Hersey and Blanchard’s situational leadership model is one of the most prominent leadership styles globally. Based on Thompson and Glaso (2018), situational leadership is famous in school teacher-training settings and management training programs. This situational leadership style was originally regarded as the life cycle approach. As cited in Graeff (1997), Hersey and Blanchard changed the name of the theory to transformational leadership style in 1977, declaring it as grounded on the curvilinear relationship between relationship behavior, task behavior, and maturity. The development of the theory followed the publication of leadership studies, suggesting the existence of the best style of leadership (Hersey & Blanchard, 1969). Hersey and Blanchard (1969) argue against a single excellent leadership style. In so doing, the study sided with research by Fred Fielder (1972), whose contingency model suggested that leadership performance depends on the favorableness of the situation as well as the motivational pattern of the leader. According to the life cycle theory, successful leaders are known for changing their behaviors in response to every follower’s maturity level (or psychological change) (Hersey & Blanchard, 1976).
The model is reputable based on how it presents directive and supportive dimensions of the different application of leadership styles in different situations. Leaders are expected to explore different situations and understand the best leadership style to apply (Hersey and Blanchard, 1981). The situational leadership style by Hersey and Blanchard is critical in helping different leaders to achieve their targets in various situations. The model tackles the task behavior, readiness level of the staff, and the relationship behavior of the leader (Hersey and Blanchard, 1984). The model dictates that more than one means a team can be led. A leader is supposed to evaluate the readiness level of the employees and select the most appropriate leadership style. Based on Hersey and Blanchard (1979), the readiness level of the employees refers to their ability, incentive, and the level they assume responsibility for the realization of organizational purpose. With an increase in readiness, the leader must adapt the task/relationship behavior and promote the character and output of employees as indicated in Table 1 below based on the recommended four leadership styles (Hersey and Blanchard, 1984).
The selling style should be undertaken in salutations where the employee cannot proceed with the task (Hersey and Blanchard, 1969). Under such a situation, more emphasis is placed on the task and less on the relationship (Hersey and Blanchard, 1969). Similarly, the style is appropriate when the follower is insecure regarding the task (Hersey and Blanchard, 1969). Therefore, the manager should be concerned with alternative means to accomplish the task.
The selling style applies in situations where the follower cannot complete the task but is willing to handle it (Hersey and Blanchard, 1969). Under this situation, the follower (employee) may not have the skills to tackle the task. More emphasis is placed on the relationship, and minimal consideration is placed on the job (Hersey and Blanchard, 1969). The selling style gives employees the confidence to work on the task even if they don’t have the skills to handle it (Hersey and Blanchard, 1969).
The situational model of leadership by Hersey and Blanchard (1969) also recommends the participating style (Hersey and Blanchard, 1969). The participating style comes in when the follower is unwilling to perform the task. Under this situation, the employee has the skills but is not confident regarding the jobs (Hersey and Blanchard, 1969). There is a low emphasis on completing the task but more consideration on the relationship.
Finally, Hersey and Blanchard (1969) recommend delegating style. The delegation style occurs when the follower is both able and willing to perform the task. The follower at this point is confident and possesses the skills required to complete the task (Hersey and Blanchard, 1969). Under these circumstances, less consideration is placed on relations and the job.
According to Gill (2012), the interdisciplinary model of Burns (2001) can be integrated with Hersey and Blanchard’s situational leadership approach to recommending a series of actions that can be taken for effective leadership depending on the leadership style adopted as shown in Table 2 below.
Leaders are expected to be flexible and adjust their leadership styles based on the capacity and willingness of their followers. According to Hersey and Blanchard (1969), using the correct situational leadership style under low readiness circumstances can make followers mature and grow their confidence and abilities. The leader must understand his followers’ development and flexibility response and become less directive as employees improve their capability and willingness (Hersey, 1997). According to Hersey, Angelini, and Carakushansky (1982), the potential for a leader to change his leadership style depends on the dyadic relationship formed with the followers. Yukl (2013) claims that these variations play a critical role in solving employee readiness challenges like a personal disaster. The situational leadership style is more concerned about employees (followers) (Grady, 2010). However, this role of followers is exercised at a specific developmental level within the work environment (O’hair & Odell, 1995). During the application of situational leadership, a leader is expected to exhibit different behaviors depending on the situation’s urgency, nature, and complexity (Bass, 1985; Grady, 2010; Hersey, 1997). According to Halima (2006), the use of situational leadership style has proven effective in the education setting. A similar finding has been established by Clark (1981), who noted an improvement in the teaching environment of the educators and learning environment of students when situational leadership style is applied. The findings by Clark (1981) are emphasized by Aric (2007), who argues that teachers must apply different teaching styles in various situations to realize good outcomes among the learners.
Later, Hersey, Blanchard, and Natemeyer (1979) acknowledge the impact of seven different types of power on situational leadership style. Based on them, different types of power align with varying levels of follower competence. A negative impact is felt on leadership effectiveness when a leadership style is aligned with a wrong power base. As a result, Yukl (2013) recommends promoting subordinate maturity through developmental interventions that advance the confidence and personal skills of the followers. A leader must use his power as perceived by followers to induce influence and compliance (Hersey et al., 1979). The projection of the right form of power is important for leaders and followers because it aims at promoting the follower’s confidence and performance level.
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