What is Situational Leadership?

“If you fail to honor your people, They will fail to honor you; It is said of a good leader that When the work is done, the aim fulfilled, The people will say, “We did this ourselves.” 

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“If you fail to honor your people, They will fail to honor you; It is said of a good leader that When the work is done, the aim fulfilled, The people will say, “We did this ourselves.”

Lao Tzu, 604-531 B. C., Founder of Taoism, Tao Te Ching

How to act in a hectic environment where expectations and demands change rapidly?

The answer lies in situational leadership, a management model that is based on assessing the needs of each moment, choosing the most appropriate solution and using the most useful form of leadership to achieve our goal. In short, it is a flexible and adaptable form of leadership that breaks with the idea of ​​a single management model. In this way, organizations and their leaders can adapt to the environment, applying to each collaborator a technique or style of leadership adjusted to their needs.

This type of leadership finds its origin in the model of Paul Hersey (scientist and entrepreneur) and Ken Blanchard (writer specialist in management), recognized as the parents of the theory of situational leadership (1967), a simple way to diagnose each one of team members and improve their performance in the company. According to this theory, leaders must focus on one or another style of leadership based on the degree of willingness or maturity of their employees, understood as the desire to excel and the ability to perform their tasks. In such a way that the model of leadership will not be the same before an employee that shows few desires of overcoming-insecurity, lack of experience-than another that has a high level of disposition.

Thus, there are up to four types of situational leadership according to four levels of employee development: managerial, persuasive, participatory and delegating. The key is to choose the right one for each situation:


High concern for tasks. The leader is the one who makes the decisions defining what, how and when. Otherwise, confusion and fear among new employees would be generated.

The main function that is asked of a leader is to direct and make decisions. In order to do it successfully and to provide a stimulus for our team, it is essential that the instructions given to your colleagues be clear and concise.

The leader must ensure that, from the beginning, the members of his team know what they have to do. Only then will they be able to take small steps and reap one success after another, to maintain the motivation of the whole group.


Although the leader continues to define tasks and roles, he or she begins to request feedback-ideas, suggestions, questions-from the team and rewards their progress.

As the leader goes playing with these behaviors, we find four levels of leadership:

In this second level, the leader remains in continuous supervision with his team, offering constant feedback. It is also during this stage that the leader asks and asks for information from his colleagues to gather suggestions, improvements and new ideas that contribute to the project.

The final decision belongs to the leader, but thanks to his questions, he participates in the whole team and teaches how to think and reflect on everyone.


Greater interest in people and relationships. Both the decisions and the control are managed together. It supposes a greater level of motivation and of assumption of responsibilities on the part of the employees.

As a leader, we must encourage our colleagues. Only then can we expect the best from them, because they have been guided and motivated towards the same goal.

When this stage is reached, the leadership offers opportunities for the whole team to converse and exchange opinions and different points of view, enriching the collaboration process.


The leader detects and evaluates talent, delegating tasks to his team. It is the maximum level of autonomy for collaborators.

Succeeding with the right style is of utmost importance to awaken the interest and confidence of the teams and encourage their professional development within the company. Therefore, constant evaluation is an imperative in these cases to be able to modify the situation leadership style in a convenient way.

It is essential that leaders want and know how to delegate tasks to their team. At this level of situational leadership, individuals are mature, they know how to behave, what their role is and what is expected of them, because their leader has been able to explain it clearly.

For this reason, the leader is able to delegate responsibilities to his colleagues and respect their way of carrying out the tasks entrusted to them and the decisions they make.

To lead successfully, in any area of ​​life, we must know how to adapt to the circumstances and, even more, to the people with whom we live and work every day.

Reasons to bet on situational leadership

This flexible model of team management has many followers in today’s world. To have a broader point of view, it is enough to review its main hallmarks:

  • Adaptability: Exercising situational leadership is one of the simplest alternatives to anticipate, cope with unforeseen events and manage change. The situational leader shapes his behavior and level of support according to the circumstances. And in the organizations of the 21st century, flexibility is a highly desirable feature valued by leaders.
  • Rational and emotional customization: It adjusts to the professional moment of each employee and the team, with more directive or advisory behavior, tailored to each situation. All this translates into greater organization and business efficiency.
  • Motivation and improvement: Applied properly, situational leadership is capable of creating a work environment of trust, respect and self-management. Everyone gets benefit from their results.