Situational leadership

Situational leadership —is a method of personnel management, in which the manager selects a management style depending on the situation. By "situation" in this case it is necessary to understand the relationship of the task and the level of competence and motivation of the employee who will perform it.

The basic idea of ​​situational leadership is that all people are different and for the best results different approach on the part of the leader is required. The theory of situational leadership was first put forward by scientists Ken Blanchard and Paul Hersey in 1960.

In the theory of situational management, there are 4 styles of leadership that must be applied depending on the 4 stages of development of the employee. The main task of the manager to choose the right style, for it you need such qualities as diagnostics, flexibility and partnership.


Management styles

There are 4 styles of leadership:

  • Directive - management occurs through the setting of clear orders with a high level of control by the manager

  • Mentoring - the manager orientates not only on the task, but also by the people. In this case, the manager explains the solutions, sells the idea, listens to the opinion of the subordinate. At the same time, the monitoring and setting tasks are carried out constantly

  • Supportive - the leader is more focused on people than on the task. The manager tries in every possible way to help the subordinate, with almost no intermediate control

  • Delegating - in this case, the subordinate is delegated authority, rights and responsibility for the task. The manager does not interfere in the work process, fully relying on the subordinate

The concept of situational leadership does not imply a universal style of management, it teaches you to apply different styles depending on what kind of employee you meet.


4 types of employees

 To achieve the result, the employee must have:

  • Knowledge

  • Abilities

  • Skills

  • Motivation to do the work.

By the combination of these factors, all staff can be divided into 4 types:

  • Cann’t, but wants - the employee has high motivation, but not sufficient knowledge, abilities and skills. As a rule, at this stage there are employees who have recently been hired

  • Can’t and doesn’t want - the employee has no knowledge, no motivation. Employees get into this situation when they have been working for several months but they have not learned how to work. At the same time, the motivation fell and the lack of results only further demotivates the employee

  • Can, but does not want - the employee has all the knowledge and competencies, but there is no proper motivation. As a rule, employees who have worked a long time lose interest in the work

  • Can and wants - the employee has all the skills and motivation to work


Three key skills of a leader:

  • Diagnosis of employee readiness level

  • Flexibility

  • Partnership

Any manager who wants to learn situational leadership needs to master three skills. It is worth noticing that these skills are very useful in life in general. The art of a different approach to people can greatly facilitate communication with relatives and friends, will help you acquire useful connections. Proficiency in using such skills will show your high emotional intelligence, nowadays it is highly appreciated in the business environment.


Diagnosis of employee’s problems

In order to understand which of the 4 management styles should be applied to the employee, it is necessary to be able to diagnose the problems of your subordinates. For the successful performance of any activity, it is necessary for the employee to have the necessary competencies and to be interested in carrying out the task, i.e. should be motivated.

Your task is to assess the employee's competence and motivation (readiness). A diagram of the diagnostics of the employee is presented below.



Flexibility means the right choice of leadership style, depending on the level of development of the employee (see 4 types of employee). In general, if you could diagnose the type of employee, then choosing the appropriate style of leadership is not difficult. Use this diagram.

Most importantly, do not forget that over the time, an employee will move from one category to another. You need to change your management style in a timely manner and negotiate with a subordinate.



It's important not only know what management style to use. But the subordinate should understand the need for such leadership. You need to learn how to negotiate with the subordinates about the preferred leadership style.

To implement a full partnership, you and your subordinates should have the same system of measuring competences and evaluating the employee's performance. This will allow you to know at what level of development an employee is.

Often an employee and manager neglect daily training, this is due to a large number of daily routine tasks. But without professional development, the employee does not have a full-fledged future in the company.


Want to know more?

On this page we give a general idea of situational leadership.

If you plan to further develop these skills, we recommend to study additional literature or visit a specialized training:

  • Literature

  • Training