Part One: Examples of the Four Situational Leadership Styles
1. Directing: Napoleon Bonaparte
Although I specifically chose Napoleon, directing really applies to most military leaders. Soldiers have little autonomy and are (supposed to be) entirely subject to the orders of their superiors; their commanders explicitly define their tasks and closely supervise those tasks to completion, which is essentially the definition of directive leadership (Blanchard and Hersey 1996). Napoleon is especially relevant to this leadership style, however, because he was elected first consul — dictator, essentially — of France, and was responsible for an entirely new French constitution and the Napoleonic Code (Biography.com).
2. Coaching: Tattoo Masters and Apprentices
Coaching leaders act like directing leaders in that they clearly define expectations and goals for followers, but differ in that they also take into account the opinions and other input of those followers (MoneyZine 2015). It’s best to use the coaching style when your follower needs significant improvement in an area and has the desire to work for it (Joseph 2015). A good example of this is a tattoo artist taking an apprentice under their wing to teach them the best techniques and methods while still allowing them to grow. The master tattooer might sit with the apprentice for their first several tattoos and give them pointers and guidance until the apprentice is good enough to do it on their own.
3. Supporting: Gandalf
Supporting leaders give large amounts of control to their followers on the way to achieving a specified goal, and don’t do much supervision of general tasks (Dems 2010). A great example of this from one of my favorite pieces of literature is Gandalf from “The Lord of the Rings,” especially in the first installment of the series, “Fellowship of the Ring.” Gandalf essentially shows up, tells Frodo that he needs to go on this giant adventure and the fate of the world hangs in the balance, and then doesn’t really give him specific directions; he lets Frodo and the rest of the Fellowship find their way on their own and shows back up when they really need him. He never tells them everything that’s going on and he lets them solve problems for themselves.
4. Delegating: Barack Obama
Delegating leaders have a low focus on both tasks and relationships, because the followers in question are competent and motivated enough without being overly supervised (Tindall 2013). There are pros and cons to this type of leadership, but it can lead to empowered followers with high emotional stakes in the success of the tasks they are involved in (Chris 2015). A good example of this style of leadership is President Barack Obama. Obama has so many decisions to make and is responsible for so much that he can’t afford to not trust his followers with delegated tasks. He once told the New Yorker that “If [a task] were easy, somebody else would have made the decision and somebody else would have solved it,” (Lizza 2012).
Part Two: Results of Situational Leadership Questionnaire
This wasn’t a questionnaire so much as a quiz – it was checking whether I could identify the development level of the follower, identify which response was which situational leadership style, and say which was best for the follower during that particular situation.
I identified the development level of the follower in situation 1 as D4: high competence and high commitment, which means the appropriate leadership style is S4, delegating.
The development level of follower number 2 is D1: low competence and high commitment, which should invoke the S1 style of leadership — directing.
The follower in situation 3 is level D2, low to moderate competence with low commitment. This means that the best leadership style to use is S2: coaching.
Situation 4 contains a follower with moderate to high competence with variable commitment (S3). The best leadership style to use in this situation is S3, supporting.
Part Three: Situational Leadership Questionnaire
A. Do you agree or disagree with the results? Why?
According to the book, I picked all the right leadership styles for the follower development levels. If I hadn’t read the chapter and learned the appropriate behaviors for different followers, though, I would have picked S3 (supporting) for most if not all of the situations. It will take time for me to get accustomed to the idea of using different leadership styles, because supporting isn’t applicable or useful in all situations, especially when the tasks are fairly simple (Lacoma 2015).
B. How does the knowledge of situational leadership styles affect your definition of leadership, if at all?
My definition before this week was:
Leadership is when a person or group has the knowledge and skills to successfully take initiative, whether they choose to or have it thrust upon them, to inspire followers to work together to achieve a common goal.
Taking into account the necessary changes in behavior for different follower development levels, I’m going to change my definition to:
Leadership is when a person or group has the knowledge and skills to successfully take initiative, whether they choose to or have it thrust upon them, to inspire individual followers of differing skill and motivation levels to work together to achieve a common goal.
These changes allow for the special attention and adjustment of style that is sometimes necessary on the part of the leader in order to help develop their followers as fully as possible.
C. How does the knowledge of situational leadership styles affect your view of yourself as a leader, if at all?
I think it helps me understand how I might be limited in some areas of leadership — that there are absolutely some styles that I need to work on and that I need to get better at identifying the development levels of my followers. I’m glad to have identified this gap in my knowledge, because I would like to know as much as possible and better my leadership ability by any means possible.
D. What styles, if any, do you need to acquire to be a better leader?
I’m good at supporting and directing (S3 and S1, respectively). I think I need to learn to be able to coach followers with low motivation; I tend to get frustrated with those who don’t put as much effort or passion into their work as I do instead of exploring how to help them develop that motivation. I also need to get better at delegating. As I am now, it is hard for me to trust those whom I’m working with with tasks enough to give them complete control over any aspect. I need to be able to recognize when people are capable of doing something with little to no supervision and just let them do their thing.