Situational Leadership Essentials: Building Your Mastery

Leaders navigate dynamic environments with situational leadership. They adapt styles to suit evolving needs and circumstances.

  • Release Date: 26 March 2024
  • Author: Speaker Agency
What Is Situational Leadership 690X460

Leaders are those individuals who take charge and propel an organization to achieve its objectives. In the process, these leaders have to stay on top of the ever-changing internal and external business environments, employee perceptions, and other critical factors involved. Given the fluid nature of business environments, leaders can’t follow the same leadership style, from the time they join a company to the time they retire. This is where a situational approach to leadership becomes essential.

What is situational leadership?

As the name suggests, situational leadership is a managerial style that a leader takes to handle a situation. This style will vary based on factors like team composition, work environment, and the organization's goals. It’s more important today than ever before for leaders to know what styles must be used in different situations to help them stay relevant and effective within their organization.

Understanding the Situational Leadership ModelThe situational leadership model was developed by Ken Blanchard and Paul Hersey in 1969. Both these pioneers understood that there can’t be a one-size-fits-all approach to leadership styles, and hence came up with this flexible model that encompasses four situational leadership styles. They are:


This is the first style where the leader handles decision-making and informs the same to the team members. Moreover, the leader also closely supervises the team to ensure they follow the instructions. The advantage of this style is that it provides structure and gives clear instructions for employees to follow. However, there is no support or room for employee opinions in this style.

The Telling style works best when the team comprises fresh graduates and novice employees or when the organization is handling an emergency that requires a single individual in command.


In this style, the leader is selling an idea and persuading team members to buy into this idea. The Selling style works best when a leader has to motivate the team members to learn, work harder, and believe in the end goal they have to achieve.

The key difference between the Telling and Selling styles is the level of two-way communication involved. In Telling, communication is uni-directional and flows only from the leader to the subordinates. But, in the Selling style, there’s a two-way communication where employees can communicate their concerns and issues, and the leader will play a supportive role in resolving the issues to help employees do their jobs better.


The Participating style is an evolution of the Selling style. Here, the leader has to gently nudge employees to perform better and infuse confidence in them. This is a democratic leadership style where everyone in the team participates in discussions and the decisions are taken with the joint consensus of the team. At the same time, there’s a certain level of direction and support from the leaders, who are eventually responsible for the decisions and their consequences.

This style works best when employees understand the work and have good experience and knowledge, but are unwilling to push beyond due to lacking motivation or self-confidence.


This is the fourth style where the leader completely delegates the tasks to the team and is more focused on the outcomes. In this style, the leader sets the end goal or vision and provides complete authority to the team members to work towards them.

The Delegating style works best when the team includes experienced, confident, and motivated members who are responsible leaders themselves. These employees are capable of making decisions, addressing issues, and taking charge during emergencies.

Thus, these are four situational leadership styles. As you can see, each style works well in specific situations and also depends greatly on the experience and knowledge of team members.

From the above discussion, it’s clear that situational leaders can drive their organization forward. However, these leaders need certain traits for effective leadership.Key Traits for Effective LeadershipSome key traits that will help situational leaders to be effective are:

  •         Flexibility to adapt to different situations.
  •         An empathetic person who can understand the emotions and problems of team members.Confident and self-motivated.
  •         Ability to delegate work to the right people.
  •         Supporting a participative environment.
  •    A constant learner, willing to explore new horizons.

    Now that you have an idea of the traits, let’s look at some successful situational leadership examples in the real world.

Situational Leadership Examples

Situational Leadership Examples

Below are some situational leaders who have successfully led their teams to the desired outcomes.

Steve Jobs

One of the best-known situational leaders is Steve Jobs. Though his style was largely perceived as autocratic, a closer look will show the many layers it embodied. For example, with his highly publicized product launches, he ensured his employees bought into Apple’s vision. Through his hard work, he motivated many people to become confident. He is also known to have delegated tasks completely in areas that he was not familiar with. Such a nuanced leadership style made him a popular leader, as he successfully brought about a technological revolution with Apple products.

Phil Jackson

Phil Jackson has won 11 NBA championships and has led teams with stars like Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan. Dealing with such diverse and motivated talent requires a multi-faceted approach. Rookies and young players within the team need a more hands-on leadership approach requiring clear instructions and strict supervision. On the other hand, players like Kobe Bryant require a delegatory approach where they can take care of themselves and lead the game to victory. Phil Jackson has been remarkable in handling players with a wide range of experience and skill.

Indra Nooyi

Indra Nooyi was the former CEO of PepsiCo. She was an exceptional leader who had to handle many difficult situations and turbulent times within the organization. Her uncanny eye for talent and ability to provide the right leadership to different employees made her a situational and adaptive leader.

A common aspect in the above leaders is that they learned the art of handling situations and turned them to their advantage using their leadership traits and experience.

Situational Leadership Examples 2

Learning the Art and Science of Situational Leadership

Overall, situational leadership has proven to be highly effective. However, becoming a situational leader is not easy. One way to become an effective leader is to know how successful leaders from different backgrounds handle situations and overcome challenges. This is where our leadership speakers can help. You can listen to their podcasts or even arrange a session with them to tap into their rich experience and knowledge.

Situational Approach To Leadership
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