Situational leadership theories in organizational studies are a type of leadership theory, leadership style, and leadership model that presumes that different leadership styles are better in different situations, and that leaders must be flexible enough to adapt their style to the situation they are in. Situational leadership theory (SLT) focuses on the interaction of the leader‟s behaviour and follower readiness and then measures it to determine leader effectiveness. As a leadership model, the best known example was developed by Paul Hersey, a professor who wrote a well known book "Situational Leader" and Ken Blanchard, the management guru who later became famous for his "One Minute Manager" series. They created a model of situational leadership in the late 1960s in their work Management of Organizational Behavior.
Blanchard and Hersey characterized leadership style in terms of the amount of direction and support that the leader provides to their followers.
They categorized all leadership styles into four behavior types, which they named S1 to S4:
• S1: Directing/Telling Leaders define the roles and tasks of the 'follower', and supervise them closely. Decisions are made by the leader and announced, so communication is largely one-way.
• S2: Coaching/Selling Leaders still define roles and tasks, but seek ideas and suggestions from the follower. Decisions remain the leader's prerogative, but communication is much more two-way.
• S3: Supporting/Participating Leaders pass day-to-day decisions, such as task allocation and processes, to the follower. The leader facilitates and takes part in decisions, but control is with the follower.
• S4: Delegating Leaders are still involved in decisions and problem-solving, but control is with the follower. The follower decides when and how the leader will be involved.
Of these, no one style is considered optimal or desired for all leaders to possess. Effective leaders need to be flexible, and must adapt themselves according to the situation. However, each leader tends to have a natural style, and in applying Situational Leadership he must know his intrinsic style
Blanchard and Hersey extended their model to include the Development Level of the follower. They stated that the leader's chosen style should be based on the competence and commitment of her followers. They categorized the possible development of followers into four levels, which they named D1 to D4:
• D1: Low Competence, High Commitment - They generally lack the specific skills required for the job in hand. However, they are eager to learn and willing to take direction.
• D2: Some Competence, Low Commitment - They may have some relevant skills, but won't be able to do the job without help. The task or the situation may be new to them.
• D3: High Competence, Variable Commitment - They are experienced and capable, but may lack the confidence to go it alone, or the motivation to do it well or quickly.
• D4: High Competence, High Commitment - They are experienced at the job, and comfortable with their own ability to do it well. They may even be more skilled than the leader.
• Development Levels are also situational. A person might be might be generally skilled, confident and motivated in his job, but would still drop into Level D1 when faced, say, with a task requiring skills he don't possess. For example, many managers are D4 when dealing with the day-to-day running of their department, but move to D1 or D2 when dealing with a sensitive employee "issue"
The development level is now called the performance readiness level (Hersey, Blanchard, & Johnson, 2008). It is based on the Development levels and adapted from Hersey's Situational Selling.
R1: Unable and Insecure or Unwilling - Follower is unable and insecure and lacks confidence or the follower lacks commitment and motivation to complete tasks.
R2: Unable but Confident or Willing - Follower is unable to complete tasks but has the confidence as long as the leader provides guidance or the follower lacks the ability but is motivated and making an effort.
R3: Able but Insecure or Unwilling - Follower has the ability to complete tasks but is apprehensive about doing it alone or the follower is not willing to use that ability.
R4: Able and Confident and Willing - Follower has the ability to perform and is confident about doing so and is committed.
Vroom and Yetton’s Normative Model
Vroom and Yetton (1973) took the earlier generalized situational theories that noted how situational factors cause almost unpredictable leader behavior and reduced this to a more limited set of behaviors. The 'normative' aspect of the model is that it was defined more by rational logic than by long observation. The model is most likely to work when there is clear and accessible opinions about the decision quality importance and decision acceptance factors. However these are not always known with any significant confidence. This assumes that the (i) decision acceptance increases commitment and effectiveness of action,and (ii) participation increases decision acceptance.
Decision quality is the selection of the best alternative, and is particularly important when there are many alternatives. It is also important when there are serious implications for selecting (or failing to select) the best alternative.
Decision acceptance is the degree to which a follower accepts a decision made by a leader. Leaders focus more on decision acceptance when decision quality is more important.
Path-Goal Theory of Leadership
The Path-Goal Theory of Leadership was developed to describe the way that leaders encourage and support their followers in achieving the goals they have been set by making the path that they should take clear and easy. It evolved from the study made by Martin Evans, he incorporated the expectancy theory into the study of – how leader‟s behavior influence employee perceptions of expectations (paths), between employee effort and performance (goals).
Later Robert house and other scholars developed the theory as a contingency leadership model. This theory advocates servant leadership
In particular, leaders:
Ø Clarify the path so subordinates know which way to go.
Ø Remove roadblocks that are stopping them going there.
Ø Increasing the rewards along the route.
Leaders can take a strong or limited approach in these. In clarifying the path, they may be directive or give vague hints. In removing roadblocks, they may scour the path or help the follower move the bigger blocks. In increasing rewards, they may give occasional encouragement or pave the way with gold.
This variation in approach will depend on the situation, including the follower's capability and motivation, as well as the difficulty of the job and other contextual factors.
Fielder’s Contingency Model
Contingency theories propose that from any given situation there is a best way to manage. Contingency theories go beyond situational approaches, which observe that all factors must be considered when leadership decisions are to be made. Contingency theories attempt to isolate the key factors that must be considered and to indicate how to manage when those key factors are present.
The leader's ability to lead is contingent upon various situational factors, including the leader's preferred style, the capabilities and behaviors of followers and also various other situational factors.
In this model leadership is effective when the leader‟s style is appropriate to the situation, as determined by three principal factors:
Leader-member relations: The nature of the interpersonal relationship between leader and follower, expressed in terms of good through poor, with qualifying modifiers attached as necessary. It is obvious that the leader‟s personality and the personalities of subordinates play important roles in this variable.
Task structure: The nature of the subordinate‟s task, described as structured or unstructured, associated with the amount of creative freedom allowed the subordinate to accomplish the task, and how the task is defined.
Position power: The degree to which the position itself enables the leader to get the group members to comply with and accept his or her direction and leadership
Contingency theory is similar to situational theory in that there is an assumption of no simple one right way. The main difference is that situational theory tends to focus more on the behaviors that the leader should adopt, given situational factors (often about follower behavior), whereas contingency theory takes a broader view that includes contingent factors about leader capability and other variables within the situation.