What does a manager mean and what does a manager do? Leading people is the common description of what a manager is required to do. But he or she is also responsible for leadership over a segment of work, a sub-section of the organization's results, and for overall employee satisfaction. Different people have different abilities, requirements, and needs. Like parenting, effective leadership requires a flexible approach that will motivate the best performance and contribution from individual team members Most parents are acquainted with the fallouts of practicing the same parenting style for all their kids. Since every child has a different personality, capability, goal, and motivation, what works well with one may backfire with another.
The dynamics have changed today. Leaders need to show more composure than ever before in the workplace. For example, during the pandemic, leaders had to try different approaches to motivate collaboration and interaction in remote teams. At the same time, they also needed to meet goals, and deadlines without compromising on the quality standards – and in some cases, also ensure regulations – with a reduced workforce and an interrupted supply chain.
Earlier known as the lifecycle theory of leadership, introduced by Kenneth Blanchard and Paul Hersey, situational leadership theory implies that leaders adjust to their employees and not the other way around. The situational leadership theory incorporates four styles of leadership, based on every team member’s level of competence and commitment.
Directing - The directing style of leadership, also known as the telling style, works best with team members who do not have levels of competence but hold high levels of commitment. It suits trainees who demand clear instructions and can perform well only under close supervision.
Coaching - Since this involves a persuasive, problem-solving approach, it is best used with employees with moderate to high levels of competence and variable levels of commitment. A leader practicing this style may require to meet the team members to discuss the status of tasks and/or to help them improve their existing skills.
Supporting or Participating - This style of leadership works best with employees who have high levels of competence and low levels of commitment. Leaders who take this approach are keen believers in the importance of sharing ideas and decisions with the team and giving them the autonomy to manage the details of their tasks.
Delegating - The delegating style of leadership is best used with teams that hold a great level of competence and high levels of commitment. A delegating approach suits well with employees who have more proficiency than their leader and are extremely motivated to finish a task or project. To say the least, this style of leadership empowers team members to work independently and lead themselves to meet their individual goals.
Situational leadership theory suggests leadership styles go through stages as employees develop and cultivate their workplace skills. In simple words, situational leaders shift their leadership style to meet company and employee needs.
The essential skills of a situational leader include adaptability to changing conditions and awareness of their employees' capabilities. Effective leaders recognize an employee's job growth and match their leadership styles as the employee advances through their responsibilities.
This man made Apple a massive success. While many associate Jobs with the authoritative telling leadership style, his approach was much more nuanced than many realize.
He always wanted his audience to get excited about new products. Whenever he launched a new product, he aimed to sell his vision to the consumers and he had a unique way of motivating teams to pursue ideas that were not very well approached internally, despite the massive success they would eventually meet.
He also mixed his leadership style with a delegation approach to leadership. He hired the best people in areas he was not necessarily familiar with in hopes that they would be able to achieve success even without his direct interference, as with his massive success in founding the Pixar movie studio.
The following are some of the greatest benefits of situational leadership:
The basic philosophy of the situational leadership model is quite straightforward, and because it is so reasonable, it can be used in various situations. Whether you are in HR or a software development project manager, you can aptly rely on the tenets of situational leadership to make decisions for the team.
Unlike well-known leadership styles which focus primarily on the leader, their personality, and their preferences, situational leadership, on the other hand, is employee focused.
Situational leaders start by getting to know their team members first and then evaluate their maturity level before deciding which leadership style best suits the team. They change their working style to fix the team rather than expecting team members to change to fit in the team.
The situational leadership model is built around the idea that teams are made up of individuals with distinctive strengths and weaknesses.
Instead of executing a one-size-fits-all method, leaders following the situational leadership style need to be versatile. They must acknowledge the exclusivity of each team member and take decisions that best serve the group.
Irrespective of the team size and its knowledge base, every leader expects his staff to be as productive as possible. Situational leadership is the most preferred style as it plays to team members’ strengths. Meeting employees where they are and using a leadership style that caters to their strengths and weaknesses allows them to get things done more efficiently and accurately.
One of the main reasons for the success of situational leadership is that encourages empathy. When leaders implement this approach, they get to know each team member and better understand their strengths and weaknesses. This quality helps them make the right decisions for themselves and the group.
Situational leaders assist their team members to become more aware of themselves, their habits, their strengths, and their shortcomings. They constantly evaluate situations and make decisions based on what will prove beneficial for their teams and help them achieve the company’s long-term objectives.
Leaders who subscribe to the situational leadership model are empathetic and choose the leadership style that aligns with their levels of knowledge and enthusiasm. This automatically ensures that the team members are happier and more satisfied with their jobs.
Practicing situational leadership makes it easier for team members to work in partnership in a conducive environment. Situational leaders will not let the team fail, they assess the team’s competence level and chooses which approach works best. In other cases, they decide if the team is ready enough and can handle a Participating or Delegating approach.
Good leaders don’t believe in cookie-cutter solutions. They are willing to modify their working style to best serve their teams and yield better results for their companies. To be a good leader, one must continuously work on critical thinking. To do so, it is imperative to regularly evaluate the teams and the objectives one is trying to accomplish, then make decisions based on the evaluations to achieve positive outcomes.
In summary, good leaders must know their team members well enough to meet their ever-changing abilities and demands placed upon them. It should be noted that over time behaviors and ways of operating, including., norms, customs, and other ecological factors will change, and thus, it is important for an effective leader to modify his managing style to meet the short-term and long-term goals of any organization.