Cover image for blog post Situational Leadership Pt. 1 by Nick Vogel.

Situational Leadership Pt. 1

Last week we started the conversation about leadership styles with 3 Styles of Leadership. This post builds on that, so make sure you go back and read if you haven’t. There are more than 3 styles of leadership, but giving you the extremes helps fill in the gaps and adds shades of leadership between each extreme and middle ground. Knowing these styles helps us discover a better way to lead: situational leadership.

Situational leadership is what it sounds like it is. You choose your leadership style based on the situation. This isn’t original; it’s based on a theory from Ken Blanchard and Paul Hersey. 

The point of this isn’t to confuse people about what kind of leader you are, but to serve the people you lead by meeting them where they’re at. Laissez-faire leadership may be appropriate if you lead someone who has been doing the job for 20 years and only needs an occasional check in. Authoritarian leadership may be appropriate for a new hire who needs someone to walk through their job with them. However, it would be inappropriate to have a laisse-faire leadership style with a new employee or an authoritarian one with a veteran employee.

As a person gains competence, they need less direct oversight. You can think of this as a 4-step process, as outlined by the founders of Situational Leadership. We’ll start with the first two today.

S1:

You have someone who just joined an organization. They’re enthusiastic and ready to learn; we call them an S1. They don’t have much competence, but they have a high commitment level. They need oversight to develop them in their competence, but you won’t have to spend much time motivating them. Consider this the level where you’re more authoritarian in your leadership. You need to make the decisions and give directives for the employee to succeed.

S2:

Then they move to the level of S2. They’ve developed some competence, but now their commitment level has dropped because they’re disillusioned by their job. The honeymoon period is over. You’ll need to spend time motivating them as well as continuing to develop their competence level. You’re now toward the democratic leadership part of the scale, but not quite. You still need to give directives and make decisions, but now the employee can be a part of those decisions.

Next week we’ll cover levels S3 and S4.

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