We interact with a variety of people in the workplace on a daily basis. 

You likely deal with your managers differently from how you interact with your coworkers or juniors. Imagine that you have to schedule a meeting for your team; you’ll need to send an official calendar invite to everyone. However, if you just want to grab a quick bite with your coworker, a phone call or a simple text will do the job. 

At the workplace, or in life, you act according to the demands of a situation. How you are at home is not the same as how you behave at work. It’s the same even within teams in your organization. For instance, a manager has to change their leadership style according to different situations, people and rules or regulations. This is called situational leadership.

The situational leadership style is more common now than ever. Organizations are moving toward loose managerial structures that have more transparency and direct communication. There’s no one managerial approach. 

An effective leader is one who can change their leadership style according to their team, their organization’s policies and external factors like the general business environment.

Let’s learn more about the situational approach to leadership with examples to illustrate the point.

 

What Is Situational Leadership?

 

Organizations that want to promote strong relationships among employees lean toward situational leadership. It’s an adaptive leadership style that’s flexible and people-oriented.

As a manager, if you care about your employees and want to help them realize their full potential, you can benefit from a situational approach to leadership. It’s especially important in today’s unpredictable world where things change in the blink of an eye.

Who could’ve guessed that one day you’ll be typing away at your desk, chatting with your desk mate, and the next you’re stuck at home because of a deadly virus!

A situational leadership style adapts to the needs and requirements of the organization and its people. You must have the ability to change your leadership style or switch between different leadership strategies. For this, you need to understand your own skills as well as your employees’. To understand whether or not you can adopt a situational leadership style, let’s explore different styles under situational leadership. 

Styles Of Situational Leadership

According to Daniel Goleman, an emotional intelligence expert, there are six unique leadership styles under situational leadership.

  1. Coach

A coach is a leader who believes in pushing their employees to be their best selves. If you want to follow this leadership style, you must care about your employees’ well-being and work performance.

 

  1. Pacesetter

These are leaders who are highly-motivated and push their employees to deliver the best results. Under pacesetting leadership, expectations tend to be higher than morale and may lead to employee burnout.

 

  1. Democratic

When employees have a say in decision-making, it’s a democratic leadership style. Most decisions are put to a vote so that employees can be responsible and accountable for their actions. This leadership style works well if there aren’t any deadlines because it’s time-consuming to get everyone’s nod on one decision.

 

  1. Affiliative

If your employees feel down and dejected, you can use an affiliative leadership style. You can praise their work to boost morale, appreciate their time and give constructive feedback to help them get back on track. The affiliative style is the best option when your team’s performance isn’t great.

 

  1. Authoritative

For organizations that are struggling to keep up with internal or external obstacles like employee turnover or changes in policies, an authoritative style is ideal. The leader can take charge of the situation and guide their employees to perform strategically.

 

  1. Coercive

This is a traditional, hierarchical leadership style where the leader instructs or directs their employees. It’s a goal-oriented approach—effective when you’re working with strict deadlines.

Examples Of Situational Leadership

 

We can observe situational leadership styles in everyday life. They’re not restricted to a professional corporate environment. Here are some examples of situational leadership:

  1. Sports Teams 

A sports team is led by a coach who’s the overseer and leader. Then you have the team captain who acts on their coach’s orders but maintains some form of autonomy. A sports team follows situational leadership because of these changing roles.

 

  1. Politics

This is one of the best examples of situational leadership because there are many diverse roles within a country’s leadership. From the president or the prime minister and their cabinet of ministers to state governance, there’s an extensive range of leadership styles.

If you want to adopt a situational leadership style, you must know your strengths and weaknesses. You need the flexibility to adapt to different situations and work with different people. Harappa Education’s high-impact course, Leading Self, will teach you how you can overcome internal and external obstacles to be the best leader. You’ll learn to take ownership of your actions, make informed decisions and overcome barriers like workplace conflicts. Equip yourself with the right mindset to improve performance and enhance your skills.


Explore topics such as Leadership Theories, Opinion Leaders, Behavioral Theory, Great Man Theory, Transformational Leadership & Transactional Leadership from our Harappa Diaries section and lead on a path of self-development.

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