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Situational Leadership:

Powerful leaders are chameleons – they adapt to their situations, people, and challenges.

Organizational gurus, Blanchard, and Hersey, called this “Situational Leadership”. 

How does this work?

The leader gages the worker’s skill and his readiness for autonomy. The two vectors are autonomy/dependence, and skilled/unskilled. These vectors produce four leadership styles:  

·         Telling is for people who lack both skill and motivation.

·         Selling is for workers who want to learn but lack skill and confidence.

·         Participating is for staff who have skill but lack confidence to work independently.

·         Delegating is for staff who have skill and confidence, and who are ready to work by themselves.

No single style is better, or worse, than any other. The leader adapts his style based on the context and based on staff needs. How does this work?

Telling is for workers who lack training and motivation.  Give step-by-step training. Explain  the cost of failure. Set milestones, monitor work, give feedback, and reward output. The Leader is a Boss.

Selling is for employees who are keen but lacks skills. The Leader is a Coach.  In this role the coach helps the worker get adequate training and resources.  

Participating leadership style is for workers who are capable but lack confidence. The worker may need training, too. The Leader is Cheerleader: “You can do this”!

Delegating works for people who are 100% capable and keen. The Leader supervises but does not micro-manage. This is the “hands-off-eyes-on” leadership.  The Leader is a Partner.

Leaders empowers workers to become more independent. Leadership style adapts as workers evolve. Meet people where they are, not where you think they should be.  The Situational Leader is adaptive.


Situational leadership is dynamic: As workers learn skills, the leader becomes teacher, coach, or mentor. If the firm pursues a new activity, the leader takes more control, directing, teaching, coaching until the team is competent. Besides, a worker may be autonomous in one area, but still require coaching somewhere else.

Three rules:

·         Never over-manage people who can do it on their own. That is a waste (and the workers may leave).

·         Never neglect people who need control.  That is dangerous.

·         Always encourage your people (and yourself) to learn and grow. 

You want people to be more autonomous, so the team is more effective.  But you cannot force people to evolve.  The leader is a positive-change catalyst, not a tyrant.

Leaders are rigid on values, flexible on process, and devoted to the mission.

That is Situational Leadership.



to You,

Goldsmith, M. (2015). Triggers, New York, NY: Penguin Random House.


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