Situational leadership theory , as developed by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard, argues that there is a direct correlation between the environment, readiness, and motivation of a follower and the function of a leader. Leaders can strengthen their leadership skills, gain confidence, and gain experience by understanding how a follower's...
Situational leadership theory, as developed by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard, argues that there is a direct correlation between the environment, readiness, and motivation of a follower and the function of a leader. Leaders can strengthen their leadership skills, gain confidence, and gain experience by understanding how a follower's environment, readiness, and motivation influence the leader's actions. If a leader understands that people will respond in certain ways to being led in groups or working, then the leader can adjust his/her actions to positively influence a subordinate's actions.
Leadership theory particularly argues that there is "no one best way to influence" subordinates. Instead, leadership styles should be chosen based on the environment, readiness, and motivation of the subordinate. Hence, leadership theory proposes that a manager's behavior towards a subordinate should be flexible.
According to the theory, a manager will either employ task behavior or relationship behavior depending on the subordinate's behavior. Task behavior is employed by the manager when the subordinate seems insecure about or uncertain of how to complete a work assignment. Using task behavior, the manager instructs, trains, and guides the subordinate in completing the assignment. Relationship behavior refers to interacting in "two-way or multidirectional communication" with subordinates ("Section 4: Situational Leadership," Leadership Track, Mississippi College). Relationship behavior pertains to such behaviors as "listening, facilitating, praising, collaborating, counseling, consulting, and other socially and emotionally supportive behaviors" (Section 4). Studies show that using task behavior will produce limited results in influencing a subordinate's behavior, and using relationship behavior will greatly influence a subordinate's behavior, especially because it allows for problems to be solved.
Situational leadership theory allows for task behavior and relationship behavior to be used at varying interchangeable degrees to produce four different leadership styles: (1) directing, which employs a lot of task behavior and very little relationship behavior; (2) coaching, which employs a great deal of both task and relationship behaviors; (3) supporting, which employs very little task behavior and a great deal of relationship behavior; and (4) delegating, which employs very little of both task and relationship behaviors (Section 4).
General MacArthur has been recognized as an example of a leader who had an intuitive understanding of relationship behavior and was a very effective delegator, employing leadership style number 4. Frank Rizzo, Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers in Japan, was once reported as saying MacArthur was able to make everyone feel "it was a privilege to [work] for him, that he knew that personally, and that he had asked you personally to do [the work]" (as cited in Section 4). He achieved this by delegating both authority and responsibility. Through his ability to delegate, he made his subordinates feel that they were being honored by being asked to do him a favor when they were really just doing a normal part of their job requirement. Feeling that they were honoring him made them much more motivated to accomplish the task.
Hence, situational leadership theory guides managers' behavior towards subordinates by allowing for two leadership behaviors that can be used at varying interchangeable degrees depending on what the particular situation calls for.