Emotional Intelligence and Situational Leadership – How to Create Flexible Leadership Styles

Emotional Intelligence and Situational Leadership – How to Create Flexible Leadership Styles

Flexible Leadership Styles

Emotionally intelligent (EQ) leaders are flexible in adapting their leadership style to those they choose to lead. You will influence and engage employees by being socially savvy regarding which leadership style would be the most appropriate with certain personalities and in specific situations.

The Blanchard and Hersey Model of Leadership

As a leadership model, the best known example was developed by Ken Blanchard, the management guru who later became famous for his One Minute Manager series, and Paul Hersey. They created a model of situational leadership in the late 1960s that allows one to analyze the needs of the situation, then adopt the most appropriate leadership style. The model has two fundamental concepts; leadership style, and development level.

Leadership Styles:

Blanchard and Hersey characterized leadership style in terms of the amount of direction and support that the leader provides to his or her followers. They categorized all leadership styles into four behavior types, which they named S1 to S4:

S1: Directing Leaders define the roles and tasks of the follower, and supervise them closely. Decisions are made by the leader and announced, so communication is largely one-way.

S2: Coaching Leaders still define roles and tasks, but seeks ideas and suggestions from the follower. Decisions remain the prerogative of the leader, but communication is much more two-way.

S3: Supporting Leaders pass day-to-day decisions, such as task allocation and processes, to the follower. The leader facilitates and takes part in decisions, but control is with the follower.

S4: Delegating Leaders are still involved in decisions and problem-solving, but control is with the follower. The follower decides when and how the leader will be involved.

No one style is considered optimal or desired for all leaders to possess. Effective leaders need to be flexible, and must adapt themselves according to the situation. However, each leader tends to have a natural style, and in applying Situational Leadership he/she must know his/her intrinsic style.

Development Levels:

The right leadership style will depend on the person being led – the follower. Blanchard and Hersey extended their model to include the Development Level of the follower. They stated that the chosen style of the leader should be based on the competence and commitment of his/her followers. They categorized the possible development of followers into four levels, which they named D1 to D4:

D1: Low Competence, High Commitment – They generally lack the specific skills required for the job in hand, However, they are eager to learn and willing to take direction.

D2: Some Competence, Low Commitment – They may have some relevant skills, but will not be able to do the job without help. The task or the situation may be new to them.

D3: High Competence, Variable Commitment – They are experienced and capable, but may lack the confidence to go it alone, or the motivation to do it well or quickly.

D4: High Competence, High Commitment – They are experienced at the job, and comfortable with their own ability to do it well. They may even be more skilled than the leader.

Development Levels are also situational. You might be generally skilled, confident and motivated your job, but would still drop into Level D1 when faced with a task requiring skills you do not possess. For example, many managers are D4 when dealing with the day-to-day running of their department, but move to D1 or D2 when dealing with a sensitive employee issue.

Leadership Development Matching:

Blanchard and Hersey indicate that the leadership style (S1 – S4) of the leader must correspond to the development level (D1 – D4) of the follower. In addition, it is the leader who must adapt, not the follower. To get the most of situational leadership, a leader should be trained in how to operate effectively in various leadership styles, and how to determine the development level of others.

What are your ideas and experiences related to situational leadership? You and your company leaders might from working with an executive coach as part of an emotional intelligence-based leadership development program.

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