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Overview of Situational Leadership® and Situational Leadership II®

The basic tenet of Situational Leadership is that there is no one best way to lead. Rather, what constitutes effective leadership varies with the "developmental level of the follower(s)" in a group.

Four leadership styles are identified-- Directing, Coaching, Supporting, Delegating -- for leading four types of groups, which range on a continuum of high-to-low membership maturity.

The leadership styles differ in the demonstration of behaviors associated with two theoretically orthogonal dimensions:

  1. Dimension on supportive behavior.
  2. Dimension on directive behavior.

How Situational Leadership II Relates to SYMLOG Field Theory

Situational Leadership in SYMLOG Space

Plot in SYMLOG Space of
Situational Leadership II® (Hersey & Blanchard) Curve
(Click image to enlarge)

The two dimensions of Situational Leadership (SL II) correspond to Bales' Positive and Forward dimensions. SL II does not treat the second pole of either dimension, nor explicitly address Bales's third dimension of Dominance-Submissiveness (Upward-Downward) in the four styles of Situational Leadership. The four styles only express behaviors associated with the PF quadrant of the PN-FB plane.

The table below shows the four Situational Leadership styles and corresponding SYMLOG vectors. Thus, SL II's "prescriptive" curve can be heuristically positioned in the SYMLOG field diagram as shown in the figure.

Table: Situational Leadership Styles and Corresponding SYMLOG Vectors

Situational Leadership II


Developmental Level of Followers Leadership Style Behavioral Characteristics Vectoral Type where,
P = Friendly behavior
F = Task-oriented, instrumental, authority-oriented behavior
U = Dominant behavior
D1: low (developing = immature) S1: Directing (Telling) high directive (task) & low supportive (relationship) PF-F, or U-PF-F (with moderate U)
D2: low-to-moderate S2: Coaching (Selling) high directive (task) & high supportive (relationship) PF, or U-PF (with moderate U)
D3: moderate-to-high S3: Supporting (Participating) high supportive (relationship) & low directive (task) P-PF, or U-P-PF (with moderate U)
D4: high (developed = mature S4: Delegating low supportive (relationship) & low directive (task) PF, or U-PF (with high U)

Selected References

Hersey, P., & Blanchard, K. (1977). Management of organizational behavior: Utilizing human resources. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Hersey, P., & Keilty, J. W. (1980). Interaction influence analysis. Escondido, CA: Center for Leadership Studies.

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