Situational approach of leadership is interdependent to the style approach of leadership. The style approach is intertwined to behavioral approach and “focuses exclusively on what leaders do and how they act” whereas, the situational approach “focuses on leadership in situations” (Northouse, 2018, p. 71, 92). A question that lingers in my mind here pertains to styles. Wouldn’t a person style be a manner of how a person does something? In so saying, if a person does something it would reflect in their behavior. Thus, “the reason that these two approaches are together, is that they both focus on a leader’s behaviors” (PSU, 2018, para. 1). What is relevant here is that “how combination of certain behavior produces styles of leadership that influence the leadership situation” (PSU, 2018, para. 1). So, there is cohesiveness to these two leadership approaches. What I can’t understand and a question that surfaces pertains to selection of approaches: Why is situational approach the most popular approach to leadership?
Just as leadership styles vary so does the situation that surrounds the leaders. So, the same leader handling one situation doesn’t necessarily mean that this leader is the best suited or the right leader for another situation. “To be effective, a leader must change his/her style to fit the demands of different situations” (PSU, 2018, para. 1). An example I choose from my employment background is as simple as this: one leader can be in charge of programming, one leader can be in charge of test coordinating and college and career readiness, and one leader can be in charge of safety and security. Each leader is assigned to handle a different type of situation and may serve well in their assigned domain but, if they are taken out of their knowledgeable and experienced arena they will most likely struggle in some areas of this assignment.
However, situational leadership comprises of two dimensions. One dimension is the directive and the other is supportive. The subdivision in these two domains of directive and supportive behaviors plays a very important role in leadership. Furthermore, directive behavior is simply laying out instructions from leaders to followers with leaders guiding and directing. “Directive behaviors include telling people to do, how to do it, when to do it, and who is to do it” (PSU, 2018, para. 2). In addition, supportive behavior is simply providing help and encouragement to followers. Leadership supportive behavior takes many forms which can include “listening, encouraging, facilitating, clarifying, and giving emotional support” (PSU, 2018, para. 2).
Hence, the directive dimension of a situational approach is of a prescriptive version. Leaders following a directive dimension has a method of guiding and handling situations. Therefore, leadership situation calls for leaders to adjust and adapt their style approach dependent on the existing situation. It is imperative to remember that there are different types of leadership and different circumstance calls for a different type of leader. Most of us have heard the expression ‘When in Rome do as the Romans do’. Can leaders handle situations similar to what this expression is saying to us? Therefore, “the situational approach tells leaders they should change the degree to which they are directive or supportive based on the changing needs of their followers” (PSU, 2018, para. 2). Most importantly, we ought to understand that situational approach “recognizes the importance of the leaders, follower, and situation” (PSU, 2018, para. 2).
Blanchard (2008) model was divided into four categories of directive and supportive behaviors of directing, coaching, supporting and delegating followers. On the same continuum there are four developmental levels of readiness for followers which are (D4), D3, D2 and D1. Each one of these developmental levels layout out the followers’ tasks capabilities intertwined with leaders’ intervention. In ending, we must remember “different situations require different kinds of leadership” (PSU, 2018, para. 2). According to Malakyan (2014) “skills, style, and situational approaches come together to serve leader–follower mutual empowerment, growth, performance, and job satisfaction” (p. 12). Leaders needs to know their followers and the situation that affects them. Leaders need to be aware if followers know what is required to perform the job, if they have the capabilities to do the job or perhaps followers need support to complete the job. In so stating, “it is important to remember that followers do not stay at one level of development” (PSU, 2018, para. 2). According to Lynch (2015) “The situational leader adopts the appropriate leadership style to match the follower’s developmental level” (p. 2). Some followers development is a constant changing cycle, some are slow and some are stagnant. Followers need to be supported and directed accordingly. The style approach is intertwined to behavioral approach. Ultimately, leadership role is adaptable but, “leaders must be flexible in their styles of leadership” (PSU, 2018, para. 2).
Lynch, B. (2015). Partnering for performance in situational leadership: A person-centered leadership approach. International Practice Development Journal, 5.
Malakyan, G. P. (2014). Followership in leadership studies: A case of leader-follower trade approach. Journal of Leadership Studies, 7, (4).
Northouse, P. G. (2016). Leadership: Theory and Practice. Los Angeles: Sage Publications.
Pennsylvania State University. (2018). Style and situational approaches. Leadership styles and development levels. PSYCH 485. Retrieved May 20, 2018 from https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1940315/modules/items/24597485