Four Basic Leadership Styles Used by Situational Managers

Situational leadership is a management style developed by management gurus Ken Blanchard and Paul Hersey. The fundamental precept of situational leadership is that there is no one "best" style of leadership, and that the most successful leaders are the ones who can adapt their style to a given situation. Situational leadership revolves around four general styles of management, and your role is to recognize and draw on the most appropriate style for the current moment.

Leadership by Coaching

Coaching is a type of situational leadership style that involves a great deal of "hands-on" involvement in your employee's work process. As a rule, a coaching approach works best when the employee shows weaknesses that need improvement. For coaching to be effective, the employee must acknowledge those weakness and indicate a desire to improve. An example of coaching is when a sales manager spends time on the road making calls with a struggling salesperson in an effort to improve her performance, or when a new or newly promoted employee is adapting to a given set of duties.

Leadership by Direction

The directing leadership style typically involves taking over a challenging situation and applying specific knowledge and experience to right the ship. For example, if your business is struggling to establish its brand, a skilled marketing manager can be brought in to develop a marketing strategy to create brand awareness. A directing-type manager will establish clear goals and objectives for his work area as well as his staff, although staff members have some latitude as to the process used to meet the goals.

Leadership by Delegation

The delegating style places more of the responsibility on the shoulders of the workers as opposed to the managers. The manager is able to provide guidance, but only when needed or requested by the employees, and serves in more of a consultant capacity. This style is most effective with an experienced staff that can work independently. It also allows for maximum creativity in how employees choose to go about accomplishing a task.

Supportive Leadership Style

In the supporting style, the leader plays more of a motivational role. Her main function is to attempt to instill confidence in the workers so they eventually become more self-sufficient and productive. This method is often referred to as a "selling" style because the manager attempts to persuade the employees that they have the ability to perform the job.

This style typically involves the assigning of tasks by the manager while providing support as needed. It's similar to delegation, but for less-experienced employees who need the reassurance of a manager's support as they go about their tasks.