15 Key Reasons Why Situational Leadership Ensures Business Success


Previously known as “the life cycle theory of leadership”, the situational leadership model was a concept introduced by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard in Management of Organizational Behavior (www.kenblanchard.com). They argued that there isn’t just one leadership style that works for all conditions. The situational leadership theory includes four leadership styles (direct, coach, support, delegate) that are adaptive to the employee’s range of developmental behavior.

Successful leaders have the ability to look at situations with different perspectives. They assess the situation and behaviors of the team members in play, after which they determine the type of leadership approach to use to get the best result. In this article, we will list the reasons why situational leadership ensures business success in today’s complex business environment. The situational leadership theory and situational leadership model work to ensure business success, and this article will elaborate on how and why.

1. It is a more flexible approach to leadership
2. It encourages successful collaboration among team members
3. Adaptability is encouraged to fit past, present & future situations
4. It assesses maturity levels of people within the organization
5. It encourages socio-emotional support for subordinates
6. It encourages provision of direction & guidance for subordinates
7. Work productivity can be enhanced with situational leadership
8. It can boost employee motivation within a business organization
9. It increases awareness of current organizational situations
10. Situational Leadership can counter volatility
11. Situational Leadership can counter uncertainty
12. Situational Leadership can decipher situational complexity
13. Situational Leadership can beat ambiguity
14. Using Situational Leadership, you can control all possible outcomes
15. Using Situational Leadership, adapt your style to those you lead


1. It is a more flexible approach to leadership

Situational leadership is a relationship-oriented type of leadership. It bases a leader’s directives on the readiness and ability of his followers. This is why it is seen as a “flexible approach”. The leader does not use a single style of leadership across all his team members. In order for it to work, the leader must have established a relationship with his team members in order to understand their state of mind when receiving directions for the tasks they need to complete.

Looking at Ken Blanchard’s model for the succeeding examples: a leader will most likely use a directive style of leadership to a new employee as they are still new at learning their task. However, the same leader may delegate the task of training to their most tenured and highly motivated team member.

As Employee 1 gains some tenure and increases their skills, but may get disengaged along the way, the leader may change to a coaching style of leadership towards Employee 1. This means they decrease their task-oriented leadership style and incorporate a relationship-oriented leadership approach.

If it transpires that Employee is also disengaged, they are still highly skilled but demotivated. So the leader will need to use the supportive style of leadership in this kind of situation. The leader uses a different leadership approach to have the best impact to each employee.

Practical Tips:

Tip 1. Know your default leadership style
Look for online leadership or communication style surveys to determine your communication style. Usually, the leadership style you instinctively use during high-stress situations is your default style of leadership, so make sure you are aware of it.

Tip 2. Acknowledge style differences and work to meet half-way
Set expectations when working with people who have different leadership styles. You may start by having everyone identify their default leadership styles and discuss how you all are willing to compromise in order to work harmoniously. Already knowing each other’s comfort zones makes it easier to adjust and compromise.

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Maturity levels

4. It assesses maturity levels of people within the organization

In situational leadership, the leader must manage both being very directive and supportive to their team members when they give tasks. They need to be able to read body language and their employees’ state of mind. Situational leaders are charismatic leaders: good communicators who can connect to their employees’ emotions. In order to be able to connect deeply with your employees you need to know how to read people’s psychological state. You need to know how to assess their professional maturity.

Once you are able to measure your team member’s individual maturity, you will know what training development programs they need. It may be that they need more skills training or they might need more soft skills training. It is important to also use personal evaluations to identify individuals mature enough to be lined up for leadership roles based on their job skill level and engagement level. When you are providing the right training and development programs, as well as professional support according to their needs, it will result in a highly engaged workforce. There will be higher productivity and lower negative attrition.

5. It encourages socio-emotional support for subordinates

A team or any business organization will be composed of individuals who come from totally different educational, social, economic and cultural backgrounds. Experienced employees also have different work experiences and corporate cultural backgrounds. This puts each individual at a different emotional maturity level when they join the organization.

Psychology Today has listed 5 core socio-emotional skills: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making. Together, these skills help an individual face challenges and determine how far they will succeed. A situational leader needs to be adept at people-oriented leadership to provide socio-emotional support. Successful leaders who use the situational leadership theory know how to influence subordinates because they understand how to support them to succeed.

Increases awareness

9. It increases awareness of current organizational situations

When organizations go through transformations, the change is unsettling and employees become uncertain of their positions in the company. Some may fear that organizational changes could cost them their jobs. Some may see that by embracing certain technological changes their job may become redundant, and the organization will no longer need their skills. Whatever changes the organization is going through, the situational leadership approach must help ease any fear of the staff regarding their job security.

Since this leadership approach is a people-oriented leadership style, leaders are honest with their teams. They exercise good communication skills and provide their employees with the right information for them to understand all the organizational vision and goals. Being transparent with the employees makes them trust their leaders and consequently the organizations vision to transform. If you get employees to buy in to your organizational aspirations, the journey towards the goal will be a lot faster, smoother and more successful.

10. Situational Leadership can counter volatility

The media politicizes everything, and with social media in play, any move a government leader does can easily make an economy volatile. People will always have some anxiety when there are political issues that could shake the economy. In the U.S., there are talks of another recession approaching in 2020.

The National Association of Business Economics ran a survey, and 50% of the economists think the recession may happen as early as 2019. News like this is all over social media and makes people anxious about the future. This anxiety can easily manifest in the workplace as people freely discuss current affairs.

A situational leader can help ease tension in the workplace by leading his team to concentrate on their responsibilities at work. He can adjust to the situation by exercising the task-oriented leadership approach and keeping his employees on the right track of achieving organizational goals, despite having different political belief systems.

11. Situational Leadership can counter uncertainty

Economic instability can give people great anxiety and uncertainty. As this translates in the workplace, leaders can expect a decrease in productivity, tension between co-workers, and possibly an unstable organization too. The organization can be affected by the view of external players such as customers, media and suppliers, or other political and economic factors.

A successful leader should shift into a charismatic leader in times like these. They need to be an influencer to appease their employees that though uncertainty lies outside the workplace, they must continue to fulfill the tasks and responsibilities they signed up for. The American Psychological Association said that workplace stress causes a loss of more than $500 billion in the U.S. economy.

An effective leader must know how to show empathy to individuals while remaining rational rather than adding to the stress. They should understand how their employees’ fear of uncertainty is affecting their job performance, so that they can provide coaching and support accordingly. A good leader must have clarity of vision in order to influence their team to stay focused on the organizational goals. This will ensure business success amidst the turbulent, uncertain economic and political environment.

Decipher situational complexity

12. Situational Leadership can decipher situational complexity

Self-awareness is the key to becoming a successful leader. Combined with the use of situational leadership theory, one who is in touch with their own strengths and weaknesses as well as their employees’ can be a very effective leader. A well-developed sense of self-awareness allows the leader to quickly adjust to any given situation, no matter how complex.
As a leader looks inward and outward to assess complex situations, they can see from different perspectives and are able to simplify things. Focusing on the simpler things that really matter to solve a complex issue ensures business success. People will continue to be complex. The business environment of tomorrow will continue to be complicated.
The challenges a leader will encounter will be tougher to decipher if they do not employ the right type of leadership for each given situation. The only way to ensure that business remains strong is having committed situational leaders who are willing to adapt to the increasing complexity brought about by advancements and technological transformations.

13. Situational Leadership can beat ambiguity

Situational leaders are agile, strategic thinkers who are able to beat ambiguity. It is part of a concept that originated from the U.S. Army War College framework. This concept is known as VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity).

Ambiguity is experienced by industry leaders; especially so when they are trying to forge ahead of everyone else and create or offer something that no one else has. Some very advanced innovation and transformation ideas can also be vague and ambiguous.

However, successful leaders are trailblazers; always trying to be one step ahead of the game. To ensure business success, you must be a good listener. Your team members may have questions about where you’re headed. Make sure you are ready to clarify and address their concerns. Listen to their ideas as well. They may have the next big breakthrough you are looking for. Make sure you empower your team by recognizing their efforts, ideas and cooperation as you try to reach and achieve a new vision. Leading a solid team will make your quest for success achievable.

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