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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Situational Leadership

Welcome to the new blog subscibers.  The reach is much further than I ever thought it would be.  We just passed 1000 visits to the site.

I was moving my office today and came across an old binder of Ken Blanchard's material on Situational Leadership.  I took a minute to thumb through and was reminded of the relevance of the material.  It reminded me of the famous saying "If the only tool you have is a hammer, all problems look like nails".  I know a lot of managers just like that.  They have only one tool at their disposal.  The problem is, as Situational Leadership teaches, different situations call for different leadership skills to handle in the best way to create the best outcomes.  Let's take a look at the graphic used to illustrate Situational Leadership.

In Quadrant S1, or Leadership Style 1 is Directing.  This is more one way communication.  It is involved in telling people what to do and how to do it and then supervising performance.  This is totally appropriate for some leadership roles.  If you are a fire chief you don't have time to be very supportive at the fireground.  You have to give orders.  The question is, if the fire chief has the skills to shift to another quadrant when the leadership skill required is not a life or death emergency.

In Quadrant  2, you find Coaching.  Coaching is still high on the directive axis but his also high on the supportive axis.  Supportive behavior is how a leader uses two way communication, listens, and provides support and encouragement.  How does he involve the followers in decision making.  If the fire chief from the earlier example were holding a staff meeting about uniform options and was including firefighters in the decision-making process instead of simply announcing a decision, he would be using Coaching skills.

Quadrant 3 is Supporting.  More slanted to support and less to directive behavior.  This might be useful if a workgroup has been given appropriate boundaries but are being given a great deal of lattitude to deal with a particular aspect of the workplace.

Quadrant 4 is Delegating.  Ideally, items that are delegated are given to someone who have the competencies to perform the tasks even better than the leader could.  Those entrusted with the task see the extra responsibilities as a reward.  The do not require very much direction or support, although occasionally rewarding or recognizing them would definitely be a plus.


According to Blanchard, D1-D4 represents the development level of individuals across a continuum.  D1 is low competence/High commitment (Directing)
D2 some competence / low commitment (Coaching)
D3 moderate to high competence / variable commitment (Supporting)
D4 high competence / high commitment (Delegating)

Feel free to submit a comment if you have an opinion why people lose commitment as their competence increases.  This does give you a hint though as you are developing someone how to coach them as they progress.

A nursing model that I like is the Benner model on development.  Simply stated it is Novice to Expert.
At every point we become a Novice we have to have to develop again to gain expertise.  Consider the OR nurse that transfers to the ER.  That nurse just became a Novice once again and has another competency curve to be coached through.

Situational Leadership Theory (click here)


  1. I used to facilitate this training when I worked for US Shoe. These concepts have served me well in my career and personal life.

  2. Thanks for sharing this useful info. Keep updating same way.
    Regards,Ashish Situational leadership -

  3. Situational leadership refers to when the leader or manager of an organization must adjust his style to fit the development level of the followers he is trying to influence. With situational leadership, it is up to the leader to change his style, not the follower to adapt to the leader’s style.
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