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Situational Approaches to Leadership

Free «Situational Approaches to Leadership» Essay Sample


There are various methods of leadership that have been suggested by various scholars. The famous one is Hersey and Blanchard’s model. This method argues that one style of leading cannot be used in all circumstances since the degree of management will differ subject to every situation. Its promoters categorize leadership into directing, coaching, supporting and delegating (Northouse, 2013). Other models of leadership include the Fielder’s contingency model, which is based on the fact that an individual leaders’ style is fixed and the best way to handle a difficult scenario is to replace the leader, and the path goal theory which places too much reliance on the leader and assumes that he is rational and will always undertake actions, which are beneficial for the whole team. This paper will therefore analyze various situations and establish the best methods of leadership to be applied.

Application of Hersey and Blanchard’s Situational Leadership Model

Situation A

Supporting is the most appropriate leadership style that suits the situation portrayed in the above case. This type of leadership is effective where workers are highly skilled and hence possess the ability to accomplish tasks set before them, but they are unwilling to do so. The leader’s role is not geared towards directing the employees on what to do but towards establishing the reason behind their complacency and refusal to work so as to find ways of motivating them and boosting their confidence. To accomplish this, the leader must be ready to listen and acknowledge good work done among other things.


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It therefore follows that despite the fact that the architects are highly skilled, they have strong opinions, fail to follow instructions and are independent thinkers who do things their own way. This portrays workers who lack motivation and support and hence making the supportive approach vital in this situation.

Situation B

The best leadership style to be applied in this case is coaching. The latter refers to a situation whereby the manager or head of a department takes active participation in the working process of employees placed under their leadership. Coaching is effective when the workers are weak in terms of experience and knowledge. For purposes of its efficiency, all employees must accept their lack of competence in discharging their duties and express a desire to improve the same (Simpson, 2012).

In scenario B, the workers clearly lack the necessary expertise because they are teenagers who have not yet graduated from high school and are working for the first time. It would therefore be appropriate for the manager of the restaurant to use the coaching type of leadership to improve the worker’s skills.

Situation C

For purposes of this situation, delegating leadership style is the most appropriate. This is because delegation has proved to be proper where the workers are highly qualified, skillful and have shown the ability to work independently under minimal supervision. Similarly, from the facts of situation C, the staff has proved to be independent workers in addition to being highly skilled and motivated software engineers.

Generally, the major duty of a manager applying the leadership style of delegation is to offer direction only when approached and his duties therefore translate into a consultative role. On the contrary, this style of leadership places most of the tasks on the worker’s shoulders. It is advantageous that employees have the opportunity to exercise maximum potential in coming up with creative ideas that can be employed when choosing the courses of action to take in completing tasks.

Application of Path-Goal Model and Fiedler’s Contingency Model

Situation A

Application of the path-goal theory in this situation would prove to be really challenging. This is because there is very little information that can enable us to apply this theory. First, there is no sufficient data on what really motivates them towards the achievement of their objectives. Then there is also no information on the nature of the complexity of tasks that the architects are called upon to do. The participative leadership style would however remotely work in this group but this would be hampered by the fact that there is no team work in the group.

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Fielder’s Contingency model would also be difficult to utilize in this situation because the effectiveness of a leader or a leadership style according to this theory is dependent on the leader-members relationship, how the task is structured and the leaders relative positional power to that of the employees. According to these criteria, we only have the task structure, thus its unsuitability. In addition, there is no LPC scale to enable us to know whether the leader is relationship-oriented or task-oriented. Thus, this model is impossible to use for this situation (Northouse, 2013).

Situation B

For this situation, application of the path-goal theory seems to be possible but would however be met by some challenges. We are able to draw some general characteristics about the employees, such as their abilities, because they are new to the working environment. However, information on the obstacles being faced in the work environment is not adequate. The nature of relationship between the person in charge and the employees is not known with certainty. The directive style of leadership would, however, suit this scenario since there is a lot of uncertainty in this environment.

Fielder’s contingency model will certainly not work in this environment. This is because we, first, do not know the kind of leader the food store manager is. We neither know whether he is relationship-oriented or task-oriented. Then, we are not aware of the situational favorableness of the leader relative to that of the employees. It is therefore difficult to prescribe a favorable style using this theory for this situation.

Situation C

The path-goal theory would offer a solution to a leadership challenge in this situation. Participative leadership can be used in the scenario. The engineers are highly skilled and motivated and work towards achievement of a common goal. In addition, both the environmental and employee characteristics are known in this case.

The Fielder’s contingency model will, however, not work in this case because there is insufficient information. We do not have information on the nature of the leader as well as the relationship between him or her and the employees. This model can, therefore, not be used in this circumstance.

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The Most Useful Leadership Model for the Real World

The business and social environments today are not similar to what was there ten years ago. The work place particularly has been revolutionized by the advent of concepts, such as democratization of the workplace and participatory management, which have seen employees get more latitude as they conduct their day to day activities. Many business entities have, therefore, invested a lot on leadership training to enable the businesses to effectively manage the diversity and talent in their employees in order to bring out the best in them (Smyth, 2005).

In analyzing the three theories on leadership, the model that easily stands out as the most applicable in the real world is the Situational Leadership model. This is partly due to its advantages and obvious flaws in the other models. The Fielder’s contingency model is based on the fact that an individual leaders’ style is fixed and the best way to handle a difficult scenario is to replace the leader. This is obviously a draw back because it brings an aspect of inflexibility. The use of the Least-preferred-co-worker scale has also been criticized for failing to cater for persons in the median of the scores and therefore it might exhibit an untrue picture of one’s style of leading.

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The path goal theory, on the other hand, places too much reliance on the leader and assumes that he is rational and will always undertake actions, which are beneficial for the whole team. It is not democratic to assume that team members are unaware of their best interest and subject it to the leader’s discretion.

The above, therefore, leaves us with Hersey and Blanchard’s Situational Leadership model. This model is more realistic, since it offers real solutions to the various leadership challenges that may face a business and it caters for the diversity of workers that may exist in an organization. As suggested by the model’s name, it takes care for all the situations in the workplace ranging from where the workers are unwilling and are not very skilled to where the workers are highly skilled and committed to the organization’s goal.


The above discussion shows that in order to provide effective leadership, the leader must analyze the circumstances to establish the best leadership style to employ. He may take a situational approach, which will involve coaching when the employees are not experienced, supporting when workers lack motivation or delegating when employees can work independently and are experienced. Certain instances may also call for the use of Path-Goal model and Fiedler’s Contingency models. Generally, however, the real world calls for a situational approach to leadership since the real world presents real and diverse situations that call for different approaches.

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