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22 Examples of Situational Leadership

Situational leadership is the practice of adapting leadership style to each situation. It is common for leadership theory to assume that leaders have a hardcoded style linked to their personality that never changes. This doesn't reflect the real world where leaders commonly adapt to the demands of each situation. The following are illustrative examples of situational leadership.
A manager who pushes for higher productivity when a business faces pressures such as a recession.
Allowing high performers to pursue their own working style without interference.
Being protective of your team and offensive towards competing teams.
Giving people independence but stepping in when they go off the rails.
Giving people independence where they have proven they can handle it.
Giving people independence where they seem to value freedom.
Giving people the challenges that they need while recognizing that some people are happy and productive with routine stability.
Humbly supporting those who are outrageously talented.
Leading with authority where you have high expertise and deferring to others where you don't know much.
Making decisions without consultation when you know what you're doing.
Making sure that low performers feel pressure to improve.
Making sure that top performers with rare talents are happy and supported.
Providing direction to people who crave certainty.
Providing low performers with oversight, feedback and direction.
Providing supervision to people who have demonstrated low diligence.
Selling decisions without group consensus where group consensus is unnecessary or improbable.
Stepping in to guide groups away from irrational decisions.
Stepping in to guide groups away from mediocrity and groupthink.
Taking control of critical situations that require extremely high diligence.
Use of command and control for missions that require precise execution of orders.
Using charisma where possible but being willing to be unlikable if this is necessary.
Using democratic processes strategically to build support for change.

Leadership Myths

In practice, leaders and managers commonly use a situational style such that the following can be considered leadership myths.
The idea that leadership style always reflects personality.

The idea that certain leadership styles are "wrong."

The idea that certain leadership styles are universally "better" or "correct."

The idea that a single leadership style can be applied to all situations. For example, leading people into battle versus leading a team of visual designers.

Illustrative Example

It is common to present families as having either an authoritative or democratic style of parenting (leadership of a family). This is a false dichotomy that ignores real world parenting styles that are often situational. Sure, you might be democratic to ask the entire family where they want to go for dinner but it probably wouldn't be a good idea to ask the entire family which mortgage terms to choose or other family decisions that require the knowledge and authority of parents.
Overview: Situational Leadership
The practice of adapting leadership style to each situation.
Attributed To
Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard
Based On
Related Concepts
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