Situational Leadership Theory Explained

The situational leadership theory was developed by P. Hersey and Kenneth H. Blanchard. They have explained the theory in their books The Situational Manager and Leadership and the One Minute Manager, respectively.
Someone has quite rightly said uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. Being a leader is not an easy task. A leader has to shoulder many responsibilities; albeit, he has been conferred to do so. Defining leadership or how to be a good leader in one line can be tough ask because he has to be multidimensional and possess many abilities.

Throughout history, many famous and prominent people such as King Alexander, Mauryan King Ashoka, Julius Caesar, Franklin Roosevelt, etc., have taught us leadership lessons. Many researchers have studied leadership and formulated theorems and models on good and efficient leadership styles. The situational leadership theory by Hersey-Blanchard states that every employee has to be treated differently according to his/her capabilities, to harness his potential in the best interest of the organization. Being flexible and adapting to the situations is more important. This theory tells you that any leader should have varied approach while dealing with different levels of employees.
Types of Situational Leadership Styles
Telling/Directing (S1)
This style of leadership demands the employees to act as per the directions given, without providing much scope to the employee to analyze or take decisions on his own. In this method, the employee follows whatever is told to him.

Selling/Coaching (S2)
In this type, the leader ‘sells’ his ideas, and leaves the implementation to his subordinates. Such employees are good followers, but lack commitment to come up with new ideas.

Participating/Counseling (S3)
In this style, the leader simply monitors the performance and lets the employees come up with new ideas and strategies. The leader supports and does not have much of a directive role in this case.

Delegating (S4)
Delegating simply involves entrusting the employee with completing the task, where he is given whole authority and right to perform the task.
When Should They Be Employed
According to the situational leadership theory, the aforesaid 4 types of leadership styles are to be followed for employees possessing these development and maturity models, respectively. For example, Telling/Directing style leadership (S1) is suited for D1 and M1 employees or subordinates. Likewise, according to the theory, each style subscribes to the corresponding development and maturity levels.
Development Level of the Employees
Competence Commitment
D1 Low High
D2 Some Low
D3 High Variable
D4 High High
Maturity Level of the Employees
Maturity Levels
M1 At the lowest level of maturity, these employees lack the skill sets, and are not confident enough.
M2 At this level, employees are willing to do the job, but are not competent enough to implement it without guidance.
M3 With increased maturity, employees have higher skills and competence. However, they need motivation and participation from the manager.
M4 Possessing highest level of maturity and confidence about their skill set, these employees can be entrusted with a particular task.