Situational Leadership Theory
A great leader can take a group and accomplish what was impossible to many people. In order to accomplish the goals, they must make incremental changes that are challenging, but not impossible. A leader should give to organization a string of successes, which builds momentum and attitudes that helps to overcome difficult situations in the future. This paper discusses the situational leadership theory where different articles give a brief summary of supporting and opposing ideas of situational leadership theory. This paper discusses the positive and negative efficacy of situational leadership theory, which is relevant to the topic.
According to Hersey and Blanchard (1993), Situational Leadership Theory is based on the interplay among the extent of leader directive (task) behavior, leader socioemotional (relationship) behavior, and follower readiness/maturity for performing a certain function. The model introduced by Hersey and Blanchard analyzes the needs of the situation you are in, and uses the most appropriate leadership style.
The Basics of Situational Leadership Theory (SLT)
The authors describe situational leadership as there is no single “best” leadership style (Hersey; Blanchard, 1977). Effective leadership is task-relevant and that the most successful leaders are those that adapt their leadership style to the maturity of the individual or group they are attempting to lead/influence. That effective leadership varies, not only with the person or group that is being influenced, but it will also depend on the task, job or function that needs to be accomplished (Hersey; Blanchard, 1977). Hersey and Blanchard characterize leadership theory in terms of the amount of task behavior and relationship behavior that the leader provides to their followers. Hersey and Blanchard (1977) introduce four characteristics or categories of Situational Leadership Theory:
-Directing (S1). In this category, the leader communicates the tasks to the followers and supervises the followers closely because of the lack of specific skills and responsibility of accomplishing the tasks.
-Coaching (S2). In this category, the leader asks for suggestions and ideas from the followers, but in the end, the leader is the one who makes the decision. Another character of this category is the lack of responsibility of followers; however, they take commitment to accomplish the tasks.
-Supporting or Participating (S3). In this category, the leader makes day-to-day decisions for those followers that are not highly motivated to accomplish the tasks. Usually, the followers in this category are experienced, but they need support and confidence from leader
-Delegating (S4). In this category, the followers decide on the leader’s involvement in decision-making and problem-solving. Characteristic for this category is also the capability and commitment of followers in accomplishing the tasks with a little supervision from the leader.
According to Hersey’s book (1977), the leader’s high, realistic expectation causes high performance of followers; the leader’s low expectations lead low performance of followers, which is one of conflict of this particular leadership style. Efforts to evaluate the situational leadership theory have encountered some challenges.
Efficacy of Situational Leadership Theory (SLT)
In a test of SLT’s basic assumption that the interplay of task behavior, relationship behavior, and follower readiness moderate a leader’s effectiveness Goodson, McGee, and Cashman (1989) studied 459 employees (85 managers, 56 assistant managers, and 318 sales clerks) representing more than 100 stores in a national retail chain. Leader style was assessed with the LBDQ-XII, while employee maturity was assessed with responses to an index of sense of competency (Wagner & Morse, 1975). The studied outcomes from the test, like employee commitment, job satisfaction, and perceptions of role ambiguity failed to find a support for the predicted three way interactions (Fernandez, Vecchio. 1993). The relative rarity of this particular test does not, however, necessarily negate the potential validity of the theory. The main purpose of this study is to test the theory via an across-jobs analysis in order to determine if Vecchio’s (1987) suggestion is correct (i.e., that “job-level” is a more useful construct within the context of the theory than “individual employee readiness/maturity”), as well as to attempt a replication of the within-job findings of Vecchio (1987) and Norris and Vecchio (1992). The reliability and validity of Hersey and Blanchard’s LEAD questionnaire, which offers as an aid in assessing leader style, have been severely criticized (Aldag & Brief, 1981; Butler & Reese, 1989; Graeff, 1983; Lueder, 1985). According to Vecchio (1987), the measurement of readiness/maturity is a continuing obstacle for attempts to assess SLT. Unfortunately, the construct’s appeal is stronger than available evidence one could cite in support of the construct’s validity. At worst, employee readiness/maturity may be merely an attribution made by supervisors based on interpersonal attraction or projected performance, rather than an identifiable and distinct construct. It is worth noting that many managers probably believe that their subordinates are not ready to take on managerial responsibilities, while many subordinates believe that they are quite capable. If managers base their actions on these beliefs, they are likely to alienate subordinates. Perhaps the theory’s predictions are most likely to hold strongly when managers and their subordinates are in agreement concerning individual readiness. Despite the lack of evidence of the theory’s validity, its intuitive appeal remains strong. In a review of the theory, Caskey (1988) noted that SLT has a number of strengths. It is straightforward, appealing, and easy to learn. Additionally, it focuses on the human interaction and emphasizes learning reinforcement skills.
Opportunities for Future Research
The current articles and the outcomes from the researches leave space for further studies of Situational Leadership Theory. An alternative approach to the theory is the manipulation behavior of the leaders, meaning that leaders should represent the readiness through individual perspective by using influence tactics. In light of these and other findings, it may be useful to expand on the original logic contained in SLT to incorporate evidence that relatively more effective leaders employ a greater range of tactics that manifest a variety of styles, and that such leaders are better able to identify tactics that are most appropriate for a given target person (Falbe & Yukl. 1992). Vecchio (1987) states that an assessment of these developmental notions requires longitudinal research designs, which thus far have not been used to test the theory. Instead, researchers have focused on cross-sectional, static measurement designs in order to determine initially whether the theory’s principles can be documented at a single point in time across a large number of supervisors and employees.
Over time, a leader must communicative formal goals and plans, especially in global business. Overall, Situational Leadership Theory is a theory that would be helpful to many leaders and their tactics to success. The supporting and opposing ideas leave space for further research attributions. The leadership styles of Situational Leadership Theory should be a guide for leaders on how they should behave in certain situations to ultimate success of organization.