Situational leadership is the theory that there are multiple ways to lead people, but that great leaders adjust their way of leading based on two variables:

  1. Whether a person has low or high competence for a given task
  2. Whether a person is or is not committed to complete a given task

This results in four possible states, in order of the journey a person goes through:

  1. Low competence and not committed. This phase basically asks for a directive way of communication and really concrete guidance. This allows the employee to get things done and get into a winning mood.
  2. Low competence and high commitment. As soon as a basic level of understanding is in place, it is good to talk about why things are done. With this context, knowledge can be built and with that, skill level rises.
  3. High competence and not committed (or insecurity). In this phase, ideas and guidance should be offered to help others make decisions autonomously.
  4. High competence and high commitment. Responsibilities can be transferred for making decisions and executing plans.

Research has actually not proved that steps 2 to 4 are necessary for people to be effective. In other words: motivated people find their way regardless of the style of the manager. If someone falls in phase 1, just handing over the keys and walking away is probably not a good plan. It can be a great start to divide the group into two segments and adjust your way of leading towards those two groups.

For this model to work, it is necessary to take the lead. Which can mean that you need to be “bossy”. Most people forget that they can do this regardless of their position, but especially if you’re a leader of any kind, most of us have the tendency to stay on the safe side because you want to be liked.

Food for thought.