In every workplace, home environment, classroom, church congregation, etc. there are people of every skill set and temperament. Leaders in these situations often adapt when one-on-one with the people of various situations. Situational leadership is an approach that, unlike many other theories or approaches, takes a prescriptive angle to leadership. In other words, the approach can be viewed as guidelines to the leadership that should be taken. Although in these settings leaders will more times than not be faced with leading an entire group, the focus can often come down to the interactions between the leader and each follower individually. Situational leadership handles situations individually by accommodating individuals by combining their skill set (competence) and their commitment to the organization. By assessing each follower on an individual basis the leader can adjust and adapt their style of leadership appropriately. The development by Blanchard (1985) of the SLII Model will be used to demonstrate a manager I deal with frequently. The SLII Model uses 4 styles of leadership combined with the 4 levels of development. For privacy purposes we will call him “Chris”. Chris has 3 subordinates, each with a unique set of abilities, commitment to their company, and a relationship with Chris. Situational leadership is perfect to apply to his situation. It is versatile and can be adjusted rather quickly in order to be the most effective.
Blanchard (1985) and Blanchard et al. (1985) developed an illustration (see below) to visualize the concepts of the SLII Model for easy understanding when using situational leadership (Northouse, 2013). This approach encompasses 4 styles: S1 Directing; high directive and low supportive, S2 Coaching; high directive and high supportive, S3 Supporting; high supportive and low directive, S4 Delegating; low supportive and low directive (Northouse, 2013). The 4 development levels range from D1 (low, developing) to D4 (high, developed) (Northouse, 2013). The 4 leadership styles and development levels are used in the various stages on Chris’s team. Mark has only recently joined the team but has previous experience in their field of operation. Steve has been with Chris’s team for just under a year and this is his first time in the industry. Bob has been with this company for over 30 years, was in management for 20 years, and is now simply finishing out his remaining few years before eligible for retirement. Each category can be applied in majority to each of them yet it will show that it also changes as the situations change.
Beginning with Mark, Chris is most often placed in the S1 category. Even though mark has previous experience in this field, he is required to learn the policies and practices of Chris’s company. Chris has taken a directive approach, focusing on goal achievement in the beginning weeks of employment. Chris gives instruction through a calendar of events and training modules to be completed by certain dates. The supportive behavior is low at this point in their relationship although it has recently been evolving. The line into S2 has been crossed more frequently now that will has some time in with the company. Mark and Chris are developing their interactions and Mark is beginning to be more self-sufficient. In way of development, Mark is steadily reaching D2 but still mainly in D1 which is consistent with leadership style.
Steve has been with Chris’s team for one year. Although Steve now has one year of experience and is familiar with the company yet he still requires the S2 coaching style with high supportive leadership and high directive leadership. Steve displays low confidence and requires specific goals. Chris is required to give directive support toward weekly, monthly, and quarterly goals. Chris offers his own “curbside coaching” in which after they are finished at an appointment they discuss practices that were employed. Chris always elicits input from Steve in order to boost his confidence and build their relationship. Steve is in the D2 phase of development. Chris’s goal is to put him in the D3 phase in the near future. The Supporting Style in S3 is the next level for Steve’s career and relationship with Chris.
Bob is a veteran in their field. He has been employed at many levels in the company but is now simply working as an agent for Chris in order to meet his financial needs and eventually retire. What is interesting in this relationship is that the leadership role is shared. At the majority of the time an S4 style is employed where Bob knows what is expected of him and they share a daily check in so they are on the same page yet Bob is in charge of his schedule and Chris rarely intervenes. On various occasions an S3 style is used. Although Bob has been with the company for so long, it has been a substantial amount of time since he has been out on his own, not in management. Chris is fairly new to management and has new ideas that Bob is happy to use. Bob will explain what issues he is encountering and Chris offers a fresh perspective in way of advice, generally something Bob has not yet used. Bob also offers Chris various advice on management in the company. Their relationship displays support back and forth interaction yet very little to no directive style. Bob is developed with only small needs to vary his level of development therefore his is classified as D4.
We can all say with confidence that situations change, people change, and relationships change. Roadblocks arise, new information is released, and product adjustments are made. The elements in the SLII Model illustrate an effective image in order to visualize the leadership styles combining with subordinate development levels. Chris and his team offer an exclusive look into the everyday changing environment as it applies to the SLII Model of situational leadership.
Northouse, Peter G. (2013). Leadership: Theory and Practice. Sixth Edition. Sage Publications.