The Situational Leadership model says leaders should adjust their style of leadership depending on the performance maturity of their team. As team maturity increases, leaders should get less directive and become more empowering.

Summary by The World of Work Project

The Situational Leadership Model

The Hersey-Blanchard Situational Leadership model basically says that there is no single, consistent “right way” to lead people. Instead, leaders should vary their leadership approach based on an assessment of their team’s (or an individual’s) competence and confidence.

The high level message from the model, significantly simplified, is that the more mature a team is, the more empowering a leader should be.

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Team Maturities and Leadership Styles

The model details four levels of performance maturity (M1-M4) which teams can demonstrate. It proposes a different leadership style for each (S1-S4). As teams become more mature, leaders should become less directive.

A diagram mapping performance maturity to leadership style per the Situational Leadership Model

In reality things are a bit more complicated than this because the model doesn’t just include a dimension looking at direction / empowerment, it also has another dimension looking at the level of support provided. When this support dimension is brought into play, things get a bit more complicated, but not much.

In relation to support, the model says that leader should not really be supportive to the M1 and M4 maturities, but that they should be supportive to the M2 and M3 maturities. The model effectively maps out a progression from M1 to M4, with associated leadership styles that moves from the right of the below graphic (most directive) to the left (less directive).

A diagram showing different stages of the Situational Leadership Model

Learning More

This model has shaped the Skill / Will matrix, which you might have heard of. You might be interested in learning more about the Blake and Mouton’s Managerial grid or the Seven Transformations of Leadership. You can also learn more about our favorite leadership framework, Authentic Leadership. We’ve even recorded a podcast on this which you can listen to below:

The World of Work Project View

This model is simple but useful for both improving your own leadership skills and in coaching others to improved their leadership.

We dislike the standard layout (as per above). In our own use of this model we rename the horizontal axis as “empowering” and reverse the order of the stages so the chart flows from left to right, M1&S1 through to M4&S4.

In addition, we’re not sure there is an actual progression flow through these stages. We believe an individual or team’s performance maturity can move between stages and that they can be at different stages across their portfolio of responsibilities. Despite those points, this is another useful tool to aid development conversations and it’s very important to realize that people are fluid, so leadership should be as well.

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This post is based on original work by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard. You can read more about it in Paul Hersey’s Book: “The Situational Leader”.

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