Becoming an effective leader

Outcome 1 

1.1 - Evaluate own ability to use a range of leadership styles, in different situations and with different types of people, to fulfil the leadership role

Leadership theory and approaches

Blanchard and Hersey - Situational Leadership Model 


Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard in their book published in 1977, Management of Organizational Behavior 3rd Edition – Utilizing Human Resources, developed their Situational Leadership Theory. The essence of the Situational Leadership Model is that a leader has to vary his or her leadership style to take account of the competence of the team, and the competence of each individual within the team.


Neither Hersey nor Blanchard uses the word ‘competence’, preferring instead to use the phrase ‘maturity level’ to describe the team or individual’s readiness for a particular style of leadership. The Situational Leadership Model defines 4 styles of leadership – Telling, Selling, Participating and Delegating – and 4 levels of maturity from immaturity through to maturity. The level of maturity of a team or an individual dictates the leadership style to be adopted by the leader.


Blanchard further developed his thinking on Situational Leadership to reflect his view that effective leadership was about choosing a behaviour that fitted with the needs of the individual and the team. In his book, Leadership and the One-Minute Manager, first published in the UK in 1986, Blanchard coined the phrase ‘different strokes for different folks’ to illustrate this. He redefined the 4 leadership styles, preferring the terms – Directing, Coaching, Supporting and Delegating – and used the phrase ‘development level’ in place of ‘maturity level’ to reflect the responsibility of the leader to develop his or her team and the individuals within that team. He also introduced the notion of commitment

  • that is, the individual’s motivation to be developed – as another factor to be considered by the leader when deciding how to lead theteam.


Blanchard suggests that there are 2 specific types of behaviour that effective leaders use – ‘directive’ and ‘supportive’ behaviour – and that the combination of these behaviours determines the style of leadership used; hence the 4 distinct leadership styles:


  • Directing. The most directive leadership style (S1) in which the leader provides the individual with specific instructions, monitoring closely the work that is done to ensure successful completion of the task. The leader does not need to offer much by way of supportive behaviour since the individual is not given any freedom to determine how the task is to be completed.


  • Coaching. The second leadership style (S2) focuses on enabling the individual to participate more fully in determining how the task should be completed. The leader will explain what the task is and invite the individual to explain how they intend to successfully complete it. The leader will take the final decision on how the task is to be completed but will work closely with the individual to arrive at the final decision. By actively involving the individual in discussion about how the task should be done, the leader’s behaviour is both highly directive and highly supportive.



  • Supporting. The third leadership style (S3) is yet more participative. In exercising this leadership style, the leader will outline the required or desired outcome and invite the individual to propose and implement a course of action. While the decision to proceed with a particular course of action ultimately rests with the leader, the leader will facilitate and support the individual in making the decision, exercising more supportive behaviour and less directive behaviour.


  • Delegating. In employing the fourth leadership style (S4), the leader’s behaviour is ‘light touch’. In delegating a task to an individual, the leader is indicating that responsibility for carrying out the task rests with that individual. This gives the individual the freedom to both determine what needs to be done to achieve the task and to complete it accordingly.


Blanchard shows the relationship between the leader’s behaviour and the style of leadership to be adopted thus:























(Adapted from Blanchard 1986)


Of course, the leadership style selected by the leader must take into account the situation. This means that the leader must consider a whole range of factors. In his Situational Leadership Model, Blanchard focuses upon the development   level   of   the  individual  –   their  competence   – and their commitment.


He represents this as follows:

























(Adapted from Blanchard 1986)


The diagram above highlights the relationship between an individual’s development level and the style of leadership Blanchard suggests is appropriate. Indeed, much of what is portrayed here makes eminent sense. If one of the team is unskilled (D1), they clearly need to develop the skills to do the job for which they are being employed. Blanchard observes that, typically, a D1 individual will display a high degree of commitment. Interestingly, he then proposes that as the individual develops some competence, he or she loses a significant level of commitment; that is, their motivation dips.

The plethora of leadership theories and models can sometimes make it difficult for new and aspiring leaders to determine what will work for them. While there is no right or wrong, it can be easier, sometimes, to think of leadership in terms of 2 distinct styles, namely transactional leadership and transformational leadership. For more information click the button below.