The early beginning of situational leadership was when I was responsible for training in a major Research and Development Laboratory. One of the real dramatic insights for me was if we did a good job of training these specific skills, it would work one time, it wouldn’t work the next. Situational leadership then is a response to a normative approach that says there are some normative values and attitudes and feelings that managers should have. That most people can become leaders given an opportunity to grow and develop, that leaders aren’t just the chosen few. You are born to be a leader. You can learn to be effective in an influenced role, in a leadership role. And what situational leadership then did was to take a lot of these early works of various people like Maslow, like Hertzberg, like Douglas McGregor and many, many others and take these various strands of colored yarn and for the first time, try to weave them together into a fabric where you can begin to see the connections between them.
Well I think situational leadership is more relevant today than it’s ever been for a variety of reasons. One reason certainly is that results are more important. We’re more concerned about staying in business. We know that competition is there. It’s no longer do we have the market in the palm of our hands. If we do, it’s only for a short period of time. And in today’s world where change is constant and it’s no longer a question of change but how rapidly we’re going to change, of continually looking at the future and matching with it. The ability to look and vision in terms of where we need to be, we also need a model that helps us utilize in a very effective way; our human resources at the individual level, at the team level, at the strategic level. We need these kinds of things to maximize our position within a constantly changing environment.
In today’s world where we’re facing is dramatic need to change, to be competitive, to continually look towards the future, and be clear on our vision. And yet be clear that our vision is going to change. That leadership now is so important that the whole concept of how we change an organization is not by changing down on the work floor but by getting the commitment and understanding at the very top of an organization, and then having a clear direction of how we’re going to make these things happen in a positive way.
And who can be a situational leader? A sales manager, a night shift supervisor, an MBA, an elementary school teacher, a plant manager, the parents of three kids. A situational leader is anybody, anywhere who recognizes that influencing behavior is not an event but a process. The process entails assessing follower performance in relation to what the leader wants to accomplish and providing the appropriate amounts of guidance and support. The situational leader is concerned about people, concerned about results, and behaves in a manner where everybody wins.