Situational Theory of Leadership – A Summarized Approach

There is an old saying, “Leaders are not born; they are made.” It shows that no one is born with leadership qualities. Instead, they become leaders by learning, knowledge, experience, upbringing, society, and others.

There are many leadership theories. In all these leadership qualities, situational theory of leadership quality trespasses into personal life from professional life. It is quite helpful in personal life too. This article will elaborate on the situational theory of leadership, its advantages, disadvantages, and how it works?

What is situational theory of leadership?

The situational theory of leadership stresses that leaders who adapt to the situation and development level are ideal. They apply their intelligence, expertise, and years of experience to balance the whole organization.

Autocratic, democratic, coaching, affiliative, pacesetting, authoritative, and other leadership styles become one when a true leader applies situational theory.

Dr. Paul Hersey and Kenneth Blanchard are called its developers, so, in management, people also call it Hersey-Blanchard Situational Leadership Theory.

Primary leadership styles of situational theory


Communication is by far the best quality of any leader. Leaders lead from the front and guide their team members on what to do and how to do it in typical and difficult situations.

Most of the world leaders that are famous for their skills are good communicators. They know how and when to tell and use those skills for planning, organization, controlling, and decision making.


What if one has so many ideas and messages, but no one is interested in taking those ideas. A situational leader knows how to sell the ideas and messages to the right people and at the right time.

Great leaders emerge at the time of adversities. Everyone can guide a team on good days, but a leader leads from the front in unfavorable situations.


It is also called “setting the right example.” A manager coming late to the office can not force his/her team members to come on time emphatically. Once the leader starts participating in the process, he/she may guide the team members to follow them.


It is virtually impossible to perform all the works by one person – The leader. Under this theory, some tasks are delegated to subordinate team members in a cordial or friendly manner without much traditional approach.

How do situational leadership theories work?

Hersey and Blanchard have written that maturity levels are the most critical factor of situational theory. They classified maturity levels into four groups with their implications.


Under this maturity level, group members do not interest in gaining knowledge and skills even they do not wish to complete the task on time with quality. A situational leader uses communication or telling concepts to tackle this issue.


Despite having the willingness and enthusiasm, team members lack ability. The lack of ability hampers the performance and leads to a bad working environment. The situational leader uses sales or selling qualities and gets the team members to understand their knowledge and skills.

The leader guides members to gain more knowledge and skills so that performance can be enhanced.


It is by far the worst maturity level and shows the unprofessional attitude of the team members. They possess the skills, knowledge, and capability but do not complete the task due to being un-unwilling to take responsibility.

The leader comes and starts showing the ways for taking responsibility through participation. A leader does good work and lets the team members know about that.


A good leader always tries to achieve this maturity level of the team members. M4 maturity levels are regarded as best because team members become highly skilled and start devoting their time and energy to complete the task.

Once the team members have M4 maturity, leaders may delegate even essential tasks to them. Leaders feel more satisfied with the team and feel relaxed in the office environment.

Benefits of situational theory of leadership

  1. Leaders remain flexible in their approach instead of rigid. It helps in managing day-to-day affairs in a better way. Despite having clear instructions about punctuality in the office, the manager decides some team members for coming late or early leaving the office. That is an excellent example of situational leadership as the manager knows that team member is not habitual and one small favor will lead to enhanced performance.
  2. Behavior among team members remains friendly, and they co-ordinate successfully.
  3. When leade takes the decision based on the actual situation, the team performs better.
  4. Adaptability to fit into the theory’s past, present, and future situations get the upper hand. Even it helps in the day-to-day personal life of the leader and those who come in close contact with them.
  5. Socio-emotional support among the team members is vital for overall business growth. Situational theory helps by assessing the maturity level of the organization.
  6. Subordinates get encouragement, direction, and proper training for gaining experience to become exponential situational leaders in the future.
  7. Work productivity enhances because of the high motivation level among team members.
  8. The members know that the leader will make the right decision by considering all the situations. It helps in trust-building among management and team.
  9. Situational leadership counter uncertainty, volatility and solves the problem of situational complexity.

Disadvantage of Situational Theory of leadership

  1. The critics of this theory argue that it is more for short-term decision-making rather than long-term. They are accurate with their observations as leaders apply the skills, knowledge, and other attributes for meeting an exact need. Instead of focusing on broad objectives, managers focus on short-term gain or loss that leads to a trap where they always apply their skills in an immediate circumstance all the time.
  2. Manger forgets that they can also pre-plan for better decision-making. Instead, they think that anything can be corrected once the situation comes.
  3. Task orientation is one of the primary works of management, and situational theories fail to create that environment. A factory where the management must ensure 10000 manufactured units in a day requires proper planning and task-oriented environments. Rules, policies, and regulations need to be followed for healthy work environments.
  4. The theory largely depends on defining the maturity level of the team members. Sometimes, it is pretty challenging to define that and to act on the proper strategies. Communication does not work often; a manager may have to take some harsh steps to bring the necessary change.
  5. As compared to the other theories, it does not provide enough information for leaders to act up. It more emphasizes making decisions based on situations. Managers with fewer years of experience find this theory challenging to implement.
  6. Scholars argue that this theory is more beneficial for team members promoted to managers rather than someone who came directly from the business schools to lead the team.
  7. There is no hard and fast rule under this theory, so its success and failure solely depend on the situation assessments of the leader. The same situations can be perceived differently by two different managers. So under this theory, the decision outcome is not clear in most cases.


A leader true leader changes their style based on situations and applies their skills. Some scholars argue that this leadership is the sum of all the other theories that is why it is regarded as the best one. Despite having some disadvantages, it is still an all-time favorite of managers.

Related Articles –

Theory of Leadership

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Trait Theory of Leadership

Behaviourial Theory of Leadership

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