According to the contingency theories of leadership, certain variables in the environment determine the style of leadership that suits the state of affairs. The success of a leader is determined by the leadership style, behaviors of followers and other situational aspects. Situational leadership theory is one of the contingency theories, and it was developed by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard. It applies to quite a number of relevant situations that I have come across. It asserts that a leader’s effectiveness is depended on his/her capability to modify his or her behavior to the requirements of the circumstances under play.
The theory proposes four types of headship behaviors that are derived from combining both the supportive and directive behaviors depending on the level of maturity of the subordinate. The first one is known as telling where the leader employs a lot of directives but offers low support on the subordinate. The second one is called selling that is characterized by high directive and a lot of support. Thirdly, there is participation where the leader gives low directive but offers high support to the follower. Last but not least, delegating comes in the fourth place. Here, the leader’s support and directive are both low.
The leader continually assesses and thereafter adapts his or her conduct to the subordinate’s task and mental maturity (i.e. ability and willingness). For example if a follower has low maturity, the leader is required to tell the follower how to go about in getting the job done. In this case, the leader employs a lot of the directive towards the subordinate. However in situations where the follower is more mature both psychologically and task wise, there is no need for a lot of direction. Additionally, there is no significant support from the leader needed in accomplishing the task at hand. The leader should delegate the task to the subordinate in the latter case.