Situational leadership

Situational leadership, first introduced to us by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard in the 1960’s, is an adaptive leadership style that encourages us to take stock of our students, weigh the many variables involved, and choose a leadership style that best fits their goals and circumstances. It is based on the premise that there is no singular or best style of leadership, and it all depends on the situation. It has become one of the most widely used leadership approaches because it helps improve student commitment and retention. Different situations require different types of leadership, often with the same student.

Let us take a deeper look at each of these areas…

Setting Clear Goals

Diagnosing Development Level

The second skill, the diagnosis of student development, is based on the combination of competence and commitment. Here, Blanchard offers an extremely useful tool to identifying four developmental levels:

Matching Appropriate Leadership Style

The last piece is the situational leader’s ability to match the appropriate leadership style with the development level of the student. According to Hersey and Blanchard, for many years it was felt that there were two basic leadership behaviors that leaders used when trying to influence others: directive behavior and supportive behavior. Four words can be used to define directive behavior: decide, teach, observe, and feedback. Four different words are used to describe supportive behavior: listen, involve, facilitate, and encourage. They later decided that there are four distinct leadership styles:

Style 1 — Directing

High directive behavior and low supportive behaviorThe leader provides specific direction about goals, demonstrates and tells how they can be achieved, and closely monitors the individual’s performance in order to provide frequent feedback on results.

Style 2 — Coaching

High directive behavior and high supportive behavior — The leader continues to direct goal or task accomplishment but also explains why, solicits suggestions, and begins to encourage involvement in decision making.

Style 3 — Supporting

Low directive behavior and high supportive behavior The leader and the individual make decisions together. The role of the leader is to facilitate, listen, draw out, encourage, and support.

Style 4 — Delegating

Low directive behavior and low supportive behavior — The individual makes most of the decisions about what, how, and when. The role of the leader is to value the individual’s contributions and support his or her growth. Blanchard offers the following graphic as a model of the intersection between student development and leadership style:

Final Thoughts

Clearly situational leadership offers a more flexible approach to leading, encourages collaborative work, and encourages adaptability as students move through varying levels of development. It is important to note, however, that its major focus is on short-term goals. There must be continued clarity as the leader adjusts his or her style to encourage and stimulate student growth over time.




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