Various theoretical approaches have been conducted to determine the impact of leadership and the key attributes of effective leaders. The five research approach comprise of the trait approach, behavior approach, power-influence approach, situational approach, and integrative approach. Although each approach has its merits and issues, the focus of this paper will be the situational approach.
The situational leadership approach views leadership in relation to a specific context. The study suggests that for every situation a specific leadership style is appropriate. In situational leadership, the factors that affect the leadership style include the situation, the organization, the followers, the timing and the nature of work (Yukl, 2010). By assessing these factors, leaders make decisions on their leadership style. In addition, situational leadership has two subcategories. The first one reviews the similarity or differences of leadership within an organization. This study involves using comparison between situations and the differences or similarities between approaches.
The second study evaluates the correlation between leadership traits, skills and attributes to leadership effectiveness (Yukl, 2010). Finally, the study by Paul Hersey and Kenneth Blanchard in 1969 provided a matrix of communication for use in this type of leadership. The matrix recommends the use of four influence competencies such as telling or directing, selling, delegating and participating. Each style is adapted to the follower’s maturity or competency. “The four styles suggest that leaders should put greater or less focus on the task in question and/or the relationship between the leader and the follower, depending on the development level of the follower” (Changing Minds, 2012).
Strengths and Weaknesses
The strength of the situational approach of research is that it provides a variety of study iterations, thus allowing for the researchers to control certain parts of the study. Moreover, the situation is observable and results are easy to understand. Thus the study provides flexibility and control in modifying various factors within the control situation. For instance, by manipulating a certain control situation, researchers can review the leaders’ reactions and methods to resolving the issues put forward. The weaknesses of using this approach are that it contains too many variables. Endless numbers of variables can be factored in to a situation and thus, can create confusion in the study. Moreover, the approach does not clearly distinguish between leadership and management and given a situation, managers can act as leaders and vice versa without further clarification.
Examples of Situational Leadership
Situational leadership exists in __________, a financial service firm, and the author’s current employer. Situational leaders use four influence competencies such as telling or directing, selling, delegating, and participating. Each style must be applied to the appropriate situation being affected and the audience or group being addressed (Changing Minds, 2012). The examples will be based on the author’s observations of her direct superior, the Senior Partner of the company, (“Eric”). As senior partner, Eric is in charge of the company’s strategic direction. Thus, he delegates authority to various skilled and competent individuals. In everyday business, Eric uses the delegating and participating style.
He understands that the branch managers and senior staff are skilled to handle every day issues. However, in times of uncertainty and stress, for instance, the possible stock market decline, Eric shifts his style to more of a telling or directing style. This telling or directing style is typically used in lower competency and low trust group of followers. Even though Eric realizes that the senior staff members are well trained to handle stock market declines, Eric looks at the situation and modifies his behavior and communication style to a more directive leadership.
The situational approach in studying leadership provides an overview of the use different traits, skills and communication styles in order to fit into the situation. Although this approach has its merits and weaknesses, it is the most widely used leadership study. Regardless of the approach used in study or leadership style, the most important factor is the leader’s accountability for the outcome of the decisions made.
Changing Minds, (2012), Hersey and Blanchard’s Approach, Retrieved from: http://changingminds.org/disciplines/leadership/styles/situational_leadership_hersey_blan chard.htm
Yukl, G. A. (2006). Leadership in organizations (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: