Situational Leadership

One of the best and most concise models I’ve ever studied on leadership is the Situational Leadership® model. If you’ve heard of Situational Leadership, then you probably know there are actually two models; SL and SLII. Obviously “SL” refers to the first model and “SLII” refers to a more recently developed model. Understanding the main idea conveyed in these models will absolutely change the way you think about task delegation for individuals and teams.

Situational Leadership® (SL) was developed by Dr. Paul Hersey and Kenneth Blanchard in the late ’60s. Although a new model has been created, the original model is still hailed as

arguably the most recognized, utilized and effective leadership and influence tool in the history of the behavioral sciences.

This model is supported with training opportunities and workshops provided by parent company  The Center for Leadership Studies. SL provides a very clear example of how to successfully delegate tasks through providing just the right amount or blend of direction and support.

The SL and Situational Leadership II (SLII) models both label four quadrants of a square as “S1, S2, S3 and S4.” These quadrants each identify the performance capability of an individual or team in any task or situation. One essential similarity in both models is an agreement on the level of direction and support required in each quadrant.

Here are the basics of the models:

  • If you are “S1” in a task, you don’t know what you don’t know
  • If you are “S2” in a task, you know what you don’t know
  • If you are “S3” in a task, you know what you know
  • If you are “S4” in a task, you don’t know what you know

The goal is to self-diagnose either your own competency in a task which has been delegated to you or the competency in someone to whom you’ve delegated a task. Once you can do that, this diagram will give you some critical information on how to ensure that the task is successfully completed.

Here is how to use the SL model in each of the four quadrants:

  • In “S1” the requirement is high direction and little to no support
  • In “S2” the requirement is high support and high direction
  • In “S3” the requirement is little to no direction and high support
  • In “S4” the requirement is little to no direction and little to no support

This model is incredibly useful because it can explain many of our human behaviors related to task completion and training. If you offer support when direction is needed, you will experience failure. If you offer too much direction when only support is required, you will upset a competent worker with micromanagement. A worker who is “S4” on a task is typically a terrible trainer because he doesn’t know what he knows. How can you expect someone to train on something they don’t even know they know?

Take a look at the websites for Situational Leadership® for yourself using these links below:

The original SL model:

The updated SLII model: