After reading the assigned Northouse text and lesson commentary on the situational approach, it has become more evident why this approach is well-known and frequently used for leadership training across several organizations. Unlike the trait or psychodynamic approach, Northouse (2013) states that the situational approach focuses on leadership in various situations. The main theory behind it is that different situations will require different types of leadership. Therefore, effective leadership involves leaders adapting their styles to the demands of the situation. I believe that one of the greatest strengths of this approach is that it emphasizes the differences of individuals. Leaders must realize that their subordinates vary in numerous regards including their experience, intelligence, and work ethic. For that reason, it is essential that leaders be flexible with their leadership style and adjust it according to their subordinates’ needs.
Thinking back to my internship working for a general contractor this previous summer in Washington, D.C., I believe that the situational approach applied rather well to my project manager. As the leader on the project site, my project manager had the opportunity to exercise the four leadership styles as mentioned by Northouse (2013) which are: delegating, supporting, coaching, and directing. When working with members on the project team with years of experience, such as the superintendents, assistant project managers, and quality control manager, my project manager was able to apply a supporting or delegating leadership type. That is, he would assign them work and sometimes listen for their input. Overall, he was able to trust that these members of the project team would be able to accomplish the assigned tasks in a timely matter while being able to make their own decisions. Those on the project team with less experience, such as the project engineers and interns, received other types of leadership styles from the project manager, most notably the coaching and directing styles. These leadership styles require that the project manager give more specific instruction on how to achieve goals because the project engineers and interns may not be the most knowledgeable and experienced on the project.
In conclusion, I believe that my example was able to exemplify the universality of the situational approach. My project manager was able to change his leadership style depending on the needs and experience of his subordinates. It is important to note that the situational approach may have applied to anybody on the project team. For example, a project engineer may have applied a coaching style when helping an intern achieve a task that was assigned by the project manager. This proves the practicality and prescriptive values of the situational approach as employees and leaders of any level may utilize it in nearly any situation.
Northouse, P. G. (2013). Leadership: Theory and Practice (6th edition). Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications.