HR Glossary  >   Situational Leadership

Situational Leadership

What is Situational Leadership?

Situational leadership is how a leader changes their leadership according to the current work setting or fulfills the needs of the team. This leading approach doesn't just depend on the leader's skill but on how well a leader changes their approach to meet the needs of their team or organization. This makes them a better and more effective leader.

This leadership approach was first introduced by Ken Blanchard and Paul Hersey when they were working on their book called “Management of Organizational Behaviour”. Henceforth, it is known as the “Situational Leadership Theory” or “Situation Theory Model”. according to Blanchard and Hersey, a situational leader can change into 4 ways of leading, depending on what the situation is. The ways are:


Here, the team needs a lot of guidance and close watching. Leaders who follow this approach decide everything and instruct the team. This method works best with new teams or when the same tasks need to be repeated many times.


This is used when a team or person is not motivated to do a task or job. The leader works to motivate them to get the job done.


This is for when a team knows how to carry out a certain task but might not have the confidence or desire to do it. The leader in turn helps them feel more confident and willing to finish it.


In this style, the team knows their job well and doesn't need much help. The leader gives them the freedom to work on their own.

No single style is the best. A situational leader chooses the style that fits best with what the situation needs.

Advantages of Situational Leadership

Situational leadership has several good points for both the leader and their team or organization:

  • Leaders can pick the best way to lead in each situation.
  • This way of leading is easy to understand. The main thing needed is to look at the situation and change the way of leading to fit it.
  • It can make employees feel more at ease because the way of leading usually meets what they need.
  • This leadership style takes into account the different growth stages of employees and helps meet each person's skills and needs.

Disadvantages of Situational Leadership

Situational leadership has some downsides when used in an organization. These include:

  • This might confuse people in the organization as a situational leader changes their approach of leading to fit each team or an individual.
  • The changing approach of the leadership style often makes leaders focus more on short-term goals, losing focus for the long-term goals.
  • Situational leadership doesn't work well for jobs where the same work is done repeatedly.
  • The success of situational leadership depends on the leader's skill in understanding how mature or skilled an employee is. If a leader can't do this well, they might not lead in a way that works best for an employee or team.

Examples of Situational Leadership

New Project Team

Imagine a leader with a new team working on a complex project. Initially, the leader uses a "telling" style, giving clear instructions and closely supervising the team to guide them. As the team becomes more familiar with the project, the leader shifts to a "selling" style, motivating and encouraging the team to take more initiative.

Experienced Team Facing a New Challenge

A leader with an experienced team faces a new, unfamiliar challenge. The leader initially adopts a "participating" style, collaborating closely with the team, seeking their input and working together to develop a solution. As the team gains confidence and understanding of the new challenge, the leader moves to a "delegating" style, giving the team more freedom while providing support as needed.

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