Situational Leadership

Situational Leadership

Don’t treat all of your employees the same!

That may not sound right, but compelling leadership style research comes from Paul Hersey and Kenneth Blanchard indicates that’s exactly what you should do.  Hersey and Blanchard are responsible for providing the management world with a Situational Leadership Model. The Hersey-Blanchard model addresses the key to practical leadership development: the attributes and styles of the followers.

Not everyone is on the same intellectual, maturity, compliance, skill, or motivational level. Different people are motivated by different things, and this must be taken into account if you want to be a successful leader. Communications experts consider it critical to tailor your message to your “target audience.” It is the followers that you want to motivate and influence and you can’t do that if you don’t know whom you are trying to motivate or influence.

Management Styles

The Situational Leadership model we’ve adapted for our Effective Utility Management training looks at four types of leadership styles based on the follower:

  • Directing
  • Influencing
  • Collaborating
  • Delegating

The goal is to develop followers to the Delegating level if the work environment and situation allows.

 

Situational Leadership

 

We agree with Ken Blanchard when he said, “To bring out the best in others, leadership must match the development level of the person being led.”  So let’s take look at the four common management styles we teach in our leadership and management classes.

Direction Style

A direction style of management is most appropriate for employees who are low in skills and low in motivation. These might be entry-level employees or workers whose jobs involve repetitive tasks that don’t require a lot of individual initiative.  This does not mean they can’t be terrific workers and even great employees.  But what it does mean is that they need more hands-on supervision than might be needed for more highly skilled or highly motivated workers.

If the workers you manage fit into this category, these are the basic skills you need for direction-style management:

  • Assign tasks clearly
  • Make sure tasks are understood
  • Set expectations
  • Monitor performance

Influence Style

An influence style of management is most appropriate for employees who are low in skills but high in motivation.  These might be new or inexperienced employees, but in this case, you would usually find them working in jobs that require thought, creativity, or personal initiative.  Like those in direction-style environments, these employees still need supervision.  But they also benefit from mentoring and personal encouragement.

If the workers you manage fit into this category, these are the basic skills you need for influence-style management:

  • Pat attention to the details
  • Evaluate capabilities
  • Support and encourage 

Collaboration Style

A collaboration style of management is most suitable for employees who are high in skills but low in motivation.  These employees might have advanced degrees or knowledge and abilities that allow them to do independent work.  But for whatever reason, they might have problems bringing their projects to completion or coordinating with others to get complex tasks completed on time and within budget.

If the individuals you manage fit this category, these are the skills you need for collaboration-style management:

  • Encourage interaction
  • Provide resources
  • Identify solutions

 Delegation Style

A delegation style of management is most suitable for employees who are both high in skills and high in motivation.  Subordinates that fit this category are usually very experienced and competent individuals.  They may hold high rank in your organization or on your team.  Or they may have a lower rank, yet be so good at their jobs that you know you don’t need to worry about them at all.  These employees understand exactly what needs to be done and how to do it.  And they work independently without needing our encouragement or oversight.

If the individuals you manage fit this category, these are the skills you need for delegation-style management:

  • Set ambitious goals
  • Determine strategy
  • Be a role model 

Management Styles Summary

Choosing a management style for your subordinates takes thought and flexibility.  You’ll want to take into consideration the level of motivation and skills of your individual team members, the team as a whole, and the type of work that they do.  This can change as your situation changes.  For example, in an emergency, even a delegation-style manager may need to become very hands-on until the crises has passed.  If new technology is introduced or a big change affects morale, a directing-style manager may need to become more relationship-oriented and get involved with employees on a personal level.  If a timeline is abruptly reduced, a collaboration-style manager may need to make directive, unilateral decisions.

It’s important to remain open and reevaluate our management style from time to time, making sure it is still the best for your current conditions.

American Water College provides online and onsite technical and management training for water and wastewater professionals. Click on the link for more information about our Effective Utility Management training program.  Or check out our Classroom Training Schedule for dates and locations of our upcoming events.  We also have a complete training library available to your organization.  Click here  or call us at (661) 874-1655 to find out how you can gain access to this industry specific training for your utility.