Situational Leadership

Knowledge Center


Adopting different leadership styles depending on the situation. Explanation of the leadership model of Blanchard and Hersey. ('68)


  1. Summary
  2. Forum
  3. Expert Tips
  4. Resources


Situational Leadership?

Why register?

What is Situational Leadership (SL)? Description

The Situational Leadership method from Kenneth Blanchard and Paul Hersey holds that managers must use different leadership styles depending on the situation. The model allows you to analyze the needs of the situation you're in, and then use the most appropriate leadership style. Depending on employees' competences in their task areas and commitment to their tasks, your leadership style should vary from one person to another. You may even lead the same person one way sometimes, and another way at other times.

Blanchard and Hersey characterized leadership style in terms of the amount of direction and of support that the leader gives to his or her followers, and so created a simple matrix (figure).

Leadership Behavior of the Leader

  • S1 - Telling / Directing - High task focus, low relationship focus - leaders define the roles and tasks of the 'follower', and supervise them closely. Decisions are made by the leader and announced, so communication is largely one-way. For people who lack competence but are enthusiastic and committed. They need direction and supervision to get them started.
  • S2 - Selling / Coaching - High task focus, high relationship focus - leaders still define roles and tasks, but seeks ideas and suggestions from the follower. Decisions remain the leader's prerogative, but communication is much more two-way. For people who have some competence but lack commitment. They need direction and supervision because they are still relatively inexperienced. They also need support and praise to build their self-esteem, and involvement in decision-making to restore their commitment.
  • S3 - Participating / Supporting - Low task focus, high relationship focus - leaders pass day-to-day decisions, such as task allocation and processes, to the follower. The leader facilitates and takes part in decisions, but control is with the follower. For people who have competence, but lack confidence or motivation. They do not need much direction because of their skills, but support is necessary to bolster their confidence and motivation.
  • S4 - Delegating - Low task focus, low relationship focus - leaders are still involved in decisions and problem-solving, but control is with the follower. The follower decides when and how the leader will be involved. For people who have both competence and commitment. They are able and willing to work on a project by themselves with little supervision or support.

Effective leaders are versatile in being able to move around the matrix according to the situation, so there is no style that is always right. However, we tend to have a preferred style, and in applying SL you need to know which one that is for you.

Likewise, the competence and commitment of the follower can also be distinguished in 4 quadrants.

Development Level of the Follower

  • D4 - High Competence, High Commitment - Experienced at the job, and comfortable with their own ability to do it well. May even be more skilled than the leader.
  • D3 - High Competence, Variable Commitment - Experienced and capable, but may lack the confidence to go it alone, or the motivation to do it well / quickly.
  • D2 - Some Competence, Low Commitment - May have some relevant skills, but won't be able to do the job without help. The task or the situation may be new to them.
  • D1 - Low Competence, High Commitment - Generally lacking the specific skills required for the job in hand, but has the confidence and / or motivation to tackle it.

Similar to the leadership styles, the development levels are also situational. A person could be skilled, confident and motivated for one part of his his job, but could be less competent for another part of the job.

Blanchard and Hersey said that the Leadership Style (S1 - S4) of the leader must correspond to the Development level (D1 - D4) of the follower - and it's the leader who adapts. By adopting the right style to suit the follower's development level, work gets done, relationships are built up, and most importantly, the follower's development level will rise to D4, to everyone's benefit.

Steps in SL. Process

  1. Make an overview per employee of his/her tasks
  2. Assess the employee on each task (D1...D4)
  3. Decide on the leadership (management) style per task (S1...S4)
  4. Discuss the situation with the employee
  5. Make a joint plan
  6. Follow-up, check and correct

Strengths of the SL model. Benefits

  • Easy to understand
  • Easy to use

Limitations of the SL model. Disadvantages

  • Model fails to distinguish between leadership and management. What is called leadership style is really management style. Compare also: Leadership Pipeline
  • Leadership is not primarily about making decisions anyway - it is about inspiring people to change direction.
  • Leaders may indeed vary the way they inspire people to change. But this is when they have already decided on the need to change. Hence leadership style does not reduce to decision making style.
  • Focuses too exclusively on what the person in charge does.
  • Of course both leaders and managers have to behave differently in different situations. But that is just a trivial fact of life, rather than anything profound in terms of our basic understanding of what it means to lead or manage.

Assumptions of SL. Conditions

  • Leaders should adapt their style to follower 'maturity', based on how ready and willing the follower is to perform required tasks (that is, their competence and motivation).
  • There are four leadership styles that match the four combinations of high/low readiness and willingness.
  • The four styles suggest that leaders should put greater or less focus on the task in question and/or the relationship between the leader and the follower.
  • Presumes that leadership is about how the boss makes decisions.

Book: Paul Hersey, Kenneth H. Blanchard, Dewey E. Johnson - Management of Organizational Behavior: Leading -

Situational Leadership Forum (25 topics) Help
To get access to this forum, you need to be a member: Please log in... | Register
  Situational Leadership Depending on Generation of Followers?
The following approximate categorization of generations based on birth year is widely accepted:
- Builders (1925-1945)
- Baby Boomers (1946-1964)
- Generation X (1965-1979)
- Generation Y (1980-1994)
- Generation Z (1995-2010...

Situational Followership

If you feel frustrated or uninspired by your leader, you're in good company. Many people are unhappy with the leadership styles of those above them. Rather than trying to oust or change your leader, it may be time to look inward. Accept what you can'...

What's the Preferred Management Style for Handling Professionals?

What is the preferred management style for handling a team of professionals? Why?...

Using Situational Leadership II to Identify & Quantify Skill Levels

Situational Leadership (SL II) is a very good tool to identify and quantify the skill level of a person and coach appropriately....

Situational Social Communication Styles

Every person has a specific social communication style, and therefor reacts different to any goal setting by management. The insight a manager has on the social communication style of his/her employee is essential for motivating people....

Is Situational Leadership Innate in Good Leaders?

Before I discovered that someone had put a name to this technique, I thought it was one of the things in the kit bag of a good manager. It just makes such basic common sense that I'd be surprised if every successful manager hasn't used it to a greate...

Leading a New Institution

My comment is a question seeking some guidance: here is my challenge and need some perspectives on. I am part of a new institution where everything is being done form scratch. The team has agreed on some core values in line with the established missi...

Using Situational Leadership to Map and Support Business Units

I was looking for a methodology to use to help map 6 business units to determine the level of support to provide each business unit. This Situational leadership approach is great is providing some framework to help me accomplish this....

Approaching Different People Differently

I can fully agree with your statements. While I do not consider myself a "seasoned" leader, I have found that I need to approach different people differently in order to get them motivated and have the work accomplished. A leader really needs to real...

We Naturally Regress to our Dominant Leadership Style!

It may be "... just a trivial fact of life that leaders have to behave differently in different situations".
But another "trivial" fact is that we "naturally" regress to our dominant style without constant vigilance to treat every situati...

Situational Leadership & Performance Rating

Has anyone used the situational leadership development level definitions as rating scales for a performance management program? If so, please comment....

Situational Leadership Helps you to Focus on Particular Methods

I am currently doing a L5 Dipl in Management and part of one assignment is to analyze different types/styles of leadership. Having read though all your comments it has really helped me get a full range of perspectives. It is really good to hear the ...

Definition of Job Maturity and Psychological Maturity in SLT

What precisely is meant with job maturity and psychological maturity in the context of Situational Leadership Theory? Thanks for your help......

Situational Leadership Model works for me

It's great model and I used it in my management. It works to help the business run smoothly. Very effective in the individual differences as well as in appraising your employee....

Blanchard Leadership Theory is Correct

Most of the comments on shortcomings of the theory reflect the authors failure to understand the theory. Although the theory is a little simplistic in order to fit into the boxes, it is also essentially correct. Many poor leaders do not fundamentally...

Situational Leadership is a Key to Success in Good Governance

In good governance, one of the key factor of its success is situational leadership, in as much as leader needs to adopt to the present situation in their locality rather than indulge in the previous situation of a former leader. Rather than indulging...

Model for Teaching Situational Leadership in a College Setting

Is there a model/materials that I could order that would help me to formulate a method for teaching SL within the structure of a college academic schedule?...

Practical Situational Leadership Examples

Who can illustrate the use of different styles of leaderships with a simple example? Thanks!...

Leaders must have multiple skills

Leaders must face different situations which requires different tactics.So they must have multiple skills....

Situational Leadership Board Game

I remember planning a situational leadership board game in 1976 as a student. Is that game still available? Who has some more information about other situational leadership games?...
See 5 more topics: Please log in... | RegisterStart a new discussion: Please log in... | Register

Situational Leadership Special Interest Group

Special Interest Group

Situational Leadership Education & Events

Find Trainings, Seminars and Events

Expert Tips - Situational Leadership Premium
Discover and utilize expert tips per method: Please log in... | Register

Managing Very Clever People

What you should understand if you're 'managing' extremely clever people...

Also Adapt your Leadership Style to Society

Situational Leadership

Leadership Practices Inventory by Kouzes and Posner

Common Behaviors that Successful Leaders Display

What is the Opposite of Situational Leadership?

Leadership Development, Management Development, Coaching, Mentoring

How to Develop your Own Leadership Philosophy

Leadership/Management Development, Coaching, Mentoring

Employee vs Task-oriented

Leadership, Adaptability

Situational Leadership® II

Training on SL

Resources - Situational Leadership Premium
Access presentations, news and videos on each method: Please log in... | Register

Situational Leadership


Situational Leadership versus Contingency Theory

Situational Leadership, Contingency Theory, Trainings, Workshops

Practical Communication Tips for Managers

Management Skills, Leadership Skills, Management Development, Leadership Development, Situational Leadership

10 Leadership Theories in a Nutshell

Leadership Theories Overview, Leadership Development, Management Development, Leadership Styles, Coaching, Mentoring

Video Introduction to Leadership

First Understanding of Leadership, Trainings, Workshops

Situational Leadership Diagrams

Situational Leadership

SLII® model



Situational Leadership Model


Situational Leadership


Situational Leadership Model


Situational Leadership


Situational Leadership Model


Situational Leadership


Situational Leadership Model


Situational Leadership

Compare with Blanchard and Hersey Situational Leadership:  Leadership Styles  |  Stages of Team Development  |  Leadership Pipeline  |  Leadership Continuum  |  Hagberg Model of Personal Power  |  Managerial Grid  |  Path-Goal Theory  |  Theory X Theory Y  |  Contingency Theory  |  Competing Values Framework  |  Expectancy Theory  |  Result Oriented Management  |  Bases of Social Power  |  Seven Surprises  |  Seven Habits  |  Results-Based Leadership  |  Level 5 Leadership  |  Servant-Leadership

Return to Management Hub: Communication & Skills  |  Human Resources  |  Leadership

More Management Methods, Models and Theory

Sponsor this knowledge center

Special Interest Group Leader
Expert? Become our Situational Leadership SIG Leader.

All you need to know about management

12manage for:

Management Smart Card

12manage in:

The perfect souvenir for your education program

Copyright 2015 12manage - The Executive Fast Track. V14.0 - Last updated: 2-4-2015. All names tm by their owners.