During the research of leadership phenomenon that actively deployed in the early XX century, there were formed different conceptual systems, theories, and models (Hughes, Ginnett, & Curphy, 2015). Every theory, model, or conceptual system examines the management under the unique angle explaining its origin accordingly, its essential characteristics, and its influence on the functioning of small social groups (Hughes, Ginnett, & Curphy, 2015). Starting from Mahatma Gandhi to Steve Jobs, one may confidently claim that the world contains as many ways of leading people as there are leaders. Nowadays, the most famous psychologists and businessmen have established the main approaches people use to lead others.
The situational leadership theory without rejecting the theory of features considers the concept as the product of the situation (Hughes, Ginnett, & Curphy, 2015). According to this idea, communication and problem solving in different situations of a group in its life bring to the fore specific individuals who predominate over others at least in one attribute (Ireh & Bailey, 1999). While a specific feature is truthful in a particular situation, a leader becomes an individual endowed with it. Having rejected the allegation about the congenital qualities, the representatives of this theory claim that a particular situation stimulates and provides a complete expression of specific leader’s peculiarities (Butler & Reese, 1991). They also argue that a person who has once become a leader can again reveal his/her leading traits in some time. Often, if any person leads others in some situation, he/she will be regarded by the rest of a group as a leader in general because of the installed stereotypes. The authority gained by the previous recognition of a person as a leader serves as the prerequisite to choosing an individual for leading roles in further situations (Ireh & Bailey, 1999).
The model of situational leadership suggested by P. Hersey and K. Blanchard puts an emphasis on the variability of the leadership effectiveness depending on situation (Butler & Reese, 1991). According to Hersey-Blanchard’s theory, the choice of leadership styles is determined to a considerable extent by willingness of the followers to fulfill the task (Butler & Reese, 1991). Herewith, the authors of the theory clearly define the concept of readiness:
A worker is ready for the task, if:
The situational model of leadership introduced by Paul Hersey and Kenneth Blanchard conjectures the use of various styles of management according to the situation (Graeff, 1983). The leadership model supposes that a person is going to analyze requirements and needs according to the current situation and become the part of this situation by using the most favorable and suitable leadership style. Flexibility, adaptability, and versatility become the most required and significant traits of character demanded from a leading person. This resorts to the situational leadership method while its style will diverge depending on the scenario.
Moreover, the situational leadership model supposes any leader to promote the advantages of compounding a number of managerial styles to satisfy the needs and wishes of different people within the same organization (Graeff, 1983). Unlike more traditional views, where the manager applies the same leadership style to all members of the organization therefore passing directives through followers and other mediators, the situational model provides a leader with a whole bunch of behavioral styles.
In any case, a leader would conceivably have enough competence to cope with an extensive variety of individuals by utilizing the approaches provided in the situational leadership model. He/she establishes more worker-centered and advanced organization thereby through the level of direct contact with group members at all levels (Graeff, 1983). Further, the manager would be more opened to paying more attention to the relationships with workers that enables them to concentrate on the items most needed to accomplish the task effectively.
The conviction that there is no only the “right” approach to the leadership is background of the situational leadership model (Graeff, 1983). On the contrary, successful and effective leadership is considered to be appropriate for a particular task and aim. As a result, the most eminent and prosperous are the leaders who are ready to adjust their authority style over a wide range of differing development and maturity levels presented within the average company. The followers’ ability and inclination to take responsibility for the objective as well as their respective education, knowledge, and practice serve also as the factors for leadership style choice.
The readiness of the followers comprises of two aspects – a professional and a psychological one. The success of any leader in a group depends on how mature and ready his/her followers are to accomplish the leader’s orders and work under his/her control. As a result, Hersey and Blanchard pointed out four stages of the subordinates’ maturity (Ireh & Bailey, 1999):
M 1 – the employees who are not able and willing to work;
M 2 – the employees that are not able to work properly but have extreme desire to do so;
M 3 – the workers who are able to work but do not possess a proper willingness to do it;
M 4 – the workers who are able, ready, and desirous to fulfill the tasks provided by the leader.
Still, the degree of maturity is not only the feature of the followers, but it also depends on the task performed. In other words, the degree of fulfilling a certain task may reach its highest point during its performance, while it may decrease significantly during the performance of another one.
The model also highlights two main characteristics of a leader (Ireh & Bailey, 1999):
All in all, the choices encompassing leadership are extremely individual and subjective, while they mostly depend on the character or the whole group of characters that are being influenced. Moreover, the choices significantly depend on the specificity of function or job that has been appointed for implementation.
The ability to perform tasks supposes an employee to possess necessary knowledge, skills, and experience. The desire to meet the challenge includes motivation and belief in the necessity to execute it. While the situational leadership model is meant to provide extreme flexibility, there exist four basic styles. Each of these styles is unique and is meant to compel the highest level of efficiency from an individual or the whole group.
As it is presented below, the distinction between the first two styles (concentrated on fulfilling tasks) and the last two styles (concentrated more on personal development and growth of the team participants) is extremely vivid and clear.
Among the most famous leaders who resort to the situational model of leadership introduced by Hersey and Blanchard is the General George Patton who is one of the distinguished leaders of the American military (The Official Website of General George Patton). He wrote several works on the tactics and war strategy that are regarded nowadays as a textbook-guide for his army. As a well-known situational leader, Patton used his philosophy for getting a victory in the war by focusing on studying and examining the situation. The result he received after the thorough examination of the situation became the background for the following course of actions. Patton believed that transforming plans in order to fit the unforeseen situation was of considerable weight.
Having analyzed the situational leadership model, it is worth mentioning pending role of the President. To be more specific, a good example of the situational leadership styles is George Bush’s reaction and commitment while dealing suicide bombing attacks at the World Trade Center. Moreover, the particular model is being effectively practiced by surgeons in the manipulation room (especially in case of emergency and risky operations). A surgeon who heads the operating team is a master in surgeries; yet if the emergency situation appears or there appear some life-threatening complications or obstacles, the leading surgeon has to respond and decide immediately taking into account the condition of his patient.
Every leadership model has its advantages and disadvantages. If a particular model can be applied in one situation, it does not necessarily mean that the particular model is the only right and can be applied to any situation that occurs. However, regardless of the flaws and disadvantages of the situational leadership model, it is useful to make leaders think about how the effectiveness of his/her work and the subordinates’ performance may depend on being resilient with different employees but not on behaving equally toward all of them. Every person is individual and needs either support or non-interference to show the best results possible. A skillful leader has to take into account personal traits of employee’s character and the situation in which the subordinate takes an active part. Furthermore, a successful leader makes one complete picture that will lead to excellent performance and complete satisfaction with the work results. Moreover, the approaches of the situational leadership model offer a great variety of behavioral patterns so that a leader has a prepared plan of actions. Nothing in the world is perfect, and, as the investigations claim, the situational model is not perfect as well. However, if it is to be used wisely and skillfully, it can bring the concept of leadership to a new level of existence.