Overview of the Theories of Situational Leadership

Overview of the Theories of Situational Leadership

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Leadership studies are quite timely for any organization. Still, it is important to remember that approaches to leadership vary considerably. Hence, referring to the best theory of leadership is a necessary step that needs to be taken before making various decisions on the administrative level. Moreover, it is crucial to remember that there does not exist any multipurpose leadership theory which would fit any given case. Prosperous leaders must be able to alter their behavior to match the requirements of every individual situation. Therefore, situational leadership concentrates on the relevance of actions chosen for a particular situation and ability to adapt to various conditions effectively. If problems appear in a corporation, it is crucial to understand how to develop and to guide a leadership culture effectively. Hence, the example of the lowered morale in a medium-sized corporation is the evidence of ineffective leader’s choices that demand rapid solution. This work is focused on three different theories of situational leadership with their pros and cons to find out the environmental and situational factors that predetermine the best solution to any problems associated with staff in the organizational environment.

Plunkett, Allen, and Attner (2013) emphasize that leadership always has to consider three factors: the traits of a leader, a group of people that are lead and circumstances. This is why it is necessary to remember that situations differ. With a number of a leader’s features and means of human motivation that can coincide, quite often, the situational factors predetermine the effectiveness of a leader’s decisions. Maslow (1943) emphasized that the understanding of the wholeness of the human organism is essential to define the effective motivation. This is why any situation must be regarded as a complex in order to find the most appropriate decision.

There are three main theories of the situational leadership, namely: path-goal theory, contingency theory, and life cycle theory. To begin with, path-goal theory concentrates on what stimulates humans. In this theory, stimulation to react in a specific manner is mentioned as a result of two connected purposes. The first one is an assumption that certain behavior will cause a specific purpose. The second purpose depends on how strong the desire to achieve a goal is. These issues practically always impact the behavior (Plunkett et al., 2013). A leader’s aim is to state the desirable purposes clearly and eliminate the barriers to achieve these goals.

In addition, House and Mitchell’s path-goal theory proposes four leadership styles that a leader may apply in specific types of situations. The first is directive based on the dictatorial type, where a leader makes all of the decisions. The second is supportive and implies that a leader is amiable, approachable and refers to others with apprehensiveness. The third is participative, focusing on a leader, who is asking for proposals to make right decisions. The last one is achievement-oriented, which means that a leader establishes a purpose for assistants which forces to make great efforts to achieve them and shows confidence in workers to reach this goal (Plunkett et al., 2013). On the one hand, House and Mitchell suggested that the same leader may use a combination of these styles. Moreover, there exist two situational components: individual characteristics of assistants and surroundings demands, with which workers must be able to cope in order to reach the goals and meet their needs. The researches have shown that a leader should use the directive style, but for the stressful situation a supportive style is appropriate (Plunkett et al., 2013). To talk about pros, this theory teaches and describes how to react in specific situations, and its principles are relatively easy to understand. Speaking about cons, it is quite difficult in the real world to understand which specific type of situation occurs and what further solution should be chosen (McGrath & Coles, 2012).

Going further, the contingency model of the leadership is also defined as Fiedler’s model (Plunkett et al., 2013). It emphasizes the importance of productivity as seeking to integrate a person and the process. The basic argument of the theory states that the effectiveness of a leader depends on two factors: stimulation system and the level of control which he or she has applied to influence in a specific situation. It defines the leadership through the ability of a person to react in different situations under external forces. Task complexity, maturity, and corporation size influence the behavior of a leader (Fairholm & Fairholm, 2009).

To classify the leader’s style, Fiedler developed a questionnaire list, which assorted a leader as motivated by task or by relationship. The next step was the analysis of situation on three elements and characterizing as favorable or not. These elements included the relationship between a leader and a follower, task structure and the position of power of a leader. They considered leadership situations on a continuous sequence. In the most auuspicious context for a leader, the relationship between a chief and an assistant is good and described by the reciprocal trust, high opinion, and amity. A task-oriented style is recommended in case of an influential leader. Otherwise, in an unfavorable situation, where the relationship is poor, and a leader sounds unconvincing, task-oriented style is suggested. Talking about strengths, contingency theory requires leaders to predict and think about the successful completion of the situation. On the other hand, this theory is impractical to use in a real life because it does not provide any suggestions on how a leader should act if he or she has failed (McGrath & Coles, 2012).

Concerning Hersey and Blanchard’s life cycle theory, it has underlined the ability of a leader’s behavior that relates to a follower’s features. Hershey and Blanchard have looked at the follower maturity level (ability to establish high but achievable goals; readiness of a follower to react; physical and intellectual abilities of a follower) (Plunkett et al., 2013). Hence, with the growth of its level, a leader should decrease task behaviors and increase relationship behavior. Due to their notion, these tasks were bipolar: task behaviors were considered to be the extent of explaining personally how to accomplish a task while relationship behavior was the extent to which a leader was engaged in question-answer communication by providing emotional support and alleviating the process. From the one side, this theory motivates workers and makes the relations between a chief and an assistant better and more reliable, but from the other side, if the followers’ maturity level is too low, a leader may pay too much attention to workers, and this may be accused of favoritism.

In conclusion, situational leadership contributes much to the understanding of being a successful leader. This includes the agreement on a leader’s behaviors in trying to have an impact on someone, or the overall achievements of an individual or an organization that leaders are working with. It means matching the combination of directive behaviors and supportive behaviors suitably to the willingness of employers to fulfill specific goals or tasks. In any case, each of three situational leadership theories has their strengths and weaknesses. With regard to the peculiar influence of the situational factors, the application of path-goal theory, contingency theory or life cycle theory can also be more or less appropriate when dealing with the accompanying aims and more or less influential factors that need analysis.

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