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The Hersey and Blanchard situational leadership model categorises leadership styles as S1 to S4 according to the level of direction and support provided by the leader:
S1 – Telling: The leader gives specific directions to the followers on how to perform a specific task, who will have little or no input to the situation due to lack of knowledge or commitment. This will arise when a new team is being formed, or a new member joins a team, who doesn’t have the skills or knowledge to work unassisted.
S2 – Selling: The leader still provides the majority of the direction, but now seeks to explain the purpose of the task. This may arise when a team is relatively immature, having some of the skills to perform the job, yet lack the motivation or commitment to perform the work unassisted. An example can be a new graduate who lacks the knowledge however is enthusiastic and willing to try.
S3 – Participating: The leader and followers start making decisions together about how the task can be better accomplished. The leader becomes less directive and supports followers in their decisions. An example can be a subject matter expert or younger members of the team who may not have the confidence or authorisation to communicate with senior management.
S4 – Delegating: The leader still remains involved to monitor the task, but predominately full responsibility and accountability for performing the task lies with the follower. An example of this could be an experienced and competent team that is confident and familiar with the processes.
No one style is considered to be the best in all situations. PMs need to be flexible and adapt their style according to the specific circumstances. They also need to consider maturity level of the followers, shown as M1 – M4 in the model, which depends on their experience and confidence levels. The maturity levels are also task specific as a follower may be experienced and confident in performing a specific task but lacking the skills to perform a new one.