Hersey-Blanchard Situational Leadership Model: How It Works (2023)

What Is the Hersey-Blanchard Model?

The Hersey-Blanchard Model suggests no single leadership style is better than another. Instead of focusing on workplace factors, the model suggests leaders adjust their styles to those they lead and their abilities.

Under the model, successful leadership is both task-relevant and relationship-relevant. It is an adaptive, flexible style, whereby leaders are encouraged to consider their followers—individuals or a team—then consider the factors that impact the work environment before choosing how they will lead. This ensures they will meet their goals.

The Hersey-Blanchard Model is also referred to as the Situational Leadership Model or Theory.

(Video) Situational Leadership Model Explained

Key Takeaways

  • The Hersey-Blanchard Model suggests no leadership style is better than another.
  • The model suggests managers adapt their leadership style to tasks and relationships in the workplace.
  • The model's leadership styles are related directly to the different maturity categories of followers or employees.
(Video) Hersey & Blanchard Situational Leadership style (SLT)

Understanding the Hersey-Blanchard Model

The Hersey-Blanchard Model, or situational leadership style, was developed by author Paul Hersey and leadership expert Ken Blanchard, author of The One Minute Manager. The model is not a static leadership style. Instead, it is flexible, wherein the manager adapts their management style to various factors in the workplace, including their relationship with employees.

That means managers who live by the model must choose the leadership style as it relates to the maturity of followers. For example, if follower maturity is high, the model suggests the leader provide minimal guidance. By contrast, if follower maturity is low, the manager may need to provide explicit directions and supervise work closely in order to ensure the group has clarity on their goals and how they are expected to achieve them.

The maturity level of followers is divided into three categories: high, moderate and low. High maturity includes highly capable and confident individuals who are experienced and work well on their own. Moderate maturity is generally divided into two groups: the first are employees who are capable but lack enough confidence to take on the responsibility to do so, and the second group has the confidence but is not willing to do the task at hand. Low maturity employees are not skilled enough to do the task but are very enthusiastic.

(Video) Situational Leadership 2 of Kenneth Blanchard and Paul Hersey

Because the Hersey-Blanchard model depends on a leader's decision-making skills, it uses an individualistic rather than a group approach.

(Video) The Hersey and Blanchard Model

Special Considerations

Hersey-Blanchard Model and Leadership Styles

Hersey and Blanchard developed four types of leadership styles based on the task and relationships that leaders experience in the workplace. According to the model, the following are styles of leadership managers can use:

  • Delegating style: A low-task, low-relationship stylewhereinthe leader allows the group to take responsibility for task decisions. This is best used with high maturity followers.
  • Participating style: A low-task, high-relationship style that emphasizes shared ideas and decisions. Managers can use this style with moderate followers who are experienced but may lack the confidence to do the tasks assigned.
  • Selling style:A high-task, high-relationship style in which the leader attempts to sell their ideas to the group by explaining task directions in a persuasive manner. This, too, is used with moderate followers. Unlike the previous style, these followers have the ability but are unwilling to do the job.
  • Telling style: A high-task, low-relationship style whereinthe leader gives explicit directions and supervises work closely. This style is geared toward low maturity followers.

Applying the Model and Its Limitations

This leadership method lets executives, managers and other positions of authority take charge of their followers based on the acumen, understanding and context of the group. By taking into consideration how the strengths, weaknesses and awareness of the followers can affect performance and outcomes of a project, leaders can apply an appropriate structure and degree of control to achieve the desired result.

There are limitations to the model that may be beyond the leader’s control. The position and authority of the leader may be restricted by the operational chain-of-command or hierarchy for an organization, which could force them to adopt rigid styles rather than adapt to follower maturity. Furthermore, time constraints, a narrow field of options, and limits on available assets can also force managers to act based on the circumstances they face, eliminating the possibility of enacting strategies built around follower maturity.

(Video) Situational Leadership Model | Ken Blanchard | Dr Paul Hersey | #TheInfluentialLeader

Advantages and Disadvantages of the Hersey-Blanchard Model

Although this leadership model may be sound in theory, it may not necessarily apply in every situation. It comes with advantages and disadvantages.

One advantage of an adaptive leadership style is leaders can change their style at their own discretion at any time. Secondly, employees may find a leader who adapts to shifts in the workforce as a desirable trait. It is also a simple and easy-to-apply leadership style, meaning a manager can quickly evaluate a situation and make decisions as they see fit.

On the downside, situational leadership may put too much responsibility on the manager, whose decisions may be flawed. Also, the model may not apply to every work culture. The model may also prioritize relationships and tasks, as opposed to a company's long-term goals.

(Video) Situational Leadership Theory (Summary) - Hersey-Blanchard Theory


How does the Situational Leadership Model work? ›

The Situational Leadership® methodology is based on the relationship between leaders and followers and provides a framework to analyze each situation based on the Performance Readiness® Level that a follower exhibits in performing a specific task, function or objective.

What is an example of Hersey-Blanchard model? ›

Under the Hersey-Blanchard model, a leader must adapt their leadership methods depending on the ability and willingness of their followers. For example, a follower with a D2 development level should be led differently than a follower with a D4.

What is the key to successful leadership in Hersey and Blanchard's approach? ›

In Hersey and Blanchard's approach, the key to successful leadership is matching the proper leadership style to the corresponding maturity level of the employees.

Why is situational theory an effective way of leadership? ›

Using Situational Leadership, you can control all possible outcomes. Situational leadership means being able to control outcomes because you are able to effectively influence your organization in all directions: upwards, across and down. You think proactively and consider how your subordinates will react.

What is an example of situational leadership model? ›

Who is an example of a situational leader? A sports team manager is an example of a situational leader. Every new season, new members join while others leave. In such a situation, the leader must adapt to the skills of the new and incorporate them into the team.

What is the benefit of situational leadership? ›

One of the main benefits of using situational leadership in project management is that you can adjust your approach based on the skills and competence of each team member. If you have several R1 team members, you can plan your schedule accordingly, leaving plenty of time for supervision and monitoring.

What are the four leadership styles described in Hersey and Blanchard's situational model? ›

This article will go into the four leadership styles (Telling, Selling, Participating and Delegating) Hersey and Blanchard came up with in order to better deal with these different stages of followers.

Which of the following leader behaviors features in Hersey and Blanchard? ›

Explanation: Situational Leadership Theory, or the Situational Leadership Model, is a model created by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard, developed while working on Management of Organizational Behavior.

How many leadership styles does the Hersey and Blanchard model describe? ›

The model then identifies four leadership styles that will correspond with these leader and subordinate attributes: Delegating - When the subordinate is hi-ability-hi-willingness, the leader must show low-task-low-relationship behavior.

What is the most effective method of leadership? ›

The democratic leadership style is one of the most effective because it encourages everyone to participate in all processes, share their opinions, and know that you will hear them. It also encourages employees to be engaged because they know you will hear their feedback.

Which theory of leadership do you think is most effective? ›

"Transformational leadership," is the most effective style to use in most business situations. However, you can become a more effective leader by learning about these core leadership theories, and understanding the tools and models associated with each one.

What is the most important key to successful leadership? ›

1. Be empathetic. Effective leaders need to understand the feelings, motivations and emotions of others, especially the people who work for them. Empathy with employees is crucial now that many people are facing diverse challenges such as anxiety, stress and adjusting to new work conditions and income decline.

What are the advantages of Hersey Blanchard model? ›

Advantages and Disadvantages of the Hersey-Blanchard Model

One advantage of an adaptive leadership style is leaders can change their style at their own discretion at any time. Secondly, employees may find a leader who adapts to shifts in the workforce as a desirable trait.

What are strengths of the situational approach? ›

110) highlights four major strengths of the situational approach:
  • It is well known and frequently used for training leaders.
  • It is a practical approach that is easy to understand and apply across a variety of settings.
  • It is prescriptive and shows how leaders should act to achieve leadership effectiveness.

Where is situational leadership best used? ›

According to this style, leaders exercise decision-making authority and, as implied by the name, “tell” them to the rest of the team. Often, this method is used in emergency situations or those in which prompt and immediate action is required.

What are some real life examples of leadership? ›

Eight leadership situation examples to showcase
  • Leading a project or task in school. ...
  • Organizing a study group. ...
  • Leading a sports team. ...
  • Volunteering for nonprofit organizations. ...
  • Training or mentoring new team members. ...
  • Leading a meeting or committee. ...
  • Working in student governments and professional organizations.
Nov 24, 2021

How can I improve my Situational Leadership skills? ›

Managers that want to improve their situational skills can follow some of these tips:
  1. Keep Emotions Neutral. “Maintain emotional neutrality to ensure that you approach an employee correctly,” said Bitton. ...
  2. Have Clear Communication. ...
  3. Understand the Team. ...
  4. Learn to Be Persuasive. ...
  5. Be a Problem Solver.
Dec 3, 2021

What are the four 4 types of leadership explain each types? ›

Different Types of Leadership
  • Democratic Leadership. A democratic leader makes decisions based on their team's opinion and feedback. ...
  • Autocratic Leadership. ...
  • Laissez-faire Leadership. ...
  • Strategic Leadership. ...
  • Transformational Leadership. ...
  • Transactional Leadership. ...
  • Coach-Style Leadership. ...
  • Bureaucratic Leadership.
Mar 30, 2022

What are the 4 leadership styles explain? ›

Lewin identified three styles of leadership: Autocratic, Democratic, and Laissez-faire. Over time, more leadership styles have emerged, and one that is commonly grouped in with Lewin's three is Transformational Leadership.

What are 4 situational factors that affect leadership? ›

All leaders should be in tune with four key factors of leadership: the led, the leader, the situation and the communication. All four factors must always be considerations when exercising leadership, but at different moments, they affect each other differently.

Which of Hersey and Blanchard's four leadership styles is the most appropriate for a follower who is highly ready? ›

S4 - Delegating: This style is most appropriate for high follower readiness (R4). It emphasizes low levels of both task and relationship behavior.

How does Blanchard describe the concept of servant leadership? ›

Blanchard believes that servant leaders are constantly trying to find out what their people need to perform well and to live according to their organization's vision. Rather than wanting people to please their bosses, servant leaders want to make a difference in their employees' lives and in their organizations.

What is the message of situational leadership? ›

The message from situational leadership theory is that a leader must first seek to understand – looking carefully at tasks that individuals and teams are set and their level of competency – in order to manage people effectively.

What are the four levels of maturity Hersey and Blanchard? ›

The Hersey-Blanchard model suggests that the following leadership styles are the most appropriate for these maturity levels: Low Maturity (M1)—Telling (S1) Medium Maturity (M2)—Selling (S2) Medium Maturity (M3)—Participating (S3)

What is the simplest way to measure good leadership? ›

The best approach to measuring leadership is to evaluate a leader's performance in the three areas in which all great leaders must excel: clarity of thought / communication, judgment about people, and personal integrity / commitment.

What is the most commonly used leadership style? ›

Participative leadership is often favored as it helps to build trust with employees. Empowering them and encouraging them to share their ideas on essential matters, demonstrating their value to a team.

Which leadership theory is least effective? ›

Autocratic leadership: It is least effective because an autocratic leader takes every decision, and employees' ideas and input also matter. An autocratic leader does not take any pinion of teams. Employees, in this case, feel unappreciated, demoralized, and undervalued.

Which management theory is more effective and why? ›

Take scientific management — best known as Taylorism — arguably the most enduring management theory of them all. It suggests that a manager's job is to increase efficiency in a production system.

Which leadership theory has the greatest practical application and why? ›

The leadership theory that has the greatest application is the transformational leadership theory. This theory emphasizes on the need to motivate workers and to raise their morale, in order for the organization to achieve success(Johnson, 2017).

What skills are required to be an effective leader? ›

The 8 key leadership skills you need to know:
  • Relationship building.
  • Agility and adaptability.
  • Innovation and creativity.
  • Employee motivation.
  • Decision-making.
  • Conflict management.
  • Negotiation.
  • Critical Thinking.

What are the two important keys to effective leadership? ›

They found that: Trust and confidence in top leadership was the single most reliable predictor of employee satisfaction in an organization. Effective communication by leadership was the key to winning organizational trust and confidence.

What factors make leadership a success? ›

Consider these 12 factors to improve your leadership skills or help you identify those individuals in your organization who can take over leadership positions:
  • Motivation. Motivation is a huge key to any successful enterprise. ...
  • Tolerance. ...
  • Trust. ...
  • Purpose. ...
  • Vision. ...
  • Attitude. ...
  • Awareness. ...
  • Determination.

What are the pros and cons of situational leadership theory? ›

Situational Leadership Pro & Cons
  • Pro: Works with Four Leadership Styles. ...
  • Pro: Manager Can Vary Styles. ...
  • Pro: A Simple and Intuitive Method. ...
  • Con: Difficult for Some Types of Managers. ...
  • Con: Shifts Attention from Long-Term Goals. ...
  • Con: Maturity is Hard to Define.
Nov 28, 2018

What are the three 3 important skills that must be applied in situational leadership? ›

To become an effective situational leader, you need to master three skills:
  • Diagnosis.
  • Flexibility.
  • Partnering for Performance.
Aug 9, 2016

How do you use situational leadership in the workplace? ›

Situational leaders tend to stay in close communication with team members. They assess and adjust their approach to provide what's needed to support success. This helps them build strong relationships with the team. As a result, it creates a better work environment in which employees feel valued as individuals.

What is an example of Hersey Blanchard model? ›

Under the Hersey-Blanchard model, a leader must adapt their leadership methods depending on the ability and willingness of their followers. For example, a follower with a D2 development level should be led differently than a follower with a D4.

Is the situational leadership model effective? ›

Situational leadership is an effective model of management in the modern business world. To be a top leader in the industry, you must learn to adapt your leadership style. The trick to succeeding as a leader is to find a balance between directing and delegating and supporting and enhancing the team.

What are the four stages of situational leadership? ›

The Situational Leadership model addresses four types of leadership styles, based on the follower:
  • Telling.
  • Selling.
  • Participating.
  • Delegating.
Oct 3, 2019

What are the key elements of situational leadership theory? ›

Common traits that a situational leader illustrates or is capable of illustrating in the workplace include:
  • Direction. Some teams or organizations require a high level of direction to be successful. ...
  • Flexibility. ...
  • Encourage participation. ...
  • Delegation. ...
  • Regular coaching. ...
  • Honesty.
Feb 25, 2020

What is S1 S2 S3 S4 in situational leadership? ›

Four Leadership Styles

S1 = Directing/Telling (High Directive, Low Supportive) S2 = Coaching/Selling (High Directive, High Supportive) S3 = Supporting/Participating (Low Directive, High Supportive) S4 = Delegating (Low Directive, Low Supportive)

What are the 4 development levels situational leadership? ›

Development level 1 (D1): Employee has low competence but high commitment. Development level 2 (D2): Employee has some competence but low commitment. Development level 3 (D3): Employee has high competence and variable commitment. Development level 4 (D4): Employee has high competence and high commitment.

What is D1 D2 D3 D4 in situational leadership? ›

LEADERSHIP MODEL. SLII is an easy-to-understand, practical framework that enables your managers to diagnose the development level of an employee for a task: D1 – Enthusiastic Beginner; D2 – Disillusioned Learner; D3 – Capable, but Cautious, Contributor; and D4 – Self-Reliant Achiever.

What are the 4 part model of leadership being developed by Blanchard and Hersey? ›

This article will go into the four leadership styles (Telling, Selling, Participating and Delegating) Hersey and Blanchard came up with in order to better deal with these different stages of followers.

What are the 4 leadership styles of Hersey and Blanchard? ›

The four leadership styles that are presented in this theory are Telling, Selling, Participating, and Delegating. To go along with those four leadership styles, the Hersey Blanchard Situational Leadership Theory also provides four maturity levels that describe those who are making up the team.

What is situational leadership theory short note? ›

The situational theory of leadership refers to those leaders who adopt different leadership styles according to the situation and the development level of their team members. It is an effective way of leadership because it adapts to the team's needs and sets a beneficial balance for the whole organization.

What are the 4 types of leadership explain? ›

Lewin identified three styles of leadership: Autocratic, Democratic, and Laissez-faire. Over time, more leadership styles have emerged, and one that is commonly grouped in with Lewin's three is Transformational Leadership.


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