Situational Leadership II

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Developed by Timokleia Orfanidou


Big Idea

In an organizational environment, project managers are challenged to face different circumstances every different day, in order to achieve this they need to adapt continually to a new managerial role. The fundamental skills that a project manager should have are divided into six categories: communication, organizational, team building, leadership, coping, and technological skills. [1]. Nowadays, most engineers are positioned as project managers based on their technical ranks, regardless of the project management training that they have. [2] The roles of project manager should adjust by taking into consideration the specific project and environmental situation (i.e. situational-specific). [3]. The situational-specific approach to a leadership/management is considered as the most efficient way to manage or supervise different environments and functions. Situational leadership can help engineers become successful managers and enable them to diagnose their working environment. This article presents, reviews, and also, discusses the implementation of Situational Leadership II in organizations.

Application of Situational Leadership II in Management

Figure 1: Situational Leadership Model II[4]

The Situational Leadership theory introduced by Paul Hersey and Kenneth H. Blanchard (1974,1982). The revised model Situational Leadership II was published in January-March 1985 [5]. The idea behind it, is that the most effective leadership style is situational-specific. They argued that when the situation is changing (people involved in the project), the leadership style that it is applicable will have differences from the the one used efficiently before. The management concept of Situational Leadership is introduced in order to help people be more effective in their everyday interactions. Another ingredient in their theory is that the leadership style needs to differ regarding the given task that needs to be done and the maturity level of the group or the individual.

Situational Leadership is about training managers to identify the advantages and disadvantages of each style, and how they can implemented in different work situations. As Carmen Cirstea and Dumitru Constantinescu [4] mentioned; it is vital for managers to be able to identify their intrinsic leadership style, as intrinsically they return in that style on periods of stress. As leadership is an act from people to the people, it is important to know your people and Paul Hersey and Kenneth H. Blanchard made a model in order to help people, but also, the leaders to successfully deliver a given task.


Directive/Supportive Dimensions

Figure 2: Situational Leadership Model[6]

The two axis in Paul Hersey's and Kenneth's H. Blanchard model are illustrating the amount of direction (relationship behavior) and support (task behavior) that the follower needs in order to successfully deliver a specific task. [6].

Leadership Styles

Depending on the amount of Support and Direction that the follower needs, leadership styles fall into four categories (different resources have used different names for four categories, in this article the categories will be named regarding the amount of the Direction/Support (Relationship/Task).

S1: High-task/low-relationship leader behavior S2: High-task/high-relationship leader behavior S3: High-relationship/low-task leader behavior S4: Low-relationship/low-task leader behavior
One way communication, the leader decided on what,how, when and where the follower will execute the specific task. Almost one way communication, the leader supports the follower socio-emotional, and trying to put him psychologically into the decision making. Two way communication, the leader and the follower contribute together in the decision making. The follower is capable to deliver successfully the given task. The follower is high in readiness, have great ability and willing. In this case, the leader needs to delegate and allow the follower behave with self-direction.
Junior stuff or newly involved with the specific situation . Mid-level staff. Senior-level staff that needs support. Senior-level staff.
Dependent, they direction and quick feedback. Interested, motivated, the leader is more coaching than directing. Involved, they limited support for decisions and deliveries. Self-directed, they just need to be assigned for a project.

Development Level

The development level is addressed as the readiness of the follower to a specific task. Considering the interview of John R. Schermerhorn, Jr. to Paul Hersay, readiness is referred as the ability and willingness of the follower to self-direction in order to achieve a specific task. As the readiness is getting more efficient in terms of completing a given task , the direction (task behavior) of the leader is decreased and the support (relationship behavior) is increased. By the time the follower achieves in a level above moderate, the direction and support are decreased. At this moment, the follower is confident and committed.

Case Study: Situational Leadership Style as a Predictor of Success and Productivity Among Taiwanese Business Organizations [7]

Disclaimer: This text only presents the theoritical insights of the case study, all the calculated results and any other information are located on the references.

Context As technology changes, industries that are based in high-technologies experience the effect of it in a greater extent than other organizations. Technological change influences management, procedures and production. [8]. This change also reflects on the appropriate leadership styles and business environment that the organizations follows. In 1985, Bennis and Nanus mentioned that a way to predict the success or failure of a business is the efficient inefficient leadership. Meaning, that it is vital for the organizations to identify what kind of leadership in more suitable and profitable. Hersay, Blanchard and Johnson (1996) studied intensively the role of situational leadership in businesses. Situational Leadership theory argues that the one component that makes an individual a successful leader is the ability to adapt in new business environments and situations (read Application of Situational Leadership II chapter). The case study is directly connected with the theory of Hersay et al., and it is based on the fact that a theory comes with two essential features: the prognosis and the procedure. Specifically, this case study examines the effects and the applicability of two leadership styles in a non-Western culture, Taiwan: the adaptive and nonadaptive. All the participants (leaders and followers) are Taiwanese and employed in high-technology in Taiwan, Republic of China.


According to the SLT the actions of a leader are altered depending on the ability, willingness, and readiness of the follower to deliver a given task. In order to adapt, the leader should diagnose the working environment and consider the values and goals of the organization, and also, to evaluate the relationship that needs to establish with the employees.

The question of the study is whether SLT can be used effectively to predict success in an organization. The expected outcome is that when a leader shows flexibility, the positive response of the followers is higher, and also, the productivity. The leadership style that are examined are:

  • The nonadative, in this style the leader acts as a father and the follower as children.
  • The adaptive, in this style three main things are need to be followed from the leader: needs to into account the task to be done, to diagnose the situation and the readiness of the follower to deliver the task.
Hypothesis 1 Hypothesis 2 Hypothesis 3 Hypothesis 4 Hypothesis 5
Highly adaptive leaders are consistently more effective than less adaptive leaders in rapidly changing organizations Traditional or nonadaptive leadership, consistently applied, leads to less effective organizations. Effective leaders will score higher on self-ratings of leadership effectiveness and will demonstrate more flexibility in leadership style selection than less effective managers. High-performing managers will be rated higher by their subordinates in leadership effectiveness and will be perceived as showing more flexibility in leadership style selection than low-performing managers. Successful companies will have more adaptive leaders than less successful companies.

The participants are separated into two groups: employees and managers. The companies the participants work are also characterized as successful and unsuccessful (for details Productivity was measured by:

  1. Absenteeism rate
  2. Quality of work
  3. Turnover rate
  4. Units produce
  5. Reject rates
  6. Overall profitability

The companies are also characterized as either successful or unsuccessful.


Summing up, the results of the case study are as predicted. Flexible or adaptive leaders have a positive outcome in the categories of productivity. Moreover, adaptive leaders are most likely to beg members of a successful organization than that of the nonadaptive leaders. Generally, all the predictions are supported by the results. As the results are not characterized as significant, are not statistically acceptable. Also, the conclusion that successful leaders used to be part of a successful organization can be due to the company recruit process or the fact that adaptive leaders are most prosperous when they work in a successful company.


As the study is focused on high-technology companies, it will be sufficient further research in other types of organizations. Also, another characteristic is that it is limited in Taiwan industries. One of the key discussions on the research papers about Situational leadership is that it is mostly researched in USA and in different cultures can be can be more or less efficient. Specifically, great area of investigation can be found on other cultures that the domineering style of leadership is ruling. The main focus of the study was to have an insight on the connection of the management style that a manager uses and the effect of it on the organization. The results of the study are not strong enough to support the hypotheses. Summing up, the results show the adaptive and nonadaptive leaders can be identified successfully by using the SLT as a tool, and also, that SLT is connected with the productivity of an organization. As a conclusion can be drawn is that an adaptive manager is advantageous for an organization.

Implementation Difficulties and Drawbacks

Situational Leadership presents multiple difficulties. When Paul Hersay was asked in an interview if the theory was fully set in the first edition that was published he answered:

Then it was a theory in my mind and I still had some questions about it. Could we take it overseas? Could we use it? It was far less sophisticated than now as the Situational Leadership Model. By the early 1970s this model was pretty well set, although it has been refined continuously ever since.

This answer illustrates the main questions that arise when someone tries to implement the theory. The first published theory comes into conflict with the Situational Leadership II and that it makes it difficult to have valid information. Also, another lack is that Situational Leadership does not take into account cultural differences, which are influencing the work behaviors. Even though the theory of Hersey and Blanchard firstly exposed in 1969, the quality of it is still uncertain in terms of validation and utilization. Situational Leadership has been part of leadership programs worldwide and over one million managers from a different kind of institutions are annually exposed to the tenets of the theory. Even though this great amount of people is using or has been exposed, the theory lacks of accuracy. There are four published studies that are characterized as enlightened in terms of evaluation of the theory.

  • Blank, W., Weitzel, R., & Green, S. G. (1990) A test of situational leadership theory. Personnel Psychology, pp. 579-597
  • Goodson, J. R., McGee, G. W., & Cashman, J. F. (1989) Situational leadership theory: A test of leader prescriptions. Group and Organizational Studies, pp. 446-461
  • R. Norris, Robert P. Vecchio, (1992) Situational Leadership Theory A Replication.
  • Robert P. Vecchio, (1987) Situational Leadership Theory: An Examination of a Prescriptive Theory.

Vecchio drew three conclusions:

  1. Employees in junior positions need more direction from their supervisor.
  2. The theory itself lies in the fact that presents leadership as inappropriate for high-mature employees.
  3. SLT is likely to receive more support if it is researched from an across jobs angle than within-jobs angle.


According to Caskey SLT is characterized by a number of strengths. He mentioned that it is direct, appealing and easy to learn. Another key strength of the theory is that the situation is the point of attraction in any case. Moreover, goal of the theory is to focus on the reinforcement of the skills of the individual rather than correct an action. Contradictory, the theory indicates some drawbacks, it is difficult to be supported in academic level as it lacks of validity. In 1989, Yukl mentioned that the value of theory is that emphasizes in the fact that every individual/follower should be treated differently as the situation changes. And moreover, that the leader has the power to contribute positively on the actions of the follower and build his confidence, instead of believing that the follower does not have the ability or the maturity for the job.

Annotated Bibliography

1. Situational Leadership Style as a Predictor of Success and Productivity Among Taiwanese Business Organizations - Silverthorne, C. and Wang, Ting-Hsing (2001)

This study tried to evaluate the outcome that different leadership styles have in Taiwanese high-technology industries. It examines two kinds of leadership styles the adaptive and the nonadaptive. The results we not statistically significant.

2. The Validity of Hersey and Blanchard’s Theory of Leader Effectiveness - Hambleton Ronald K. and Gumpert Ray (1982)

This study had as area of interest the validity of Hersey and Blanchard’s Situational Leadership Theory. The study was based on predictions and the results were statistically significant.

3. Situational Leadership Theory A Replication - R. Norris, Robert P. Vecchio (1992)

A test of Hersey and Blanchard's situational leadership theory.

4. Situational leadership theory: A test of leader prescriptions. Group and Organizational Studies - Goodson, J. R., McGee, G. W., & Cashman, J. F. (1989)

In this study different statistical tests were done to test the formula for efficient supervision contained in Situational Leadership Theory (Hersey & Blanchard, 1982).


  1. Meredith, Jack R. and Mantel, S.J.Jr. (1995), ‘Project management: A managerial approach, John Wiley, New York‘ John Wiley & Sons, Inc., vol. 7, pp. 159-160.
  2. DiMarco, N. J., Goodson, J. R., & Houser, H. F. (1989), ‘Situational leadership in a project/matrix environment‘, Project Management Journal, 20(1), pp. 11–18.
  3. Dilworth, J.B., Ford, R.C. Ginder, P.M. and Rucks, A.C. (1985), ‘Centralized Project Management‘, Journal of Systems Management, pp. 30-35.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Cirstea C., Constantinescu D. (2012), ‘Debating about Situational Leadership. Management & Marketing‘, volume X, issue 1, pp. 54-58.
  5. Blanchard, Kenneth, H. Zigarmi, P. and Zirgami, D. (1985), ‘Leadership and the One Minute Manager: Increasing Effectiveness through Situational Leadership‘, New York: Morrow.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Schermerhorn, J.R.Jr. (1997), ‘Situational Leadership: Conversations with Paul Hersey’, Mid-American Journal of Business, vol.12, no.2, pp 5-11.
  7. Silverthorne, JColin and Wang, Ting-Hsin, (2001), ‘Situational Leadership Style as a Predictor of Success and Productivity Among Taiwanese Business Organizations‘, The Journal of Psychology, vol.4, pp. 399-412.
  8. Ogbonna, E. and Harris, Lloyd C. (2011), ‘Leadership style, organizational culture and performance: empirical evidence from UK companies‘, pp. 766-788
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