Updated: Dec 31, 2018
There is no one "best" style of leadership. Most successful leaders adapt their style to a given situation. Situational leadership consists of four general styles of management. A situational leader or manager who adjusts his/her style to fit the development level of the followers he/she is trying to influence. It is up to the leader to change his/her style, not the follower to adapt to the leader’s style. This sage advice was given to me as young first-time manager. I did my best to follow this guidance throughout my career.
Directing - takes command of a situation and applies specific knowledge.
Coaching - involves “hands-on" participation with the team in the decision process.
Delegating – places responsibility on the team members to act on their own.
Supporting - instills confidence in the members to become more self-sufficient and productive.
Let’s look at each of these styles:
Directing: There are times when a leader’s role is to direct activities. Once the team has accepted the team’s mission, the leader may find it more effective and efficient to direct the team to perform the various tasks. The leader makes the decisions and informs the other team members of the decision. This leadership style is also referred to as micro-management and uses a top-down approach.
Coaching: The leader stays immersed in the day-to-day activities. The decisions ultimately rest with the leader. However, suggestions and comments are sought from the team members before decisions are executed. Team members are coached rather than managed. The leader helps inexperienced team members learn new skills by giving direct praise to increase their confidence and self-esteem.
Delegation: The leader spends a modest amount time with the team members. The team members select the responsibilities and establish the direction the team takes. The leader may still give direction and feedback. Team members know their roles and accomplish them with minimal supervision.
Supporting: The leader passes more responsibility to the team members. While the leader gives some direction, the decisions ultimately remain with the team members. The leader offers feedback and encourages them with praise and reacts to the completed tasks. Team members usually have the requisite skills but may lack the confidence or motivation to achieve them.
The style of the leader is dictated by the level of knowledge and experience of the team members. Using Blanchard and Hersey’s matrix (shown above) leaders can decide the leadership style needed in various situations. For members with significant needs and minimal experience, the directing style is appropriate. When members have low needs and extensive capability, the delegating style can be used.
Remember: It is up to the leader to change his/her style, not the follower to adapt to the leader’s style.