Situational leaders do not relay on one specific leadership style to get them through the day. They use many different leadership styles, based on the situations they encounter, to provide the best results possible each time. They adapt to the immediate situation based on the maturity of their team and the difficulty of the tasks which must be completed.
There are four basic types of leadership that situational leaders use.
- Telling or Directing
- Selling or Coaching
- Participating and coaching
- Delegating and observing
Each type of leadership comes with its own set of skills, strengths, and weaknesses which must be considered before implementing it. For the situational leader, they must be able to recognize the skills that are needed for each situation, then recognize what strengths and weaknesses they are able to bring to the situation.
What Are the Skills of the Situational Leadership Style?
The unique aspect of the situational leadership style is that it offers a skillset which encompasses all leadership types. You will find the skills of authoritarian, authoritative, and even laissez-faire leadership all being used by the situational leader, based on their experiences and observations in every situation.
Because of this need to adapt, there are three key skills that you can find within the situational leader that are not always present in other leadership styles.
The first primary skill involves diagnosis. A situational leader must be able to determine the strengths and weaknesses of their direct reports. They must also understand the scope of the project or task that must be completed. Motivation, focus, and skill are the areas of diagnosis that are focused upon, allowing the leader to determine who the best person for each task will be.
This is followed by performance. Situational leaders must have experience and knowledge that will allow them to bring out the skills in each worker. There must be an eye on the overall vision of the company and the mission being followed. To accomplish this, most situational leaders will organize, communicate, and problem-solve with their direct reports to improve efficiencies whenever possible. In doing so, they’ll know if certain workers require a closer level of supervision.
Then there is the final skill of the situational leadership style: flexibility. Situational leaders must be comfortable in using all leadership style types. If one leadership style is more comfortable than another, then that style becomes the default option for the leader. That isn’t true situational control. As workers and projects evolve, so must the leadership style to accommodate the changes being made.
To ensure the best possible results, a situational leader must also communicate effectively with their team in all situations. Assumptions must be eliminated. Only direct observation should be used to improve the quality and quantity of the work that is being done.
What Are the Strengths of the Situational Leadership Style?
1. It is easy to understand.
Many leaders are intuitive. They know what their team needs and what it will take to meet those needs. Instead of relying on a specific response, situational leaders are able to adjust, allowing their direct reports to find success. It is the type of leadership which comes naturally to most leaders.
2. It offers flexibility.
Instead of relying on a rigid set of rules, situational leaders are given more flexibility in how they run their team. This eliminates the drops in morale which often come about when there is insistence on following a specific set of procedures, even if the outcome from doing so is uncertain. People like to take ownership of their work and situational leadership provides them with the creativity needed to do so.
3. It builds relationships.
For a situational leader to be effective, they must begin to build relationships with their team. You cannot adapt a leadership style to meet personal needs if you are unable to identify those needs in the first place. By creating a tighter connection and emphasizing the value of each employee, a better work environment is usually created for everyone involved.
4. It provides more communication.
The key to success with situational leadership is the skill of communication. Situational leaders must modify their approach to match the behavior of each person and the situation that is present. Leaders have mastered the art of maintaining eye contact, know what it means to practice active listening, and will respond appropriately in each key situation.
What Are the Weaknesses of the Situational Leadership Style?
1. It can feel like a forced leadership style.
Although situational leadership feels natural to some, it can feel very unnatural to others. When a situational leader is well-versed in all 4 leadership styles, they can be effective in leading their teams. If a situational leader struggles to implement 1 or more of those leadership styles, then they’ll avoid it whenever possible. When leadership feels forced, it is far less inspirational from a team standpoint.
2. It places and emphasis on situational needs.
Instead of looking at a project with a long-term approach, situational leaders are always stuck in the present moment. They respond more to specific moments where improvements could be made instead of evaluating issues based on the overall objective. That can make it hard to shift gears for some leaders, which means either the short-term or long-term vision gets ignored to focus on something more specific.
3. It forces the leader to evaluate the maturity of each worker.
If there is one thing that we all share as humans, it is fallibility. We can be fooled by people who put on a good show. Situational leadership forces leaders to evaluate the maturity and expertise of each direct report to understand which leadership approach should be used. It can be very easy to confuse experience-based maturity and emotional-based maturity. Should the leader make an incorrect decision, it can decrease the potential for a successful outcome in the future.
4. It is only as strong as the experiences of the leader.
If a situational leader has not grown up in an environment with diversity, then a diverse demographic in their team will put them at a disadvantage. Even worse, using one approach that seems right, but does not feel right to the team member, can leave everyone feeling confused. That is why situational leadership is best practiced when all aspects of the workplace or project are fully understood by the leader.
Situational leaders are able to adapt. They prefer to be flexible. Many can recognize key strengths in their workers, making it possible to assign people to tasks that are well-suited for them. By taking these traits, skills, strengths, and weaknesses into account. It becomes possible to identify areas of growth for situational leaders, allowing for personal development as well.
Keith Miller has over 25 years of experience as a CEO and serial entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur, he has founded several multi-million dollar companies. As a writer, Keith's work has been mentioned in CIO Magazine, Workable, BizTech, and The Charlotte Observer. If you have any questions about the content of this blog post, then please send our content editing team a message here.