Leadership Skills

Situational Theory – Leadership

What is Situational Theory?

Situational theory is a leadership theory that suggests that effective leaders adapt their leadership style to the specific needs of the situation. According to this theory, no single leadership style is effective in all situations and that leaders must be able to adjust their style to the unique demands of the situation.

One of the most well-known situational leadership theory was developed by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard, which they called “Situational Leadership theory” and it suggests that the most effective leadership style depends on the level of development or maturity of the followers. According to this theory, an effective leader will use different leadership styles depending on whether the followers are:

  • Directing: Telling them what to do and closely supervising them
  • Coaching: Giving guidance and offering feedback
  • Supporting: Empowering and giving freedom
  • Delegating: Allowing them to take control

The theory suggests that the most effective leaders are able to assess the needs of their followers, and then match their leadership style to those needs.

Situational theory emphasizes that effective leaders must be able to adapt their leadership style to the unique demands of the situation, and that different situations require different types of leadership. This theory is a improvement over the trait theory and behavioral theory, as it recognizes that leadership is a dynamic process that is shaped by the context in which it occurs, and also doesn’t assume that a particular leadership style is the most effective in all situations.


It’s important to note that while situational leadership theory is a useful framework for understanding how leaders can adapt their style to different situations, it doesn’t account for other factors that can affect leadership, such as individual characteristics, organizational culture, and the nature of the task.

Self-report questionnaire to measure the leadership style of an individual according to situational theory

Here is an example of a self-report questionnaire that can be used to measure the leadership style of an individual according to situational theory:

  1. Directing style:
  • I give clear and specific instructions to my team.
  • I closely supervise my team’s work.
  1. Coaching style:
  • I give guidance and feedback to my team.
  • I provide support and resources to help my team achieve their goals.
  1. Supporting style:
  • I empower my team and give them freedom.
  • I create opportunities for my team to develop new skills.
  1. Delegating style:
  • I allow my team to take control.
  • I trust my team to make decisions.

Respondents would be asked to rate the frequency of using each style on a scale such as 1 (never) to 5 (always).

Please keep in mind that this is just an example questionnaire, and the specific questions and response options will depend on the needs of your organization. And, it is important to validate the questionnaire through pilot testing, which is an important step in developing a self-report questionnaire.


Marty Hoffman

Marty Hoffman, MBA, PhD Management Consultant for Fortune 500 and Corporate Strategist 📍 San Francisco, CA More »

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