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Situational Leadership Theory Cheat Sheet by

theory     leadership     situational


The situat­ional leadership theory, developed by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard (1977), is based upon two continuums — the required level of superv­ision and arousal required to coach workers in specific situations so that they develop into great perfor­mers:

Ken Blanchard (1985) later refined the model and changed the term Situat­ional Leadership Theory to simply Situat­ional Leader­ship. In his model, leadership is the act of providing the correct amount of superv­ision (Directing Behavior) and arousal (Suppo­rtive Behavior), which in turn, produces the best learning and develo­pmental enviro­nment as shown in the model.

Superv­ision (direc­ting)

The employee's skill and knowledge level determines the level of superv­ision (what the authors call Direct­ing). On one end of the continuum is over-s­upe­rvi­sion, while the other end is under-­sup­erv­ision. The goal is to hit the sweet-­spot. Under-­sup­erv­ision leads to miscom­mun­ica­tion, lack of coordi­nation, and the perception by subord­inates that the leader does not care.

Over-s­upe­rvision stifles initia­tive, breeds resent­ment, and lowers morale. The goal is to provide the correct amount of superv­ision that is determined by the employee's skill and knowledge level.

Arousal (suppo­rting)

The employee's skill and knowledge level determines the amount of arousal or emotional support required (what the authors call Suppor­ting). This emotional support raises or lowers the task holder's arousal level (the inner-­drive within our self-s­ystem). A certain level of arousal motivates us toward change (learn­ing). However, too much or too little will over or under stimulate our behavior. In highly cognitive tasks a low arousal is required as over-s­imu­lation may occur (and vice-v­ersa).

Four Step Model

Situat­ional Leadership is basically is a four-step model, however, depending upon the situation, you can jump into any step as required (depending on how well an employee can perform and is motivated to perform) :
1. Direct­ing - Provide lots of direction (learner does not know how to perform) and a small amount of support..
2. Coaching - Decrease direction (so that learner can learn by trial and error) and increase support (needs emotional support due to some failure).
3. Suppor­ting - Decrease direction even more (so that learner can become self-s­upp­orting) and decrease support.
4. Delega­ting - Provide direction and support on an as-needed basis.


Maturity Levels

The right leadership style will depend on the person or group being led. The Hersey­-Bl­anchard Situat­ional Leadership Theory identified four levels of maturity:
M1 - They still lack the specific skills required for the job in hand and are unable and unwilling to do or to take respon­sib­ility for this job or task. (According to Ken Blanchard "The honeymoon is over")
M2 - They are unable to take on respon­sib­ility for the task being done; however, they are willing to work at the task. They are novice but enthus­iastic.
M3 - They are experi­enced and able to do the task but lack the confidence or the willin­gness to take on respon­sib­ility.
M4 - They are experi­enced at the task, and comfor­table with their own ability to do it well. They are able and willing to not only do the task, but to take respon­sib­ility for the task.

Maturity Levels are also task-s­pec­ific. A person might be generally skilled, confident and motivated in their job, but would still have a maturity level M1 when asked to perform a task requiring skills they don't possess.

Developing people and self-m­oti­vation

A good leader develops "the competence and commitment of their people so they’re self-m­oti­vated rather than dependent on others for direction and guidan­ce."­ According to Hersey a leader’s high, realistic expect­ation causes high perfor­mance of followers; a leader’s low expect­ations lead to low perfor­mance of followers. According to Ken Blanchard, "Four combin­ations of competence and commitment make up what we call 'devel­opment level.'­"

D1 - Low competence and high commit­ment[5]
D2 - Low competence and low commitment
D3 - High competence and low/va­riable commitment
D4 - High competence and high commitment

In order to make an effective cycle, a leader needs to motivate followers properly.

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