Project Management

Situational Leadership

last edited by: Anupam on Sep 9, 2016 2:28 AM login/register to edit this page

1 Applications
2 Instructions
3 References

The Situational Leadership approach developed by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard is an effective techinique for project leaders to use when determining a leadership interaction style.

The fundamental underpinning of the situational leadership theory is 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 maturity ("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.[1]


Situational Leadership Theory can be applied in two different modes. One mode is for personnel development and in this mode the leader will have a long term relationship with the person being led - the follower, and the objective is to bring the follower to a point where they are highly capable and motivated. The other mode is the project mode, in which the leader expects to have a short relationship with the follower and the objective is timely and correct completion of project activities.

A combination of both styles is also great for the leader. A key reason for changing leadership styles is to avoid over-leading or under-leading. Over-leading results in individuals feeling constrained, demeaned, and untrusted. Under-leading results in individuals feeling abandoned, insecure and confused.


The key in Situational Leadership is to determine the readiness level of the followers. Readiness is classified into four categories based upon the followers motivation and ability to do the project activity that is assigned.

  • Readiness 1: Low Motivation, Low Ability - this person is not skilled at the assigned task and does not want to do the work or work on this project.
  • Readiness 2: High Motivation, Low Ability - this person is eager to work on the project but is not proficient at the activities assigned.
  • Readiness 3: Low Motivation, High Ability - this person is capable of doing the project activities but for personal or business reasons does not want to do the activities.
  • Readiness 4: High Motivation, High Ability - this person is capable and motivated.
The Project Leader should respond to each individual situation by using a combination of task behavior and relationship behavior. Task behavior focuses on providing clear directions and guidance for the specific activities that are to be accomplished. Relationship behavior focuses on building an interpersonal bond between the Project Leader and the team member. For each of the follower Readiness levels, there is a corresponding Leadership Style.

  • Style 1: Directing - High Task, Low Relationship interactions - Provide clear directions and rigid accountability in order to get the person to expeditiously complete the project activity.
  • Style 2: Coaching - High Task, High Relationship interactions - Provide encouraging direction to both train the individual and maintain their high level of motivation, don't under-lead.
  • Style 3: Supporting - Low Task, Low Relationship interactions - Since this person is capable, you must focus on motivation. Relationship interactions will help to identify the underlying causes for lack of motivation and suggest ways to overcome them.
  • Style 4: Delegating - low Task, Low Relationship interactions - These individuals are budding superstars, so let them shine, don't over-lead.


  1. Project Team Leadership Tools & Techniques. Project Management Guru website.
  2. Leadership and the One Minute Manager: Increasing Effectiveness Through Situational Leadership II. Ken Blanchard, Patricia Zigarmi, Drea Zigarmi. William Morrow Publishers, 2013.


1. ^ Hersey, P. and Blanchard, K. H. (1977). Management of Organizational Behavior 3rd Edition– Utilizing Human Resources. New Jersey/Prentice Hall.

last edited by: Anupam on Sep 9, 2016 2:28 AM login/register to edit this page


"The amount of money one needs is terrifying..."

- Ludwig Van Beethoven