Situational Leadership Models

Situational leadership models  


There is a saying which many of us heard and most of us have experienced – “change is the only constant.” And this saying is equally true in individuals’ professional and personal lives across professions, countries, and organizations.  So in this changing world, both organizations and professionals must keep learning new techniques & tools for managing the projects successfully.

One such project management tool which project management professionals can apply is the situational leadership model. The organization leadership must hence incorporate situational leadership models for their teams’ overall growth and development.

In this brief blog, we will discuss the different aspects of situational leadership and how to map these to the development stages of the team or an individual.

Intended audience

The leadership style and its application are perhaps most useful to leadership roles such as project managers, program managers, scrum masters, agile coaches, technical project managers, engineering managers, software development managers, QA managers, and other similar roles.

Situational leadership – what is it?

As a project manager, you would know that every project is unique. One of the first things you consider doing at the beginning of the project is to tailor the process, methodology, life cycles, and development approaches per the project’s needs. Situational leadership, as the name suggests, is a  similar concept. As a leader, you would be applying a different and unique leadership style based on the team’s development or an individual.

While there are multiple situational leadership models out there, in this blog, we will focus on the one created by Ken Blanchard, which is known as the SLII

Situational leadership II

In the SLII model, two main variables are used to measure the project team member’s development

  • Competence is the combination of the ability, knowledge, and skills of a project team or team member.
  • Commitment – this is the confidence and motivation of the team members or a project team.

Based on these two variables, competence and commitment, the SLII model identifies four different stages of development – for the project team. Those are as follows,

  1. D1 – The team at this stage has low competence, but they have a high commitment – hence these teams or members are called Enthusiastic Beginner
  2. D2 – The team at this stage has a low or mediocre competence level but low commitment – these are called as Disillusioned Learner
  3. D3 –The team at this stage has high competence, may be earned through experience,  but they have low or variable commitments – such groups or members are Capable but Cautious Performers
  4. D4 – The team at this stage has high competence & they have a high commitment to go with it – these are Self-reliant Achievers

The main idea of SLII is to 1st identify which level your project team is at. This assessment is a crucial step. Based on the knowledge of the development level of a team, as a project lead, you would be applying the appropriate leadership style.

Like the development levels, the SLII also identifies four different leadership styles,

  1. Directing – A leadership style in which a leader leads subordinates and peers on what work should be done, how it should be done when it should be done etc. This is more like an authoritarian style of leadership. Now, this leadership style may not sound right ever – it does have its place in certain limited situations, specifically in a time-constrained environment with a team that is not self-capable.
  2. Coaching – A leadership style in which the leader focuses on team collaboration, involving the team members in decision-making. Many sports team managers usually adapt to the coaching style for effective team collaboration and better team cohesion.  in this leadership style, the team  have their voice and can express their opinions, but  one of the disadvantages of this leadership style could be that if there are multiple different opinions between team members on a particular decision or topic, then reaching the consensus can be time-consuming
  3. Supporting – In this leadership style, the leader supports the team in their work and other activities. The leader allows the team to make decisions (while still participating in the decision-making process). These leaders may appear to be quiet, as most of the stuff is driven by the team. They are equal team members embedded in the group. Because they are not simply tossing on the work to others but supporting doing some of it themselves, they would gain empathy from the other team members.
  4. Delegating – This leadership, also known as laissez-faire leadership – prefers to delegate much of the work, decision-making to the team. Since the team is empowered with freedom and can be more creative, innovative, and try out many different explorations. Now that most of the work is handled by the team, the leaders can focus on a broader vision for the product, project, and organization.

Mapping leadership styles to the development level

Now that we have learned about the four different development levels and four different leadership styles, it is time to map these two together.  Below is the table that shows which leadership styles are most appropriate for which team development level.

What below mapping shows is if you have identified the development level of your team as say D3 – that means you have people in your team who are experienced and able to do the task but lack the confidence or the willingness to take on responsibility – you should use the traits from the “Supporting” leadership style.


Development level Leadership style
D1 – Enthusiastic Beginner Directing
D2 – Disillusioned Learner Coaching
D3 – Capable but Cautious Performers Supporting
D4 – Self-reliant Achievers Delegating

Final thoughts

In this brief blog, we saw how the SLII model could be helpful to leaders to select and apply a particular leadership style based on the development stages of the team. One of the key aspects of successful leadership is to identify the true nature of your team, their preferences – and then apply the appropriate leadership style to bring the best out of them.

Good luck!!






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