Situational Leadership

Last Updated: 22 Jul 2020
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Leadership is as much a function of the situation in which the participants find themselves as it is of the characteristic of a leader. (Discuss) The characteristics of a leader are most important; however, one needs to take into consideration that different situations call for different types of leadership. Previous research by Luccier & Achua (2010) states that different situations need different types of leadership. Therefore, leadership, organisational culture, situational leadership, personality and other traits need to be defined.

Furthermore, an exploration of the impact of situations in relation to the characteristics of a leader and/or their leadership style shall be discussed, as will argue how this impacts upon the organisation and its leadership. A discussion of what abilities should be displayed by a leader in different situations, especially in education will ensue. Evidence suggests (Palmer 2011) that leadership changes its meaning, revealing different thoughts as well as different viewpoints. It “is the influencing process of leaders and followers to achieve organisational objectives through change” (Luccier & Achua 2010, p6. Daft (2005) highlights that there is a connection between leaders and followers, and the goals they wish to attain. In other words, leadership affects power or control, and it takes place amongst people, and those people wanting critical change (Richard & Andrew, (2009). Above all, leadership is about motivating “confidence and support” who are required to realise the objectives of the organisation (Palmer 2011; Dubrin, 2004, p. 3) A number of writers have defined traits as “distinguishing personal characteristics” of a leader for example honesty, appearance, intelligence and self-confidence. Luccier & Achua 2010 p 33; Palmer 2011; Samson &Draft 2003) Personality is the mixture (combination) of traits in regards to specific behaviour. In other words, personality is character, and it affects our decisions. (Palmer 2011; Luccier & Achua, 2004, p. 29)

Organisation culture relates to a collection of, standards, and understandings shared by members of an organisation, including new members. (Richard & Andrew 2009) In addition, it is viewed as a “shared mental model” or “social glue” that brings an organisation together. (Luccier &Achua 2010; p. 70) The staff at a school, led by a Principal should possess such a model. Situational leadership is a theory identified by Harsey & Blanchard (1969) that purports that “effective leaders are those that reflect greater change in their leadership style in respect to task orientation and directive orientation in support of individual follower’s abilities and requirements”. Fuchs (2007; p. 15) It is also based on the thought that leadership moves between business followers according to the needs of an individual group at a specific time. Sousa 2003) Ministers of Education, Principals and Education Department heads should all embrace this theory, so that they can instigate positive development and/or change in their respective organisations. Leadership style is the mixture or combination of personalities, abilities and behaviours leaders use as they relate with followers. (Luccier & Achua 2010) Observations of followers can suggest the favoured approach or forms of behaviour used by different leaders. (Fuchs (2007) Thus, a school leader would need to know their staff reasonably well to be able to do so.

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Organisational success is not only influenced by leadership, but, also by the organisation’s vision, cultural mission and support from the public. However, many specialists argue that strong leadership is very important to organisational needs (Richard & Andrew 2009). Above all, effective leaders are ethos or beliefs makers (Luccier & Achua 2010). According to Palmer (2011) leadership is the skill to encourage, impact and inspire staff to achieve excellent work, and states that motivation is measured as a dominant instrument for employers’ improvement.

It also helps leaders to realise the types of people in their organisation and inspire them to get involved in developing and improving the organisation. A practical example of this is illustrated in the USA study which indicated that about 77 percent of workers or employees were not satisfied at work, mainly because they felt they were not motivated by their leader (Luccier & Achua, 2010. ). New employees need to be motivated by their leader, which in turn leads to greater job satisfaction and a greater likelihood of organisational involvement.

A Principal should make professional development school wide and appropriate to the school, it students and educational context. Effective leaders are responsible for direction and support of every worker, and also assist with conflict resolution. They also have to be outstanding speakers to be able to communicate well so that they can pass on information to staff and also to people outside the organisation (Palmer 2011; Richard & Andrew 2009). In a school, the Principal/Deputy Principal would need to deal with such conflicts, making sure that they are imparcial and fair, free from bias.

Leaders serve as role models for employees and are key motivators. Staff members can model honesty, integrity, commitment and other values demonstrated by their leader. (Luccier & Achua, 2010; Palmer 2011) In addition, they are strategic developers which form the organisation’s vision in collaboration with staff and other stake holders. Above all, they are policy producers and decision makers for both staff and organisations (Cited in Palmer 2011 Dubrin, 2004). Decisions can either be right or wrong, and can lead to the success or failure of an organisation, unless guided by a learned, insightful leader.

An effective leader should demonstrate values like accountability, transparency, professionalism, commitment, innovation and motivation. Above all, an effective leader should be versatile to be able to cope with global change and new trends in management and leadership. Principals and others in educational leadership roles need to have up-to-date knowledge and be able to utilise it appropriately. Previous research (Luccier & Achua 2010; Palmer 2011) states that leadership efficiency is learnable. Not all leaders represent leadership hat has been learned. Different leadership styles are used under certain conditions according to Dubrin & Dalglish (2001) they draw attention to Malcolm Fraser's experience. He changed his leadership style due to influences on his situation. For instance, Fraser as Prime Minister of Australia, he was exercising authority, whilst also acting as chairman of CARE Australia, his profile was low. For this reason, one can highlight that the situation has an impact on which leadership style is most effective.

The impact can be influenced by both internal and external situations. Also, it may be negative or positive depending on how favourable or unfavourable the employee’s or leader’s perceptions are (Richard & Andrew 2009). Fiedler’s (1967 as cited in Richard & Andrew 2009) point out that leaders’ have essential features. In the same way he establishes the contingency theory as a session of behavioural concepts based on the principle that there is no one preferred way of leading, and that a similar leadership style does not work in all circumstances.

This theory is classifying a manager’s leadership style as task motivated and relationship motivated. Fiedler (1967) used the least preferred co-worker (LPC) scale to measure the degree of leadership style. Fiedler’s theory highlights that situations can be placed into three categories, namely high, low and moderate. Fiedler also used the leader match concept to match leaders to situations. For instance, Fiedler points out that task motivated leaders do better in situations that are high, enabling them to concentrate on building and maintaining relationships.

In contrast, for moderate situations the relationship motivated is better, so is not as much of a focal point, as in low situations. Task motivated leaders may do well, but they may create a sense of misunderstanding, while relationship motivated leaders will seek consultations and support staff emotionally. The contingency theory is the most researched and advantageous, however, it had been established that it is very difficult to make sure that it has a good influence on most leaders. Furthermore, the total amount of control a eader exerts differs depending on the time and situation. It has been argued that from the situational characteristics, there is a negative connection between LPC score and group performance. Also, it is hard to make a summary about a leader's performance, when leaders are always adapting their leadership style according to changing situations they find themselves in. More research needs to be carried out on the contingency leadership so that it can be flexible and meet the desired outcomes of modern globalization tests and organisational requirements.

The Situational Leadership model (SLM) was developed by Hersey and Blanchard (1996) as cited in Richard & Andrew (2009). It focuses on followers as being the significant component of the situation, and therefore, defines an actual leader's behaviour. Hersey & Blanchard (1996) highlighted the importance of appropriate leadership training, and stress the importance of leaders being adaptive in exact situations. In the case of school Principals, many have not received adequate training to be able to do a productive and credible job.

However, experience, maturity and impartiality may be evident and are the reasons for a person being chosen for such a position. Hersey and Blanchard (1996) support the earlier theoretical assumptions from the Ohio State study which reveal that behaviour of a leader can be a combination of two points of view, such as having aspects of being democratic and autocratic. (Luccier & Achua 2010) The SLM is based on four groups which are a mixture of the two dimensions “delegating, participating, selling and telling” (Dubrin & Dalglish 2001, p157. This model focuses on the readiness of group members and states that “there is no one best way to influence group members and the most effective leadership style depends on the level of the group members” (Dubrin & Dalglish 2001 p. 156) In addition, employees differ in readiness levels. For instance, there are those that lack enthusiasm for a task due to a lack of appropriate training. These employees lack confidence in their abilities. To improve on this, a change of leadership style may be required. Such employees are in contrast to those with high levels of task readiness.

These employees, thanks to better training, are secure and confident employees who are able to make decisions and contributions to their organisations. Luccier & Achua, (2010) argued that leaders should develop skills and task should be clearly stated as evident in MacDonald’s Corporation. The leaders in this organisation provide employees with ongoing training, thus constantly upgrading and improving their skills, so that they can be confident when performing tasks. If a teacher/staff member is not well trained in some aspect of their job, i. e. omputer based programs; Principals ought to provide access to such training, without critical outcomes. The leader has the ability to guide the business to greater success and employee participation by developing better relationships within their organisation (Dubrin & Dalglish. 2001) Such a model would be a good one to be adopted by organisations, especially in Swaziland, where employees are low in their task readiness, due to numerous constraints. This is a situation beyond control and cannot be changed overnight, but, it is a possibility in the future.

Therefore, the leadership style can be changed to suit or meet different groups. For example, in a classroom situation, a student with impairment cannot change that situation, but a teacher can change teaching methods by differentiating their teaching in order to meet the individual's needs. This model has been demonstrated as being valuable as a foundation for leadership training. (Dubrin & Dalglish 2001) It has been established that before one decides on a leadership style, one has to assess the readiness level of the group members.

It also provides leaders with precise guidelines, and not complicated rhetoric unlike the contingency theory. However, Vecchio's (1987) research on 300 teachers and their principals, showed mixed results, advising that this model is only good for staff that are confident. More research should be carried out in different cultures and differing contexts so as to provide appropriate examples for differing settings, so as to get results that will be relevant to contemporary issues and global challenges. (Dubrin & Dalglish 2001)

In conclusion, the contingency and path goal theory focus on “task, authority and nature of the subordinates”; while the cognitive resource theory illustrates that stress is vital to “how leader’s intelligence is related to group performances” (Fieldler & Garcia1987; Vecchio 1990; Chemers1997 cited in Dubrin & Dalglish p. 163) Principals have a stressful role, therefore, many draw on such resources to be effective leaders. The SLM focuses on the everyday tasks and the effective applications of behaviours the leader employs. Dubrin & Dalglish 2001). The SLM is a more appropriate model, and has demonstrated its impact by addressing culturally diverse organisations, leadership effectiveness in the global context and by its correlating leadership styles and follower relationships. (Luccier & Achua, 2010). The writer believes that SLM is still the appropriate and relevant style for a leader, as it can bring change to a leader’s behaviour as it is connected with relationships, which is more important to subordinates for mutual understanding.

On another note, culture is very important when leading people, all the situational models originated and were tested in the United States, which may not be appropriate or have the same impact compared to other cultures in Africa, Asia and Europe. Henson and Werner felt (1989) suggest that the culture of an organisation influences how subconscious and conscious decisions are made in it. (Lok & Crawford 2003) Finally, more research needs to be carried out, that will establish an effective leadership style chosen to be appropriate for diverse cultural organisations.

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Situational Leadership. (2017, May 09). Retrieved from

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