Situational leadership theory and the model of Hershey & Blanchard .

Have you ever wondered what is the best leadership style? What is that one best way of leading that results in ultimate success?
Well, this is not even a right question to ask. Or at least, this is what situational leadership theory tells us !

What is Situational leadership theory?

Situational leadership theory assumes that leaders should be able to shift between different leadership styles according to the situation and the development of their team members. This means that there is no one best way to lead but for each situation there is a suitable leadership style.

What determines the situation?
. The Context : – The task (its nature, its complexity, its urgency, the level of risk,..)
– The organization ( its culture, values, policies, expectations and norms of behavior)
– The leader ( his personality, his approach to leadership, his own values and style,..)

. Team members: their skills, experience, motivation and confidence. In other words: their behavior.

So the context and the behavior of team members is what determines the situation. And according to situational leadership, if the leader understands these two elements then he can choose the ideal leadership style that matches the situation.

The model of Hershey and Blanchard:

In 1982, management experts Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard established an original model of situational leadership in their book ” Management Of OrganizationalBehavior”.
They argued that the leadership style must match The Maturity of employees.
This model identifies 4 different leadership styles, which are:

S1: Telling
Associated with autocratic leaders who take all the decisions without consulting subordinates. The flow of communication is from only from leader to follower, and the feedback from followers is not “welcomed”. The leader applies close supervision and directs all the day-to-day tasks.

S2: Selling.
This involves more back-and-forth between the leader and subordinates, this means that the supervisor is more receptive to feedback from his team than in s1. Leaders inthis style “sell” their ideas to their subordinates to obtain their cooperation.

S3: Participating.
The leader participates in decision making but most of the decisions are made by the team. The leader offers less direction and allows his subordinates to take a more active role in the decision-making process.

S4: Delegating.
This is a hands-off approach to leadership. Leader provides minimal direction and guidance because he is more concerned with the vision than the day-to-day tasks.

Maturity levels :

Alongside with the 4 leadership styles, the model also identifies 4 levels of followers’ maturity that describes the behavior of the employees towards a specific task.

M1: Group members lack the competence and knowledge and are not committed or enthusiastic about the task.

M2: Group members lack the competence and knowledge but have the commitment and willingness.

M3: They have the skills, knowledge and competence they need but they are not willing to take the responsibility.

M4: The subordinates are highly skilled and have high commitment and confidence to complete the task .

According to the situational leadership model of Hershey and Blanchard, to each level of maturity the leader should match a specific leadership style, in order to get the best performance out of his employees.

The model suggests the matching to be done in the following way:
M1 –> S1
M2 –> S2
M3 –> S3
M4 –> S4

As the employee is less skilled and not committed, he is not ready to assume the responsibility of participating in the decision-making and he needs more help from his leader to deal with his tasks, at this maturity level the “telling ” style is the most suitable.
As the subordinate develops his skills and knowledge and becomes more willing and committed to assume responsibility, the leader should, gradually  shift to a more delegating approach .


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