Follow Us
Get in touch today
01353 669 021
07771 573 180
mobile-menu mobile-menu-arrow Menu

Situational Leadership

Situational leadership

“You manage things; you lead people”

Murray Hopper

Now we get to the nuts and bolts of leadership. The definitive leadership style research comes from Paul Hersey and Kenneth Blanchard, which they expressed in their Situational Leadership Model. The Hersey-Blanchard model addresses the key to practical leadership development: the attributes and styles of the followers.

Not everyone is on the same intellectual, maturity, compliance, or motivational level. Different people are motivated by different things, and this must be taken into account if one is to be a great leader. Communications experts consider it critical to tailor your message to your “target audience”. It is the followers that you want to motivate and influence, and you cannot do that if you don’t know whom you are trying to motivate or influence.

The situational leadership model addresses four types of leadership styles, based on the follower:

The goal is to develop followers to the Delegating level as seen below.

Leadership styles model

Situational leadership: telling

Telling is the lowest level of leadership style. Most new employees require direct instructions, so this is called the “telling” or “directing” style. The follower is characterised by low competence and high commitment, being unable to comply, with possible feelings of insecurity.

The leader must focus highly on tasks, rather than on a relationship with the employee, as a relationship does not yet exist.

When an employee can’t do the job because they are unknowledgeable, the leader must spend much more time working with the employee, offering clear instructions and regular follow up. The leader must be encouraging and motivational, offering praise for positive results and correction for less than positive results. The idea is to motivate the follower to rise to the next level of ability.

This is a very leader-driven stage.

Situational leadership: selling

Selling addresses the follower who has developed some competence with an improved commitment. The follower is not convinced yet, but is open to becoming cooperative and motivated.

The leader must still focus highly on tasks, and this still requires much of the leader’s time, but the focus now also includes developing a relationship with the employee. Build upon the trust that has begun to develop and the encouragement that has been demonstrated. The leader must spend more time listening and offering advice, scheduling the follower for additional training if the situation requires it.

The goal is to engage the follower so they can develop to the next level. There is less “telling” and more “suggesting” which leads to more encouragement, acting as a coach. It is recognition that they have progressed and this motivates them to progress even further.

This is a very leader-driven stage.

Situational leadership: participating

Participating addresses the follower who is now competent at the job, but remains somewhat inconsistent and is not yet fully committed. The follower may be uncooperative or performing as little work as possible, despite their competence with the tasks.

The leader must participate with and support the follower. The leader no longer needs to give detailed instructions and follow up as often, but does need to continue working with the follower to ensure the work is being done at the level required.

The follower is now highly competent, but is not yet convinced of his or her ability or not fully committed to doing their best and excelling. The leader must now focus less on the tasks assigned and more on the relationship between the follower, the leader and the group.

This is a very follower-driven, relationship-focused stage.

Situational leadership: delegating

Delegating is the ultimate goal: a follower who feels fully empowered and competent enough to take the ball and run with it, with minimal supervision. The follower is highly competent, highly committed, motivated and empowered.

The leader can now delegate tasks to the follower and observe with minimal follow up, knowing that acceptable or even excellent results will be achieved. There is a low focus on tasks and a low focus on relationships. There is no need to compliment the follower on every task, although continued praise for outstanding performance must be given as appropriate.

This is a very follower-driven stage.

Want to know what type of leader you are? Contact us at to find out how we can run 360 degree profiles on how you see yourself, and how others see you, as part of our leadership workshop.

Book a Free Training Consultation Contact Us

We are members of






What our clients say...

“Karen was an invaluable source of knowledge in helping me lay the foundation for the new sales team. Her experience in territory planning, setting targets and categorising accounts was central to the successful launch of the new team.”

Veterinary Pharmaceutical Company