The situational theory of leadership developed by Hersey and Blanchard is an interesting extension of the Leadership Grid. The situational theory focuses on the characteristics of followers as the most important element of the situation and consequently of determining effective leader behavior.
The point of Hersey and Blanchard’s theory is that subordinates vary in readiness level. People low in task readiness, because of little ability or training, or insecurity, need a different leadership style than those who are high in readiness and have good ability, skills, confidence, and willingness to work.
According to the situational theory, a leader can adopt one of four leadership styles, based on a combination of relationship (concern for people) and task (concern for production) behavior. The appropriate style depends on the readiness level of followers.
The four styles are telling, selling, participating, and delegating.
The essence of Hersey and Blanchard’s situational theory is for the leader to diagnose a follower’s readiness and select a style that is appropriate for the readiness level, such as the follower’s degree of education and skills, experience, self-confidence, and work attitudes.
In today’s multigenerational workplace, with people of widely different ages and readiness levels working side by side, many leaders find that they have to use multiple styles. Hersey and Blanchard’s contingency model focuses only on the characteristics of followers, not those of the larger situation. The leader should evaluate subordinates and adopt whichever style is needed.