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Situational Leadership by Hersey and Blanchard

This study examines Hersey and Blanchard’s situational leadership theory (1969). In this study, the leadership styles of selling, participating, and delegating are examined. Leaders’ abilities to lead are contingent on the context in which they find themselves (Vecchio, 2017). Specifically, Hersey and Blanchard spent a significant amount of time studying how followers’ qualities influence leadership behavior. They discovered that as the abilities and willingness of their followers varied, so did the leadership style of those in charge. Because people’s skills and desire to follow might evolve, a leader’s connection with their followers is likely to go through several stages. Selling, Participating, and Delegating leadership styles are discussed in detail on these pages. As a result, Hersey and Blanchard developed a method for dealing with different types of followers at various phases of development (Blanchard et al., 2019). Managerial Grid model Blake and Mouton’s “care for people” component can be seen in leaders’ supportive actions. Like with directive behavior, followers’ preparation or development level determines the proper level of this relationship-focused strategy.


A high defectiveness and supportiveness characterize the Selling leadership style. Hersey made the case that this approach is necessary for followers who are willing but unable to complete work in the traditional manner (Blanchard et al., 2019). For followers to assume more responsibility for their actions, the leader’s style should boost their self-confidence and competence. Followers, according to Blanchard, were enthusiastic at the beginning but have now lost their confidence due to a lack of expertise. To help the ‘Disillusioned Learners,’ a leader who is more concerned with supporting behavior is needed (Henkel & Bourdeau, 2018). This style aims to get people on board and clear about what’s going on. It aligns with followers who have little or no expertise with the activity but are enthusiastic about the leader-driven skill development process and eager to teach (Goodson et al., 2019). Like selling style, practical application of this strategy relies on direct observations by the leader, which lead to concentrated performance feedback conversations and increased dialogues.

The selling style applies in situations where the follower cannot complete the task but is willing to proceed on handling 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 task (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). According to Clark (1981), an enhancement is realized in the teaching environment of the educators and learning setting of students when situational leadership style is applied. As per Tatlah and Iqbal (2012), selling is critical in promoting good performance among students in the school setting. Selling leadership style also encourages good behaviors among students as society expects them.


All individuals can benefit from the participating leadership style. High levels of support and minimal levels of directive behavior characterize this communication style (Blanchard et al., 2019). Leadership and follower contact can be enhanced by listening, praising, and a high degree of interaction. Only when necessary to motivate and develop a subordinate will the leader offer feedback, not comment on the work performance (Hersey et al., 1979). A follower in development may have shown task proficiency, but they’re still afraid to try it out on their own (Vecchio, 2017). When a follower is regressing, it’s because they know they can do the job well, but they’ve lost interest or drive to do so. In either case, the leader must ask open-ended questions to help the follower identify the source of the problem and develop a viable solution.


The final leadership style assumes that followers will behave low-supportive and low-directive. When an employee is capable and willing to carry out tasks independently, and with a great deal of responsibility, it’s called a ‘hands-off approach (Ireh & Bailey, 2019). This can be done while still ensuring that the follower is not burdened with too much responsibility or that the leader does not entirely remove himself from the vicinity of the follower. Leaders should therefore keep an eye on and monitor these types of followers, even if it’s just for the sake of keeping an eye on and monitoring them (Vecchio, 2017). The goal of delegating style is to build/enhance taskmaster and self-confidence. It works best with people who have a lot of experience doing the job well, and a high level of intrinsic motivation encourages them to keep up the excellent work. Delegating style communication often begins with inquiries from the leader that allows for a wide range of responses from the follower (Nicholls, 2015).

According to Hersey and Blanchard (1969), delegation leadership is a follower-driven leadership approach. The follower obtains the ability to carry out tasks at the expected level with much confidence and has the self-drive to do so. The follower, therefore, remains accountable to the superior. Supported by Bass (1990), delegation shows the empowerment that one (usually considered a junior) has received or obtained from the up-line to take responsibilities for specified tasks. The superior directs the activities of the junior and further vests the power to make decisions to him, implying the delegation of authority. Later affirmed by Staw and Sutton (2000), the delegation has a close relationship with empowerment, further associated with self-efficacy. Delegation as a leadership style helps create and enhance the mastery and autonomy of tasks. The approach offers psychological empowerment to followers. Despite the follower obtaining the experience to perform the task expectedly, there must also be an inner motivation that pushes one towards the commitment to success.

Moreover, the adopted communication style with delegation leadership style flows from the follower to the leader. This emanates from the leader’s questions and the instructions provided. Such helps followers share their perception of how they view things and how they ought to be handled. Typically, learning environments encounter various situations which further dictate the leadership approach employed.

Delegation is essential as it helps in promoting individual feedback-seeking behavior. Moreover, feedback is necessary as it allows individuals, including students and teachers, to improve on their areas of weakness. Zhang et al. (2017) stated that delegation motivates juniors to improve their skills and expertise. Additionally, delegation enables followers to exercise self-direction and control. An individual gets to develop self-efficacy and self-determination views. Besides, effective leadership enhances a school’s performance. According to Xiong Chen and Aryee (2007), when authority and responsibilities are delegated to juniors, they get to feel trusted and influential. The author’s further state that the followers’ self-esteem gets boosted through delegation, making them believe that their superiors see them be competent at the delegated tasks, able to give expected results, and need satisfying. Generally, with this perception, Sashkin (1984) states that the followers can enhance their work quality. Through the leadership roles, learning institutions often face multiple management challenges.


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Zhang, X., Qian, J., Wang, B., Jin, Z., Wang, J., & Wang, Y. (2017). Leaders’ behaviors matter: The role of delegation in promoting employees’ feedback-seeking behavior. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 920.


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