive and highly supportive such as showing the new servers how to greet tables or how to give a spiel about the specials and the menu. The training server then allows the new server to try and do their own and then giving them constructive criticism and give them support on how to make it better. Then the training servers step into the supporting leadership style, where they show little direction and just support the new server such as allowing them to take a table start to finish, greeting the table, taking the order, putting the order in and closing the check, while the training server just supports them if they have any questions or concerns that they need clarified. Last would be the delegating leadership style which would be little direction and little support. This would take place when the new server is finished training and doing everything on their own with no security blanket.
To conclude, the situational approach is one of the most popular approaches to leadership (PSU, WC, L. 5, p. 7, 2020). It emphasizes directive and supportive behaviors. I have seen first-hand that these behaviors are necessary to train in a restaurant environment. The directive behaviors are important in stating the rules and regulations along with menu knowledge. The supportive behaviors are important to clarify any questions or concerns as well as encouraging the new servers to be the best that they can be.
Kaifi, B. A., Noor, A. O., Nguyen, N.-L., Aslami, W., & Khanfar, N. M. (2013). The Importance of Situational Leadership in the Workforce: A Study Based on Gender, Place of Birth, and Generational Affiliation. Journal of Contemporary Management, 29–40. doi: 10.1107/s0108768107031758/bs5044sup1.cif
Northouse, P. G. (2016). Leadership: Theory and Practice. 7th Edition. Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publications.
Pennsylvania State University World Campus (2020). PSYCH 281 Lesson 5: Style and Situational Approaches. Retrieved from https://psu.instructure.com/courses/2040131/modules