Leadership has many definitions. One of simple leadership definition is any attempt to influence the behaviour of another persons or group – up, down or accross organization. Leadership style is the pattern of behaviour of leader as perceived by the person or group being influenced. Effective leadership means adapting leadership style to meet performance needs of those being influenced. Thus, leader is someone who, regardless of position, influences others in an organization.
Any attempt of leading should have impact on two dimensions, which are success and engagement. Success is measured by behaviour, results, accomplishment, the “what”, and bottom line. In a simple question, “Did the job get done, or didn’t it?” On the other hand, engagement is measured by attitude, process, needs, the “how” and motivation. Situational leadership strive to make both dimensions equal and at high level. In a simple question, “how people felt about doing the work?”
Situational Leadership Theory tells that there is no single best style of leadership. Effective leadership is task-relevant, and the most successful leaders are those that adapt their leadership style to the performance readiness (“the capacity to set high but attainable goals, willingness and ability to take responsibility for the task, and relevant education and/or experience of an individual or a group for the task”) of the individual or group they are attempting to lead or influence. Effective leadership varies, not only with the person or group that is being influenced, but it also depends on the task, job or function that needs to be accomplished.
Situational Leadership model has two axis in the chart, which are task behaviour (or called also directive behaviour) and supportive behaviour (relationship behaviour). Task behaviour is the extent to which a leader engages in defining roles, providing the what, where, how, and who. High task behaviour means that leader needs to direct people in details, while low task behaviour means that leader does not need to direct people for task details. On the other hand, relationship behaviour is the extent to which the leader engages in two-way communication, facilitates interaction, actively listens and provides socioemotional support. High relationship behaviour means that leader needs to open communication and gives greater support for people, while low relationship behaviour means that this socioemotional support is not needed by the people.
The right leadership style will depend on the person or group being led. Situational Leadership Theory identified four levels of Performance Readiness :
- R1 – They still lack the specific skills required for the job in hand and are unable and unwilling to do or to take responsibility for this job or task
- R2 – They are unable to take on responsibility for the task being done; however, they are willing to work at the task. They are novice but enthusiastic.
- R3 – They are experienced and able to do the task but lack the confidence or the willingness to take on responsibility.
- R4 – They are experienced at the task, and comfortable with their own ability to do it well. They are able and willing to not only do the task, but to take responsibility for the task.
Performance Readiness Levels are also task-specific. A person might be generally skilled, confident and motivated in their job, but would still have a Performance Readiness R1 when asked to perform a task requiring skills they don’t possess.
Situational Leadership Theory characterized leadership style in terms of the amount of Task Behavior and Relationship Behavior that the leader provides to their followers. They categorized all leadership styles into four behaviour types, which named S1 to S4:
- S1: Telling – is characterized by one-way communication in which the leader defines the roles of the individual or group and provides the what, how, why, when and where to do the task;
- S2: Selling – while the leader is still providing the direction, he or she is now using two-way communication and providing the socio-emotional support that will allow the individual or group being influenced to buy into the process;
- S3: Participating – this is how shared decision-making about aspects of how the task is accomplished and the leader is providing less task behaviours while maintaining high relationship behavior;
- S4: Delegating – the leader is still involved in decisions; however, the process and responsibility has been passed to the individual or group. The leader stays involved to monitor progress.