Theories of Leadership

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Situational Leadership Theory

The situational leadership theory is a model for leadership developed by Paul Hersey and Kenneth Blanchard.

Situational leadership theory talks about four different leadership styles and how it relates to subordinate’s confidence or ability to carry out a task.

These leadership styles are:

  • Telling
  • Selling
  • Participating
  • Delegating

Situational Leadership Theory: The 4 Styles

The first leadership style is what they call telling. It is best used when subordinates either lack the ability or lack the maturity to handle a task well. This is when the leader needs to direct the subordinates with specific instructions and expectations.

However, this style limits the creative potential of any individual who has been doing a task for an extended period of time. A leader should move on from this style after some experience and credibility is earned by the individual.

The next leadership style is called selling. Instead of telling them exactly what to do, the leader sells them the idea and gives them some level of independence and autonomy to perform the task. The success of this style will be dependent on how much the subordinates are persuaded.

This style is absolutely required when leading volunteers. When there is no salary or wages, the followers a leader has is a very good reflection of how well he has sold to his team.

The participating style where the leader talks to everyone about his ideas and hears the opinion of everyone. There is more shared responsibility in this style because the final decision on a task would made collectively.

This style is useful when the leader is surrounded by subject matter experts like lawyers and accountants and needs to hear their opinions before coming to a conclusion.

Finally the delegating style is when the leader fully delegates a task to a subordinate without specific instructions. He tells the subordinates about what needs to be achieved and he trusts the subordinate to find out how to achieve it.

This style is most empowering and it requires great trust from the leader, but also great initiative from the subordinate in order for it to be effective. A lazy worker will take this opportunity to slack off, but a hard worker will take the chance to do above and beyond expectations.

Every leaders has a preferred style, some prefer the telling style because it gives the leader a greater sense of control, some prefer to trust their subordinates with the responsibility fully. However, a good leader should know when to use the appropriate style for the situation so that the maximum potential is drawn from every individual.

You can read more about the situational leadership theory from Ken Blanchard’s website.

The Contingency Theories of Leadership

» Fiedler’s contingency theory
Fred Fiedler was one of the foremost proponents of contingency leadership. He stated that the effectiveness of types of leadership styles was determined on three factors.

» Path-goal theory
The path-goal theory of leadership was developed by House, Evans and Mitchell. It proposes that a person’s motivation to complete any task was dependent on three factors

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