One of the most popular television dramas on right now is the medical drama, Grey’s Anatomy (Rhimes, 2005). The drama follows the doctors of Grey-Sloan Memorial Hospital, formally, Seattle Grace, as they navigate through both personal and professional drama. The show spans 15 seasons and follows several characters from their medical internship through getting their own attending positions. Through all 15 seasons the viewer sees almost every style of leadership through the many attendings, and in several instances, the situational approach is apparent.
In season 13 of Grey’s Anatomy in an episode titled Why Try to Change Me Now, we are introduced to a new Residency Director, Eliza Minnick (Rhimes, 2016). Her style and approach are much different from the approach of the prior residency director who followed a static trajectory of learning for all residents. Minnick seems to practice the situational approach with her residents, and it throws the hospital into upheaval. The situational approach addresses both the leader and the follower and allows for a flexible leadership approach depending on the situation given. This approach examines the competency and commitment of the follower and gives a directive for the leader in the given situation (Northouse, 2016, pg. 93). Prior to Minnick, the residents were to be seen, not heard, and also were not allowed to participate in surgeries (Greys Anatomy, Rhimes, 2007). Minnick addresses each resident and meets their educational experience wherever they were at. The residents are all relatively new surgeons, so they lack competency, but have no limit on their commitment and excitement for the medical field.
A majority of the residents at this point are at the D1 level, or low in competence and high in commitment, and Minnick is required to lead at the S1 level, or high directive-low support level according to the SLII model (Northouse, 2016, pg. 94-96). She begins in a later episode titled It Only Gets Much Worse by gathering information from the residents to gauge their competency and giving them directions on what the goals were for the near future. The final goal of the program is to develop skilled surgeons prepared for the real world. She shows the residents how to do simple procedures like doing sutures by explaining the goals and initiatives without a significant amount of support or independence for the residents (Grey’s Anatomy, Rhimes, 2016). One of the residents, Stephanie, is more advanced that the other residents and falls into the D4, or high competency and high commitment quadrant of the SLII model developed by Hersey and Blanchard (Northouse, 2016, pg. 93-94). Minnick then moves into the S4 style of leadership, or the low-supportive-low directive style, for Stephanie exclusively and allows Stephanie to perform her own solo surgery for the first time (Northouse, 2016, pg. 95). Minnick has facilitated Stephanie’s confidence and motivation and has allowed her to independently achieve the goal with less support and goal input from Minnick (Northouse, 2016, pg. 95).
While many of her fellow attendings do not like her, Minnick has given the residents their best opportunity to learn yet and has also adapted her leadership style to the needs of each individual resident (Grey’s Anatomy, Rhimes, 2016). Though the show is a dramatization of the real world, it does show a real world application of the SLII model and situational leadership as a whole. Minnick allowed the residents to learn more in a month’s time, than they had learned throughout their entire residency up to that point by using Situational Leadership Theory and meeting her followers where they were at and adapting her leadership style to suit the situation.
Northouse, P. (2016). Leadership: Theory and Practice. Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications, Inc
Rhimes, S. (2005) Grey’s Anatomy. Seattle, WA. American Broadcasting Company.