“Is your organisation S1?”
Situational leadership is a commonly understood management approach and refers to the point that no single leadership style is king, rather that the type of leadership depends on the task and situation at hand.
The theory is that the management style that reaps the best rewards and is most effective, is that that is adaptable to the situation. You should consider your organisation as a whole, the output and the influence it exerts and therefore the ‘management style’ it projects.
These leadership styles are often matched with a set of 4 ‘maturity levels’ (maturity being the level of knowledge and competence) broadly described as;
Leadership styles may be matched with maturity levels. The most obvious suggestions are the following;
- LOW MATURITY (M1)
- MEDIUM MATURITY (M2)
- MEDIUM MATURITY (M3)
- HIGH MATURITY (M4)
- DIRECTING (S1)
- COACHING (S2)
- SUPPORTING (S3)
- DELEGATING (S4)
Of course the leadership style also evolves throughout a program, a more S1/telling style may be necessary at the beginning of a project when people lack the responsibility or knowledge to work on their own. As people become more experienced and knowledgeable however, the style may shift towards a more delegating approach.
It is suggested that there are four key contextual factors that leaders must be aware of when making an assessment of the situation
Consider the Relationship
Leaders need to consider the relationship between the leaders and the members of the group. Social and interpersonal factors can play a role in determining which approach is best. For example, a group that lacks efficiency and productivity might benefit from a style that emphasizes order, rules, and clearly defined roles. A productive group of highly skilled workers, on the other hand, might benefit from a more democratic style that allows group members to work independently and have input in organizational decisions.
Consider the Task
The leader needs to consider the task itself. Tasks can range from simple to complex, but the leader needs to have a clear idea of exactly what the task entails in order to determine if it has been successfully and competently accomplished.
Consider the Level of Authority
The level of authority the leader has over group members should also be considered. Some leaders have power conferred by the position itself, such as the capacity to fire, hire, reward, or reprimand subordinates. Other leaders gain power through relationships with employees, often by gaining respect from them, offering support to them, and helping them feel included in the decision-making process.
Consider the Level of Maturity
Leaders need to consider the level of maturity of each individual group member. The maturity level is a measure of an individual’s ability to complete a task combined with his or her willingness to complete the task. Assigning a job to a member who is willing but lacks the ability is a recipe for failure, or vice versa.
WHICH STYLE OF LEADERSHIP DOES YOUR ORGANISATION USUALLY DISPLAY?
This situational model of leadership focuses on flexibility so that leaders are able to adapt according to the needs of their people and the demands of the situation. This approach recognises that there are many different ways of dealing with a problem and that leaders need to be able to assess a situation and the maturity levels of the people involved in order to determine what approach will be the most effective at any given moment.
Different strokes for different folks
Obviously this approach allows for a more flexible style which can accommodate the more complex social environments and the multitude of different demeanours, cultures and styles out there today. Situational theories, therefore, give greater consideration to the complexity of dynamic social situations and the many individuals acting in different roles who will ultimately contribute to the outcome.
The main point of the theory is that not one of these four leadership styles is best. Instead, an effective leader will match his or her behaviour to the developmental skill of each subordinate for the task at hand
Decide and announce
If these announcements/changes/decisions are just announced without any communication around it then all of the deliberation, denial, lack of acceptance happens after the point that the change should have happened. This does not preclude of course the fact that sometimes you just have to make quick (and sometimes significant) decisions and announce, but a more considered approach and lead-up has a huge positive impact on the wider company’s response to what is happening
OTHER THINGS TO CONSIDER
Ensuring that there are strategic communications about the process that is being embarked upon, tailored to the right levels. This means maintaining regularity of output and reach
Bringing people along
‘Selling’ the idea/change/program to the stakeholders and convincing them they are part of the solution/change/decisions
Ask the experts
Utilise the expertise in the organisation ie sometimes this means the people on the ‘coal-face’ to ensure you have the right information informing the decision-making
Ask the naysayers for their input
Don’t try to avoid the people you know will be ‘difficult’, make them part of the process, to help head of objections before they solidify and use them to communicate to the rest
You don’t have to conquer everyone
Understand that you cannot always win 100% of the people all the time, striking the right balance between bringing everyone along and being realistic about decisions that need to be made and the pace that they need to be made with
“From an organisational perspective, there is an understanding that you will have more buy-in if those affected by any announcement/change/decision have been part of the process. This does not mean that those people have to make the decision themselves, more that they have the context around the decision-making and the process – and moreover that they feel part of that process.”