Situational Leadership: Meet Them Where They Are

Meet them where they are.  Words of wisdom I received during Situational Leadership II (SLII) training.  Unfortunately, I learned this gem too late for one of my direct reports in my role as a new HR Manager several years ago; but once I began to put the principles into practice I have been able to create and develop truly amazing teams.

 In the situational leadership model, there are four styles of leadership that flow along the directive and supportive axes. These styles are Directing, Coaching, Supporting and Delegating. Leaders need to evaluate what style along the continuum works best for their direct report in any given situation and adjust their style to meet the need. 

 There are two reasons leaders struggle to flow effortlessly among these styles.  The first:   leaders will generally favor one or two styles and ignore the others.  We all have natural or learned behaviors and it’s not easy to operate outside of our comfort zones.

 The second:  leaders tend to categorize a person into a style assuming if they require a certain leadership style at one task, they will require the same style for all elements of their job.  This is just as damaging and was a lesson I learned the hard way. 

 Several years ago the safety manager for a manufacturing facility reported to me.  This person was experienced in their role, and my natural leadership tendency was to be supportive.  I took a hands off approach, only stepping in if asked for assistance.  This safety manager started to struggle in the job yet did not ask for assistance.  I continued to offer my support but kept a low directive style, thinking the appropriate leadership practice was to not micro-manage.  The employee eventually quit out of frustration at his inability to accomplish some of his objectives.  If I was more aware and had adjusted my approach to be more directive to the tasks he was struggling with, the outcome would most likely been more favorable.

 Reflection question:  Identify a direct report with a specific important objective and ask yourself, based on their experience with the task, what style of leadership should I be using to provide guidance that will be the most helpful and to ensure success.

Contact HRt Consulting for a free introduction on how we can help your leaders apply situational leadership.


Mindi Searle