Yes, I do believe that leaders can be flexible in the way they interact with others, or change their behaviors or personalities so to suit the situation. Also, they might need to focus on followers needs/behaviors or their level of readiness by changing or shifting behavioral their leadership style. One theory might describe and support this concept is the situational leadership theory which requires leaders to center their leadership style or behaviors according to their followers level.
This theory was initially created by Hersey and Blanchard (1969) and has approaches that concern for people productions as well as shows that there is no one best style of behavior for a leader (Norris, 1992). Most importantly, the situational theory require leader to adjust his behavior and leadership style to features of followers and situation.
Therefore, it might be important to look at the four styles described by Hersey and Blanchard to identify the situations that any leader might have to change his style or behavior.
There are situations where leader might have to be flexible with his followers by giving them less responsibly and delegation of tasks due to their lack of knowledge/experience, or if they are newly hired etc. the leader in this case might need to utilize the ”telling style” whereby there is more of directing and controlling of leader to his followers. In this behavioral style, leader’s role involves telling his follower on what and how to perform their tasks step by step. In my working experience, for example, I tend to use this style when training people whom are newly hired or inexperienced and require a lot of assistance or hints when in doubt. I might sometimes need to ”spill out the responsibilities” or duties for perform to make sure that they are still on focus.
Knowing that differences between tasks and relationships behaviors as described in Hughes et al (1996), I agree that the telling style does have high task and low relationship with followers because followers in this stage are unable to perform any delegated tasks and that means should be giving detailed instructions.
Another situational and behavioral style is the selling style whereby the leader is acting both as a director and supporter toward his followers. This style might be more effective if followers are delegated toward some responsibility and have an adequate knowledge of performing their tasks. The leader in this case is only giving directions and guideline when any deviation is observed. In term of skills and ability, the leader is also to promote his followers’ skills throughout. Because of that, it ca be said that in this behavioral style, the leader is ”coaching” i.e. there is higher tasks delegation and higher relationship with followers.
In the participating style, the leader exercises low tasks delegations but high relationship with followers. This is because in this style the main role of leader is to facilitate the delegated tasks to his followers by showing his knowledge or skills on ”how best can this be done”. Bearing in mind the level of communication is high in this style which enables follower to share in the decision making process as applicable. This behavioral style might best be used is when followers are starting or completing a job (Hughes et al, 2006).
The last situational style is the ”delegating style” whereby there is little two side communication between the leader and his followers (low-task- low relationship). This style might be implemented when leader is aware of his followers’ knowledge, ability, confidence, experience and most importantly taking higher responsibilities. To this extend, followers are able to direct them selves with no control from their leader. Although, leaders in this style are like an observers whereby they have less influence on their followers’ and less control.
However, leader might also need to consider followers development level/their readiness level and competence. Followers’ competence might include their knowledge, skills and ability to assess the work outcome. Therefore, leader might have to respond or change his behavior in such way that fits the situation. He can classify his people to stages such as:· People are able and willing to take tasks (competent).
· People are unable and unwilling to take tasks (incompetents)· People are unable but willing to take tasks (unskilled).
· People are able but unwilling tasks (unmotivated).
So to summarize, it can be seen that the situational leadership theory presented by Hersey and Blanchard focuses on the followers behaviors and define what style is best to suit any situation. Also, it highlights the level of responsibilities delegated as well as the degree of relationship between leaders and followers. Put into practice, situation leadership theory is basically effective with any situation.
Moreover, it seems that the situational theory answer the question that leader might need to change their behavior and be flexible with followers as that depends on situation and circumstances. In other words, leaders might need to adjust them selves all the time depending on the working environment and follower level of readiness (Norris, 1992). And as the Hersey and Blanchard theory, they should always change their personality or be able to identify clues in their environment and adapt their leader behavior to meet the needs of their followers in any particular situation (). Vecchio and Norris agrees that ,even with good diagnostic skills, leader might need to be flexible in changing their behavior and adapt their leadership styles that meet that demand of both the followers and environment.
Norris, R., & Vecchio, R 1992 Situational leadership theory. Group & Organization Management.
Hughes, R.L., Ginnet, R.C., & Curphy, G.J. (2006). Leadership: Enhancing the lessons of experience. 5th ed. New York. McGraw-Hill