The definitive leadership style research comes from Paul Hersey and Kenneth Blanchard, which they set out in their Situational Leadership Model.
Marketing and communications experts consider it crucial to tailor your message to a “target audience.” It is the followers that you want to motivate and influence, you cannot do that if you don’t know whom you are trying to motivate or influence.
The example of the following is an employee as the follower.
1. Situational Leadership: Telling
Telling is the lowest level of leadership style. New employees require direct instructions, so this is called the “Telling” or “Directing” The follower is characterized by low competence and high commitment, but being unable to comply, with possible feelings of insecurity. The leader must focus highly on tasks, rather than a relationship with the employee, as a relationship does not yet exist.
When an employee can’t do the job because they are unknowledgeable, the leader must spend much more time working with the employee, offering clear instructions and a regular follow up. The leader must be encouraging and motivational, offering praise for positive results and correction for less than positive results. The idea is to motivate the follower to rise to the next level of ability.
2. Situational Leadership: Selling
Selling addresses the follower who has developed some competence with an improved commitment. The follower is not convinced yet, but is open to becoming cooperative and motivated. The leader must still focus highly on tasks and this still requires much of the leader’s time, but the focus now also includes developing a relationship with the employee. Build upon the trust that has begun to develop and the encouragement that has been demonstrated.
The leader must spend more time listening and offering advice, scheduling the follower for additional training if the situation requires it. The focus is to engage the follower so they can develop to the next level. There is less “telling” and more “suggesting” which leads to more encouragement, acting as a coach. It is shown as recognition that they have progressed and it motivates them to progress even further.
3. Situational Leadership: Participating
Participating addresses the follower who is now competent at the job, but remains somewhat inconsistent and is not yet fully committed. The follower may be uncooperative or performing as little work as possible, despite their competence with the tasks. The leader must participate with and support the follower, educate, support and re educate.
The leader no longer needs to give detailed instructions and follow up as often, but does need to continue working with the follower to ensure the work is being done at the level required. The follower is now highly competent, but is not yet convinced in his or her ability or not fully committed to do their best and excel. The leader must now focus less on the tasks assigned and more on the relationship between the follower, the leader, the team, and the group.
4. Situational Leadership: Delegating
Delegating is the ultimate focused end goal. A follower who feels fully empowered and competent enough to take the ball and run with it with minimal supervision. The follower becomes highly competent, highly committed, motivated, and empowered.
The leader can now delegate tasks to the follower and observe with minimal follow up, knowing that acceptable or even excellent results will be achieved. There is a low focus on tasks and a low focus on relationships. There is no need to compliment the follower on every task, although continued praise for outstanding performance must be given. We all like to be praised for a job extremely well done, it makes us feel good and it is motivational.