Situational Leadership Theory is a powerful model that project managers can use to successfully lead teams.
What is Situational Leadership?
Situational Leadership Theory
The key idea behind situational leadership theory is that there is no single "best" way to lead a team.
The situational leadership model defines four leadership styles. The style that you should use is
determined by the maturity of the individual you are trying to influence.
Follower maturity can be thought of as their readiness to perform the task desired by the leader. It is based on
the follower's ability and willingness to perform the task.
The model defines four levels of follower maturity...
- Low Maturity (M1): Follower is UNABLE and UNWILLING to perform the task
- Low to Moderate Maturity (M2): Follower is UNABLE but WILLING to perform the task
- Moderate to High Maturity (M3): Follower is ABLE but UNWILLING to perform the task
- High Maturity (M4): Follower is ABLE and WILLING to perform the task
Leadership: The process of influencing the activities of an individual or a group in efforts toward goal accomplishment.
- Paul Hersey, Kenneth H. Blanchard, & Walter E. Natemeyer
There are four styles defined by the model...
Each situational leadership style includes the appropriate combination of direction (task behavior)
and support (relationship behavior).
The Telling leadership style is for followers with low maturity. If the person you are trying to
influence is unable and unwilling to perform the task, you will need to provide very clear and specific directions and
The Selling leadership style is for followers with low to moderate maturity. As a project manager,
you will need to provide direction due to your follower's low ability, but provide a highly supportive environment at
the same time to reinforce their enthusiasm for the task.
The Participating leadership style is for followers with moderate to high maturity. In situations
where the follower is able to perform the task but doesn't have enthusiasm or lacks confidence, it is important to get
their buy-in for the task. This is done by involving them in the decision-making around the task.
The Delegating leadership style is for followers with high maturity. When your followers have the
ability and motivation to perform the task, little direction or support is needed from you. Your team is self-directed
at this point and is able to make decisions related to the task.
Determining Your Leadership Style
To determine the leadership style you should use, you will need to understand your team's ability and willingness
to perform the needed tasks.
The style you use can be different for different team members and different teams. It will also change over time
as your team's abilities and motivations change.
As you can see, the situational leadership theory is a very practical model for project managers.