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But the thing about leadership is that it has such a broad meaning that it is nearly impossible to pinpoint what exact leadership approach would best suit your people.
The reality is that it is truly impossible to choose just one ideal leadership style. One approach can reach and inspire many, but the same approach might not work at all for others. This is why developing a situational leadership skill set is important.
According to the Ken Blanchard Companies, a model developed by Hersey and Blanchard suggests that situational leadership calls for leaders to use more than one leadership style, matching them to each individual and his or her development level for a task.
But how does a situational leader know the right approach? The situational leader approaches this by building three skills crucial to this leadership style.
The first skill that situational leaders must master is goal setting. The goals must be SMART – specific, motivating, attainable, relevant and trackable. Each element of a “smart” goal is crucial to both the leader and the individual or team. The benefit of developing this skill is to make sure that both the leader and the individual have the same understanding of what the goal is. It clarifies what the individual must achieve, how much and when.
The second skill to develop is diagnosis. As mentioned earlier, situational leaders must be able to diagnose the individual’s development level for the task – their competency and commitment. Competence refers to both the knowledge and skills required, those specific for the task as well as any transferable skills that can be applied. Meanwhile, commitment refers to the confidence and motivation the individual has for the task.
The benefit of the diagnosis skill for the situational leader is to develop their ability to understand their own people better and how they feel about a task or goal. Empathy is such an important aspect in this skill as it allows the leader to deeply understand others.
The third skill, which directly comes after diagnosis, is leadership style matching. After understanding how competent and committed the individual is towards the goal or task, the situational leader will be able to identify what leadership style to use – directing, coaching, supporting and delegating – involving the two varying types of behaviours of being directive and supportive in each style. Directive behaviour refers to structuring, controlling and supervising the task for the individual, while supportive behaviour, on the other hand, refers to listening, praising and facilitating the task for the individual.
The benefit of varying the style of leadership is clear – every individual has different development levels towards different tasks. The situational leader applying different styles will insure that the leader can bring the best out of the individual.
To give you a clearer image, take the example of a coaching leadership style. This leadership style is applied for the individual with little to some competence but low commitment for the task. The situational leader will apply behaviours that are both highly directive and supportive to meet the needs of a person with some level of competence but low commitment.
The benefit for leaders in developing all these skills comes not only from their own positive outcomes, but also from positively affecting one of the most important elements of leadership – your people.
Additionally, you would eventually develop a leadership language that your people would have the opportunity to learn. This increases productivity and motivation as your people would also have better understanding of you, as leader.
Another benefit is having a clear guideline that a model provides. Often times, leaders already know how to lead their people. But leaders, such as newly appointed managers, will have to unlearn and relearn as they’ll have new tasks and new people to manage. The model gives them a foundation to begin their leadership journey.
This is an effective and successfully tested model developed by Hersey and Blanchard that can help leaders with how they can best lead their people. Still, your people are going to develop their own patterns of behaviour. As effective business leaders, the key to becoming a situational leader is flexibility, and only then can your organisation grow.
ARINYA TALERNGSRI is chief capability officer and managing director at SEAC (formerly APMGroup), Southeast Asia’s leading executive, leadership and innovation capability development centre. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or https://www.linkedin.com/in/ arinya-talerngsri-53b81aa