Examples of Situational Leadership & When This Style is Appropriate

Examples of Situational Leadership & When This Style is Appropriate
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What Sets This Model Apart From the Rest?

Situational leadership is a popular leadership style introduced and popularized by Kenneth Blanchard and Paul Hersey that theorizes the use of different leadership styles according to the situation. The leadership model requires a person to analyze the needs according to a particular situation and adapt to the scenario by using the most appropriate leadership style. Versatility and adaptability are two primary requirements needed from a leader using the situational leadership method, as the leadership style will vary depending on the situation.

For examples related to other methods of leadership, please see Bright Hub’s series of articles that analyze various leadership styles.

Telling and Directing

There are four leadership behaviors needed from a leader under the situational leadership method. Examples of situational leadership can be based on these leadership behaviors. One is telling and directing, wherein the leader defines the tasks of his subordinates and closely supervises them. This is particularly true for inexperienced or first-time employees who need to be closely supervised by an experienced leader. This leadership style is particularly effective for subordinates who lack the competence but committed to achieving his or her roles. First-time employees in particular need to be told and directed by their supervisors for them to learn the rules of the trade.

Selling and Coaching

In this leadership behavior, a leader still defines and assigns roles and tasks but he or she is more receptive in getting ideas and suggestions from the subordinates. The leader still have the prerogative in making decisions, but in this set-up the communication process is no longer one-sided. This type of leadership style is more suited for less experienced subordinates who still need guidance and supervision by their supervisors. This leadership style also helps in developing subordinates who may have the experience yet still lacking self-esteem in the performance of their work. Under this set-up, leaders may also follow closely the output of their subordinates and give them encouraging remarks in order for them to develop their self-confidence.

Participating and Supporting

The third in the list of examples of situational leadership is participating and supporting. Under this set-up, the supervisor gives much control and minimal supervision on the subordinates. The supervisor gives out day-to-day tasks and instructions on the processes required to achieve a certain task, but the subordinate has enough control or freedom on how to accomplish the said task. The set-up is best used when dealing with experienced subordinates who, for one reason or another, lack self-esteem and motivation. An example would be a junior account executive who needs support and counsel after being assigned to a new account.


The final example of a situation leadership method is delegation. In this set-up the supervisor still is involved in the decision making process but the delegation of tasks and processes is fully given to the subordinate. This style is most suited to experienced subordinates who have the competence to set their own processes required in accomplishing certain goals. For instance, a 10-year creative writer can be depended upon to formulate his own script based on the general directions or ideas formulated by his or her supervisor. While the writer can decide on how to go about with the script he is still bounded by creative directions set by his supervisor.

Famous Situational Leader

General George Patton, one of the high-ranked leader of the American military utilized the situational leadership style. He wrote several papers on war strategy and tactics as guide for his army. As a famous situational leader, his philosophy to win the war was focused on analyzing the situation. The result of the situational analysis became the foundation in planning the course of action. He believed that it was necessary to change plans to fit the unexpected situation.

Observing the situational leadership style is an expected role of the Presidents. One specific example is former President George Bush’s response and decisions following the suicide bombing attacks at the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and the unsuccessful target in Washington D.C. on September 11, 200,1 marked by 9-11 Tragedy.

Situational leadership is also practiced by surgeons in the operating room especially during emergency and critical operations. A surgeon leading the operating room team is an expert in surgeries, but when an emergency situation calls or in between the operation complications arise, a surgeon has to decide instantly according to the patient’s condition.

The best value of a situational leader is his ability to adjust according to what is happening.






Photo Courtesy of Morguefile.com / by mconnors