Situational Leadership

Situational Leadership theory was developed by Paul Hersey and Kenneth Blanchard.  It is a practical leadership model that, when practiced and perfected, can lead to very positive outcomes for the leader and follower. 

Because it focuses on determining the best leadership style for the situation and person(s) involved, the leader is encouraged to develop his/her ability to use a variety of styles.  Thus, avoiding the pitfalls of a “one style fits all” approach. 

I was introduced to this model more than twenty years ago.  Of all the leadership theories, it is my favorite.  

Let me tell you why.

Situational Leadership

Situational Leadership Theory, also known as a Contingency Theory, addresses two factors:  the style of the leader and the readiness or maturity level of the follower.

It is designed to help leaders match their leadership style to the readiness level of the follower in a given/specific situation.  

Therefore, the leader will tailor their leadership style based on the follower's readiness to complete a task/project.  This video gives an overview of this theory.


Leader Behavior

According to Hersey and Blanchard, leaders engage in four (4) primary behaviors with followers: 

  1. S1 - Telling/Directing
  2. S2 - Selling/Coaching
  3. S3 - Participating/Supporting
  4. S4 - Delegating     

Styles S2 and S3 are high relationship, since the leader focuses on explaining decisions and invites the follower to share ideas.

Styles S1 and S4 tend to be low relationship, but for different reasons.  S1 is a "hands on" approach where the follower is closely supervised.  Whereas S4 is "hands off" resulting in the follower having full responsibility for completing the task at hand.

Usually, leaders favor one of these styles more than others.  But that practice can cause problems, since leader behavior should be adjusted based on the readiness of the follower.  This is the CORE premise of this model.

Follower Readiness

Readiness is based on your assessment of the follower’s ability and willingness to complete a given task. 

Also known as “skill and will,”  these attributes vary (from low to high) depending upon the task to be completed.  The leader must assess the follower’s readiness level to determine which style will be most effective to achieve the desired outcome in the given situation. 

It requires time on the front end (and before assigning a task).  But this practice can pay great dividends in the long run.  It helps build a good working relationship and can be used to shape the follower’s individual development plan.

The SWOT Analysis is a great tool to use to complete this assessment.



Unfortunately, some supervisors do not take the time to understand and leverage the potential in this model; too many are fighting “fires” and managing the present. 

Those who harness the power in the Situational Leadership Model will experience positive outcomes, for themselves and those they lead.

For more information on ways to harness the power of this model, please contact Coach Gwen.   

Please join me for my upcoming webinar!


Register for Upcoming Webinar

Please note that all fields followed by an asterisk must be filled in.

Please enter the word that you see below.


Enjoy this page? Please pay it forward. Here's how...

Would you prefer to share this page with others by linking to it?

  1. Click on the HTML link code below.
  2. Copy and paste it, adding a note of your own, into your blog, a Web page, forums, a blog comment, your Facebook account, or anywhere that someone would find this page valuable.

About Coach Gwen

NEW Webinar



Leaders don't







- Tom Peters


7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
Five Dysfunctions of a Team
For Your Improvement Coaching Guide