Research a leadership or management style or theorist. The background/history of the theorist or theory will be discussed as well as the actual theory. Explain the advantages and disadvantages of the theory. Is the theory relevant today, why or why not? Is the theory utilized in your organization? How would you utilize the theory? How could the theory be modified for use in your business?
A minimum of three valid sources should be used.
Title: Management Style or Theorist
Leadership plays an important role in organizational success. Effective leaders succeed in inspiring their followers and motivating them to achieve certain objectives. Different leaders use different leadership styles to lead their followers. In many cases, the choice of leadership style depends on factors such as the personality of the leader, the objective to be achieved, and the type of organization. Different theories of leadership have been developed in efforts to create a coherent framework for categorizing different leadership styles. Some of the most common leadership theories include situational leadership, transactional leadership, transformational leadership, path-goal theory, charismatic leadership, and servant leadership. These theories provide insights into ways of categorizing leaders based on their approach to leadership. They also shed light on ways of developing effective leaders.
The aim of this paper is to analyze one of the leadership theories that have been developed over the years: the situational leadership theory. A history of this style of leadership, as well as the development of the actual theory, will be reviewed. The paper will also examine the advantages and disadvantages of this theory by assessing its relevance today, its applicability in organizational contexts, and modifiability for use in a business context.
The situational leadership theory traces its origin in 1969 when Ken Blanchard and Paul Hersey published a book under the title: Management of Organizational Behavior (Mujtaba & Sungkhawan, 2009). In this book, Blanchard and Hersey argued that different approaches to leadership should be used in different contexts. They identified two variables influencing leadership: maturity of followers and leadership style. Additionally, this book identified relationship behavior and task behavior as the core determinants of leadership style. Relationship behavior entails how people engage in interactions with a view to achieve a specific goal. In contrast, task behavior entails the specific details of the actions that followers must take to complete a particular task.
In its formative stages, the situational leadership theory was anchored on four categories of behavior based on the interplay of relationship behavior and task behavior (Mujtaba & Sungkhawan, 2009). The first type of behavior requires the leader to direct his followers in terms of the actions that they should take. In this regard, the leader seeks to promote the ideal task behavior in terms of what, how, and when followers should perform a specific task. The second type of behavior also focuses primarily on on-task behavior, only that the leader accepts a certain degree of communication from his followers. This means that some aspects of relationship behavior are introduced into the leadership style. The objective is to make them feel that they are an integral part of the organization’s mission. The third type of behavior is similar to the second type only that the leader creates some room for shared decision-making. In this way, the balance shifts from task behavior and moves towards relationship behavior. The last type of behavior entails delegating, whereby the leader is only interested in progress towards the achievement of a specific goal. Followers not only contribute to the process of performing the task, but they also take responsibility for the whole mission. At this stage, the leadership style focuses primarily on relationship behavior.
Ken Blanchard and Paul Hersey also discussed the issue of maturity by identifying four maturity levels. The first one comprises of followers who lack the skills to perform a task and are unable or unwilling to take any responsibility for the outcomes of their work. This means that their level of maturity is very low. On the second level, followers express their willingness to do work but are unable to accept any responsibility. The third level of maturity encompasses followers who have experience and skills but lack the confidence to take responsibility. The fourth level of maturity represents the highest level of maturity, whereby followers possess the right skills, experience, and confidence to do the job and take overall responsibility for the outcomes.
The situational leadership theory was developed primarily through elaborate discussions on different aspects of task behavior, relationship behavior, and maturity. At the outset, the theory identifies maturity level as a core determinant of leadership style. It emphasizes the need to adapt the leadership style on the basis of both the task and the group that is performing that task. This means that an effective leader is one who assesses the situation carefully before deciding on which leadership style to use. Explanations of the need for leaders to be flexible by finding the right style based on the task and maturity level has led to the emergence of this theory as a dominant leadership framework.
The Hersey-Blanchard leadership model recommends the identification of the maturity level of a group before a choice of leadership style is made. For instance, leaders are encouraged to use a leadership style that entails “directing” when handling a low-maturity group. In contrast, high-maturity groups should be led using a “delegating” leadership style. Groups of medium-level maturity but low confidence should be exposed to a leadership style that supports them to take ownership of the entire mission and to become more responsible for their jobs.
The situational leadership theory is relevant today because it provides numerous insights into the different ways in which a leader can handle different groups of followers. Moreover, it can be applied easily in a wide range of situations due to its simplicity. Any leader can use the simple steps outlined in the theory to assess different groups and determine what style is most appropriate. Moreover, this theory focuses on two areas that many leaders of today neglect: competence and maturity. Such leaders eventually become ineffective in their work because they end up adopting inappropriate relationships and task behaviors.
The theory also has its share of disadvantages. To begin with, it may be inapplicable to managers who work as administrators. This is particularly in situations where these administrators’ job description does not give them a free hand in adapting their leadership styles to different groups and tasks. Furthermore, administrators who attempt to adapt their leadership behavior to different groups and tasks may sometimes be accused of applying double standards or discriminating against certain members of the organization. This is a serious problem particularly for many administrators who lack the power to adapt their leadership styles to different organizational contexts.
The situational leadership theory is also inapplicable in environments where tasks are too complex and time too limited. In the context of high task complexity, the leader may be compelled to delegate responsibilities to groups of medium-level maturity, who may be unwilling to take such responsibilities. Similarly, time constraints and shortage of skilled manpower may compel leaders to shoulder numerous responsibilities on employees who are unwilling or unable to handle such responsibilities.
This theory has been utilized on numerous occasions in my organization,. Whenever I lead unskilled workers who are not willing to commit fully to the task and to take overall responsibility, I have to focus primarily on directing them to perform specific actions. In contrast, I am routinely compelled to delegate tasks to all highly skilled, experienced, and enthusiastic employees who are concerned about the mission of the organization and have demonstrated their willingness to take overall responsibility for organizational growth. However, I may need to adapt this theory in my business in order to cater to the needs of managers who only act as administrators. These managers are always under intense pressure to meet targets, and this compels them to use a “directing” approach to even the most skilled employees. I could modify the theory to reconcile the managers’ responsibility for meeting strict performance targets with the need to provide strategic leadership to different groups of employees.
In conclusion, situational leadership theory provides a simplistic framework for adapting leadership styles to different task and relationship behaviors based on the maturity level of a workgroup. It is based on the notion that an effective leader is one who adapts his leadership style to different groups by assessing their level of maturity. Those followers who show a low maturity level should be subjected to a leadership style that involves directing. In contrast, followers who demonstrate the highest level of maturity should be subjected to a leadership style that primarily involves directing in order to give them a free hand in decision-making.
Mujtaba, B. & Sungkhawan, J. (2009). Situational leadership and diversity management coaching skills. Journal of Diversity Management, 4(1), 1-11.