Understanding the Situational Leadership Model & Flexible Leaders

Understanding the Situational Leadership Model & Flexible Leaders
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Situational Leadership Model

The Situational leadership model is one of the most commonly used leadership styles which was introduced by Kenneth Blanchard and Paul Hersey in the ‘60s. The model states that leaders should utilize different leadership styles according to the situation they are in. Factors such as the competence and attitude of personnel can greatly affect how a person leads. The model also underlines that given the vast difference in competence and attitude of individuals, leaders should expect to vary their leadership styles accordingly.

Leader’s Roles

The situational leadership model of Blanchard and Hersey cites four behaviors of a leader. One, a leader should instruct and direct ‘followers’ who are inexperienced yet committed. Leaders should be the ones to assign tasks and roles to subordinates and closely supervise them. Likewise, leaders should sell ideas and coach their subordinates especially relatively inexperienced and unconfident staff members. As leaders they need still need to assign tasks but have the option of getting ideas and suggestions from their subordinates.

The situational leadership model also notes that leaders should be able to participate in the decision-making and support their followers, especially those who are experienced but lacking in commitment and motivation. Leaders should know when to motivate their skilled personnel in order to achieve specific goals. Finally, the model requires leaders to delegate tasks to skilled followers with little supervision.

Four Quadrants

The said roles of a leader are also influenced by four quadrants indicating the qualities of the followers or subordinates.

  • First is the low competent but highly committed follower who lacks specific skills but is motivated enough to handle assignments, and requires a telling or directing leader.
  • The second is the low competent and low committed follower who requires the leaders to assign tasks but also get suggestions or ideas.
  • The third is the highly competent but unconfident follower who requires a leader who is participative and supportive.
  • The fourth is the highly competent and highly committed follower who is administered by a delegating leader.


In the situational leadership model, leaders should follow steps in order to come up with the right leadership style appropriate for their subordinates. Leaders need to assess the skills and attitude of a subordinate and determine the ability of the employee in taking a specific task. From here, the leader can decide which leadership style is most appropriate. He or she can be a delegating leader; an instructing leader, a coaching leader or a participative leader. The leader can then discuss the situation with his or her subordinate, make a plan and then follow up and monitor the delegated tasks.

Pros and Cons

The situational leadership model has gotten a lot of positive feedback given its strengths, particularly the ease in understanding the concept and the ease in using it. The simple concepts it uses makes the model very easy to explain to leaders, supervisors and subordinates. On the other hand, critics suggest that there are certain limitations of the model such as its failure in setting the boundary between management and leadership, as well as its too much focus on the role of the leader.


“Situational Leadership.” Careers, Finance and Investing : Money-zine.com. https://www.money-zine.com/Career-Development/Leadership-Skill/Situational-Leadership/ (accessed August 15, 2010).

“Situational leadership theory.” Dictionaries and Encyclopedias on ‘Academic’. https://en.academic.ru/dic.nsf/enwiki/346974 (accessed August 15, 2010).

Photo Courtesy of Morguefile.com / by mconnors