Leadership style: fixed or adaptable?

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A leader’s leadership is not fixed and it could be changed from situation to situation. As for a leader, according to the situational leaderships theory there is no fixed best leadership style that is always perfect, efficient and could be applied in all the situations, so in order to be an effective leader, the leader need to consider the outside environment in which he or she functions as a leader and adapt his or her leadership to different situations and needs (Hersey 1977).

Figure 2.0 Paul Hersey’s situational leadership model (1996)

Resource: (Unknown 2007)

According to Paul Hersey situational theory as stated in Figure 2.0 as stated above, there are two dimensions: the level of directive behavior and the need of supportive behavior. The level of directive behavior measures the competency of the employees toward a particular task which again decide the level of need of guiding and coaching from the subordinates; the dimension of supportive behavior calculates the employees’ commitment to the leaders and the company which if in a low level for example an employee distrust the leader then in his or her executing tasks the leader should provide more relationship effort in his or her doing that job.

There are three factors that together decide the kind of leadership that used in a particular situation. Firstly, leadership should be adjusted according to the competency of the employees, a low competency workers obviously needs more detailed guidance in doing his job. Secondly, the commitment level that the employees have toward the leader and the company. This dimension may also varied according to the special tasks, if the tasks are not liked by the employees, then the leader need to provide more relationship support to the subordinates. Lastly, the style of leadership that finally adopted by the leader would also be affected by the ability of the leader to provide such changeable leadership. A leader may be incompetent to provide high level of directing or he is bored with the long talks with the employees who actually need to be comforted. This is a practical consideration of the actual use of the leaderships; it does not affect the choice of the best leadership according to the model virtually.


There are four types of leadership that are indentified in this model.


The leadership style of directing should be provided by a leader to employees with high level of commitment and obedience but low competency to the situation, in such cases, leaders need to tell the employees how to do the job in detail.


The second leadership style is coaching, it not only requires the leader to provide certain direction to the employees but also there is a need for the employees communicate with the employees.


The third leadership style is supporting, it is applicable in the situation in which employees need some guidance but more supporting behavior from the leader, in this situation the leaders focus more on the relationship building with the employees and empower the employees to do their job.


The last leadership style is delegating, it is used by the leaders to the employees with high competency and matured employees, they know how to do the job and they are satisfied with the working environment, in such cases leaders need only to give a free hand to the employees.

From the analysis above, we can see that a leader’s leadership style should be flexible and adaptable according to the actual situations. And in the practical management practices, it is common that leaders would need to manage employees with different levels of competency and needs of supportive behaviors. And in order to provide comprehensively effective leadership, a good leader need to and is able to make such adjustments.