Situational Approach

Another approach to leadership studies is the situational approach, the basic premise of which is that different situations demand different types of leadership. This approach was developed by Hersey and Blanchard (1969) based on Reddin's (1967) 3-D management style theory.

A situation, within this context, is a "set of values and attitudes with which the individual or group has to deal in a process of activity and with regard to which this activity is planned and its results appreciated. Every concrete activity is the solution of a situation." Situations can be complicated affairs and generally have five elements:

  • the structure of interpersonal relationships within the group;
  • the characteristics of the group as a whole;
  • the characteristics of the group's environment from which members come;
  • physical constraints on the group; and
  • the perceptual representation, within the group and among its members, of these elements and the "attitudes and values engendered by them" (from the International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, edited by David L. Sills).

Situational influences thus constrain the leader who must adapt his or her style of leadership to the situation at hand. Situational leadership, according to Northouse, has both a directive and a supportive dynamic. A situationally motivated leader realizes that the skills and motivation of any group member are not static and the mix of the leader's supportive and directive activities must likewise change with the situation.

The situational approach has been refined and revised several times since its inception and it has been used extensively in organizational leadership training and development (Northouse, 2007, p.91).

Paul Hersey - Situational Leadership                                                     Ken Blanchard












Sirje Virkus, Tallinn University, 2009