This week, I decided to focus on a topic that was relevant to all of us as online learners. Lesson five of the lesson material focuses on the style and situational approach. Throughout my time as a student at Pennsylvania State University, I have frequently been assigned to group projects. The situational approach is very interesting as it relates well to the organization of educational group projects. Northouse (2016) states that “for leaders to be effective, it is essential that they determine where followers are on the developmental continuum and adapt their leadership styles so they directly match their style to that development level.” Essentially, Northouse (2016) is addressing the leader’s requirement to probe the “competence and commitment of followers.”
At this point in our education, we’ve all likely experience some sort of group assignment. Group assignments are interesting to those who study organization and leadership as groups consistently vary in regards to worker commitment and ability. I’ve experienced many different types of groups throughout my education. Some have run like a well-oiled machine, while others have stalled due to different abilities and commitments. Some groups have multiple individuals willing to take on a leadership role. Others have many individuals with low levels of commitment. So why is the situational approach relevant to this topic?
Northouse (2016) describes a distinct strength of situational leadership; he feels that this style of leadership revolves around flexibility. Personally, in previous group assignment’s, I feel that I have failed to provide the flexibility that Northouse describes. I have failed to ask questions that Northouse (2016) suggests, such as: what are the other group member’s being asked to do? How difficult is the assigned project? And what are the skills and competencies of each member?
Because of the fact that I do not frequently ask these questions, I am not acting as an effective leader. Those participating in a group assignment should first understand the capabilities and commitment of their counterparts. By taking this step, effective leaders can help direct group members towards appropriate tasks and duties that correlate well with their characteristics and abilities. However, without understanding the assignment as a whole, as well as the underlying duties, it is impossible to gauge how well each individual can perform in their assigned domain.
My greatest takeaway from the situation approach is the requirement that leaders be adaptive to changing environments. We will continue to work with different people throughout the remainder of our education and well into our professional careers, if not already. Because of this inconsistency, leaders need to understand that the skills and motivations of workers will continue to change over time, which in turn will affect the leadership style of the head of the group(Northouse, 2016). Leaders are likely to see their style and technique morph between a delegating, supporting, coaching and directing demeanor (Blanchard et al., 2013). They must contemplate the most beneficial style for the group. The next time you find yourself working within a group setting, ask yourself some of the questions listed above. Understand the characteristics and motivations of your team members in relation to the goal. Finally, determine whether you need to take on a supportive or directive role as the groups leader (Blanchard et al., 2013).
Blanchard, P., Zigarmi, P., Zigarmi, D. (2013). Leadership and the One Minute Manager: Increasing Effectiveness Through Situational Leadership. New York: William Morrow.
Northouse, P.G. (2016). Leadership: Theory and Practice (7th ed.). Los Angeles: Sage Publications.