Situational leadership – An effective leadership approach


The leadership capability of an organisation determines the quality of products, service delivery and staff that make up the organisation.

Paul Nyausaru

An effective leader is one that is able to adopt the most cutting edge leadership styles that propel the organisation forward even in the most difficult circumstances.

Which then is the most suitable leadership style that an effective leader should adopt? There are several leadership styles that are open to leaders and managers.

The leadership style is known as the situational leadership model. The Situational Leadership Model, which has been adapted from Ken Blanchard and Paul Hersey suggests that there is no “one size fits all” approach to leadership.

Depending on the situation, varying levels of “leadership” and “management” are necessary. It is, however, critical that leaders first identify their most important tasks or priorities.

The leaders must then consider the readiness level of their followers by analysing the group’s ability and willingness. Depending on the level of these variables, the leader must apply the most appropriate leadership style to fit that given situation. There are basically four different types of situational leadership which we are going to interrogate. These are:

Directing – This leadership approach is most appropriate when the followers have low willingness and low ability for the task at hand. When the followers cannot do the job and are unwilling or afraid to try, then the leader must take a highly directive role.

Directing requires those in charge to define the roles and tasks of the followers, and supervise them closely.

Decisions are then made by those in charge and communication is usually one-way. If the leader focused more on the relationship in this situation, the followers would become confused about what must be done and what is optional.

Directing is often used when the issue is serious or comes with drastic consequences if not successful. Therefore the leader maintains a directive position to ensure all required actions are completed.
Coaching – This leadership approach is most appropriate when the followers have high willingness but low ability for the task at hand.

Like Directing, Coaching still requires leaders to define roles and tasks clearly, but the leader then seeks ideas and suggestions from the follower. Decisions remain the leader’s prerogative, but communication is much more two-way than in directing.

Followers needing coaching require direction and supervision because they are still relatively inexperienced, but they also need support and praise to build their self-esteem, and involvement in decision-making to restore their commitment. While Coaching, it is important for the leader to pay attention to listening, advising, and helping the follower gain necessary skills in order to do the task autonomously next time.

Supporting – This leadership approach is most appropriate when the followers have low willingness but high ability for the task at hand. Supportive leadership works when the follower can do the job, but is refusing to do it or showing a lack of commitment.

The leader need not worry about showing them what to do, but instead should be concerned with finding out why the followers are refusing and work to persuade them to cooperate.

The key to supportive leadership is motivating and building confidence in people! Clarification on the details of the process won’t matter, as the follower already knows what to do but lacks the motivation to act.

Supportive leadership also involves listening, giving praise and making the followers feel good when they show the necessary commitments for success.

Delegating – This leadership approach is most appropriate when the followers have high willingness and high ability. Leaders should rely on delegating when the follower can do the job and is motivated to do it.

There is a high amount of trust thatthe follower will do well, and the follower requires little supervision or support. Delegating still keeps the leader involved in the decisions and problem-solving, but execution is mostly in the hands of the followers. Because the follower has the most control, he is responsible for communicating information back up to the leader.

Followers at this level have less need for support or frequent praise, although has with anyone, occasional recognition is always encouraged.

Paul Nyausaru is a Human Resources Practitioner. You can contact him on email or Views contained in this article are personal.