As a leader, have you ever wondered to yourself, what the best leadership styles are to drive performance in your organization? By default, being a leader means you understand your employee’s needs, understand their capabilities and understand their commitment levels. But what leadership styles are effective to achieve the intended results for your organization?

In order to understand the right leadership styles applicable to different situations, we recently held a workshop on Situational Leadership with Pauline Ndonga, Senior Program Manager at Amani Institute on the 7th of October 2021.

Pauline began the workshop by stating that more often than not, employees know what is expected of them. As a leader, one needs to understand that their role should be that of inspiring, empowering and assuring the employees of your confidence in their work and their abilities while working around areas of improvement. This type of leadership is referred to as situational leadership, which is an adaptive leadership style developed by Kenneth Blanchard and Paul Hersey.

With Situational leadership, a leader adjusts their style to allow for the inclusion of the development of team members as opposed to traditional leadership where employees need to fit into the leader’s needs. Thus, this type of leadership style needs for a leader to possess the following traits:

  • Insight – This is necessary for understanding the needs of your employees and adjusting one’s management style to suit those needs.
  • Flexibility -Also known as adaptability, it allows a leader to be able to move seamlessly across various leadership styles while interchanging them.
  • Trust– As a leader, you need to get trust and confidence from your employees
  • Problem-solving – With these skills, you can manage to provide solutions to employees needs using the best leadership style.
  • Coaching – As a leader, being able to evaluate the maturity and competence of your employees is a necessity in getting results. It entails applying the right strategy to get the best results out of your employees.

During the workshop, Pauline Ndonga explained that there were four styles of situational leadership and these styles were subject to variables such as competency levels and commitment levels.

What then are the situational leadership styles?

1. Telling Leadership Style

Caption: Illustration of Telling Leadership style

In this scenario of leadership, the leader normally provides directives and makes decisions around tasks with employees benefitting from the experience of the leader. This style fits best for employees who are developing thus falling into the D1 category also known as enthusiastic beginners who  possess the following traits:

Competence skills

  • New to the goal or task
  • Inexperienced

Commitment levels

  • Eager to learn, curious, willing to learn and take direction
  • High commitment levels
  • Enthusiastic and excited
  • Confident about transferable skills and confident learning would be difficult.

2 . Selling Leadership style 

In this style of leadership, a leader will tell employees what to do but will leave room for discussion on the orchestration of the task or goal at hand. With this style, the leader recognises commitment from the employees and encourages them to have buy-in in decisions.

Caption 2: Illustration of Selling Leadership style

This technique is applicable for employees who fall within the D2 category of employees, better known as the disillusioned learner  and possesses the following characteristics:

Competence skills

  • Has some knowledge and skills, learning not yet completed
  • Doesn’t know how to move forward
  • Inconsistent performance and progress

Commitment levels

  • Discouraged and frustrated may be ready to quit
  • Overwhelmed or demotivated
  • Confused and concerned about making a mistake

3. Participating Leadership Style

This technique of leadership involves a collaborative and participatory approach with the leader allowing the employee to provide suggestions and feedback on allocated tasks. In this scenario, a leaders role is to coach the employee to recognise the causes of low performance and come up with solutions through open-ended questioning. 

Caption 3: Illustration of Participating Leadership style

It is an appropriate style for employees who fall in the  D3 category where an employee is capable and cautious in their contribution levels. Such an employee  possesses the following characteristics:

Competence-based skills 

  • Demonstrated competence, experienced
  • Makes productive contributions
  • Generally skilful and adapt

Commitment levels

  • Sometimes hesitant, unsure and tentative
  • Not always confident and self-critical at times
  • May be bored or apathetic

4. Delegating Leadership Technique

This form of leadership follows a member-driven paradigm, whereby the leader wants to create mastery of a task. In this instance, the employee is usually highly competent and motivated as well as committed to the task. 

Caption 4 : Illustration of Delegating Leadership Style

This method is therefore applicable for employees who are self-reliant and therefore fall within the D4 Category and possess the following characteristics:

Competence-based skills 

  • Accomplished
  • Consistently competent
  • Recognised by others as an expert

Commitment levels

  • Self-reliant, autonomous
  • Justifiably, confident and self-assured
  • Inspired and inspires others

These were some highlights touched upon by Pauline during the workshop on Situational Leadership workshop. She concluded the webinar by stating that leadership was a two-way process and needed commitment and team effort to achieve successful results for your organization.