There are many types of leaders that are working hard in today’s world. You’ll see leaders who are directing people as tasks are completed, or goals are formed by being specific with their instructions. Some leaders coach others toward success by encouraging independent skill development while offering moments of teaching.
Some leaders prefer to roll up their sleeves and get to work with everyone, coaching as they work to promote equality within their team. There are also leaders who take more of a hands-off approach, delegating work to others or observing their development from afar, then stepping in to provide advice only when it becomes necessary.
Then there is a fifth type of leader: the situational leader.
Situational leaders evaluate the situation, the circumstances, and the individuals involved in their approach. Then they choose the most appropriate type of leadership style to use for that given circumstance. Instead of being locked into one general leadership style, all of them are incorporated into their approach.
Here are the advantages and disadvantages of situational leadership to think about and discuss.
List of the Advantages of Situational Leadership
1. It recognizes the need for flexibility.
Even though we can all find common ground with other people at some level, humans are unique individuals. We all have different experiences and perspectives that create diversity. Instead of treating everyone equally from a singular perspective, the situational leader recognizes the need to be flexible. They don’t insist on a specific set of rules that must be followed by everyone. Instead, the create an environment where people are encouraged to come forward and share so that everyone can find success.
2. It creates a comfortable environment for workers.
Situational leaders work to create a style that is based on the readiness level of their team or their needs. For most workers, that creates a situation which allows them to be comfortable with their job duties. When workers are satisfied, they stay more productive. This allows the leader to motivate individual employees in a way that matches their needs, giving everyone a better chance to reach a positive outcome.
3. It takes different developmental phases into account.
Instead of lumping all employees into one generic category, the situational leader looks at individual situations. Their goal is to evaluate the competency of each worker, then boost motivation levels based on the style which is most useful for that person. This approach improves the effectiveness of a team by maximizing the output of each individual member of the team. Because this leadership style allows for changes to be made, leaders get to switch between the different styles that are most effective at each readiness level.
4. It increases the awareness of the leader.
Situational leaders must always be on their toes if they are going to be successful. People change and evolve based on the daily circumstances they encounter. If there is a bad morning for a worker, then their capacity for stress will be likely diminished. By adapting to the change, the situational leader can adopt an approach that will help that worker stay productive. At the same time, empathy is developed within the leadership of the agency because each worker must be approached correctly. The only way to get to know someone is to step into their shoes.
5. It helps a team be able to work better together.
The approach of a situational leader is intuitive and flexible. The maturity of a team is always reflected in their leadership. These leaders can approach direct reports at any level of maturity to provide them with the counsel they may require. This allows team members to find common ground with each other, which reduces the risks of internal conflict developing. When a situational leader is responsible and quick, problems dissipate before they become issues that interrupt the day.
6. It boosts the training routine.
Situational leaders focus on short-term needs. That allows them to tailor training scenarios for new workers that will bring them up to speed quickly. This advantage enables the leader to find educational opportunities for their established workers as well. The goal here is to ensure that every worker receives a chance to improve themselves in some way each day. Although the leader cannot force their direct reports to take these opportunities, there is still a positive response when it is communicated that development options are available.
List of the Disadvantages of Situational Leadership
1. It focuses more on immediate needs than long-term needs.
Situational leadership is based more on meeting an exact need, at the moment, then an approach which looks toward the long-term needs of a team. Instead of staying focused on the overall objectives, situational managers can fall into a trap where they are evaluating or responding to an immediate circumstance all the time. That allows for fires to be put out and morale to be salvaged, but it also creates issues where personal development can be stalled.
2. It can be ineffective in task-orientated environments.
Managers who find themselves in a position where tasks must be completed in specific ways will find the flexibility of being situational to be disadvantageous in many circumstances. That is because they’re being asked to follow a particular set of rules, policies, or regulations that are inflexible. When the situational leader cannot be flexible, then their strengths are taken away from them. They’re forced to be more in a telling space than a listening space, which means they’re stuck in one core leadership style, even when trying to be effective.
3. It can be challenging to define maturity.
Maturity in leadership settings takes on two different meanings. There is the emotional maturity of the worker to consider, as well as the job maturity which comes from employee experience. With situational leadership, it is easy to conflate the two. People who are emotionally mature are not always mature in their job responsibilities.
4. It does not provide enough information for some leaders.
One of the most significant disadvantages of situational leadership is the fact that people respond in different ways to various leadership styles. Although the theory behind this form of leadership attempts to bring equality into the workplace, there is no substitute for real experience. One primary example of this is the difference between men, women, and transgender workers. It is impossible to fully understand a different perspective when it does not apply to you. That causes the leadership traits to change, and the responses offered by the situational leader may be inappropriate for the situation.
5. It is based on the skill level of the leader.
Situational leaders have a skill set, just like any other worker. If the leader is adept at reading changing situations and understands what people need, then they can be useful in their role. If this skill set has not been fully developed for the leader, then their responses will not be as effective. In some situations, the situational leader may do more harm than good because they misread the situation, formulating an answer that is inappropriate.
6. It creates a corporate dependency.
Once a situational leader begins to work, there is no turning back for that team. The company is forced to stick with that type of leadership because other leadership styles only focus on the structure or process. They do not focus on the developmental aspect of leader/worker relationships. If the situational leader leaves the company and a suitable replacement cannot be found, it could lead to a complete turnover of the team.
7. It may create confusion within the company.
Situational leaders will shift their approach to meet the needs of each worker. When direct reports see this change occur, it can leave them with questions. A shift from a delegation style to a telling style might feel like the leader has a growing distrust of the worker. A shift in the other direction could make it difficult for workers to know what to do, even if they’re ready to be working on their own. The only fix to this potential disadvantage is to have frequent and transparent communication, which takes time away from the actual work that may need to be done.
The advantages and disadvantages of situational leadership allow for greater flexibility in the workplace. It gives each team member an advantage because their leader is adapting their personal approaches to meet specific needs. To be successful, the situational must have high emotional intelligence, be empathetic, and continue to keep an eye on long-term strategies while meeting short-term needs.
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