Captains for their teams. Parents for their families. Entrepreneurs for their companies. All of these leadership roles require different skill sets depending on the situation and who you are trying to reach. This capacity to adapt to is called situational leadership.
Great leaders recognize that flexibility is essential to approach a situation and connect with the people surrounding them. But how can you apply the situational leadership model in your business? Here, you’ll know everything to become the best leader for your team and business!
What makes a great leader?
If you look for what are the characteristics of a great leader, you’ll find several articles and lists about the topic. Some common qualities mentioned are:
- Integrity to build trust with the subordinates and demonstrate the responsibility for your actions.
- Communication to reach people from different backgrounds and social identities, transmitting clear messages and instructions.
- Decisiveness is about consistency and commitment to the goals and objectives.
- Empathy helps to connect emotionally with the staff, making them understand you know what it feels to be in their place.
- Empowerment is associated with delegating, by helping other people to grow, learn, and become more autonomous.
These are only five characteristics of a great leader, but you could also include flexibility, fast learner, humble, and passionate, for example. What is important to remark is that leadership is a combination of personality and skill set.
But since leadership is not only about the people in senior and management roles, it’s essential to understand how to relate with employees and colleagues, taking into consideration their development level and emotional perception. That’s how the Situational Leadership theory jumps in!
What is Situational Leadership?
Because there is no one-size-fits-all, the situational leadership model states that the best leaders are capable of adapting themselves to the situation, type of task, the nature of the group, and the maturity of the individuals.
In order to determine which style is most suitable, it’s important to pay attention to certain factors about the relationship:
- What kind of relationship exists between the leader and the group?
- Which are the pain points of the group? Low productivity? Lack of skills?
- Which is the level of maturity of the group?
- Unable and insecure (M1): the least experienced, but very committed to the task at hand.
- Unable but confident (M2): still inexperienced and unwilling to take responsibility for the task.
- Capable and unwilling (M3): has the knowledge, but are unmotivated to take responsibility for it.
- Very capable (M4): experienced and comfortable with taking responsibility for the task.
And the task:
- What the group is trying to achieve?
- How complex the task is?
- How will you evaluate if it has been satisfactorily completed?
With those factors in mind, the leader should define the most suitable approach to support the team and help them achieve success, keeping the balance within the organization.
Which are the Situational Leadership Styles?
We can say that situational leadership is divided into two kinds of behaviors:
- Directive: that defines what, when, and how to perform the tasks.
- Supportive: focused on team development, inciting participation, and motivating the members.
According to the necessities of your team, you’ll move along between these two kinds, associating with the appropriate style.
The leader must guide the team (M1) step by step on the tasks, being clear and concise on the instructions. This is the most direct way of leadership, ensuring the team knows what to do. The achievements of this phase will help to keep the members motivated.
More focused on feedback and supervision of the team (M2), the leader increases members’ participation in the decision-making process, but still retains the final word. It’s closer to a teacher’s role in developing discernment.
After guidance and motivation, the leader should incite the collaborative work among the team (M3), creating opportunities for discussion, sharing different points of view, and ideas.
By delegating responsibilities, the leader empowers team members, who now understand better their role and what is expected of them. It also represents respect and trust in their abilities and the way they perform the tasks.
A good way to visualize the situational leadership theory is the chart below. Use this to place each team member in the proper quadrant to evaluate the best approach for them.
As you can see, the most directive behaviors, S1 and S2, are suitable for the least skilled teams, M1 and M2, as the most supportive behaviors, S2 and S3, should be addressed to the least motivated ones, M2 and M3.
How do I develop leadership skills?
The best way to start improving anything, including ourselves, is by analyzing the strengths and weaknesses, setting goals based on where we are and where we want to be. In this case, a great tool to start understanding all those aspects is taking the Meyer-Briggs Type Indicator test (MBTI).
The MBTI is one of the most popular personality tests, used worldwide by recruiters and HR teams. It helps to understand how employees process information, solve problems, and make decisions, to set a team considering complementary skills, and so on.
According to the test, people differ in the way they perceive the world, and how they reach conclusions. Their differences correspond to their interests, reactions, values, motivations, and skills. These are impacted by eight preferences of the same value:
- World view: Extraversion (E) versus Introversion (I)
- Gathering information: Sensing (S) versus Intuition (N)
- Decision making: Thinking (T) versus Feeling (F)
- Structuring meaning: Perceiving (P) versus Judgment (J)
The idea is that people apply all of these preferences at the same time but tend to use one more than another. Based on these aspects, there are four different personality groups, each of them presenting different leadership skill sets.
The most-effective organizational leaders, Guardians are meticulous about schedules and make sure to follow the proper procedures.
This type is pragmatic, skeptical, self-contained, and focused on problem-solving and systems. They are strategic leaders. logical, and willing to learn how things work.
Artisan leaders are realistic, optimistic, and focused. They are proud of being unconventional and spontaneous. They are creative and love to troubleshoot problems.
With an extraordinary ability to influence, inspire, and motivate others, Idealists focus their energy on other people's potential, helping them get along and work together.
Taking the MBPI test will help you identify your bias and what you should work on. If you are more introverted, you need to improve your communication skills to connect with others; if you tend to focus more on emotions, you need to develop a more pragmatic approach, for example.
Combining the MBPI, that identifies individuals’ predispositions, with situational leadership, that anticipates behaviors and help to determine how to act, is a perfect tool for leaders to build on their skills, as well as their employees’.
Why adopt this model in your business?
One of the most valuable aspects of this model is the acknowledgment of flexibility to effective leadership. It provides leaders with a tool to analyze the context, how to place their efforts in teaching and motivating their teams to accomplish a task.
By taking into consideration both technical and emotional needs, the situational leadership model help leaders to develop essential skills like communication, empathy, and empowerment, as well as increase their awareness of circumstances in the workplace.
Although for some people leadership seems such a natural talent, it’s a constant hard work to develop the necessary skills and work on yourself to become a great leader!