Hersey And Blanchard’s Situational Leadership Theory

Hersey Blanchard came up with the Situational Leadership Model. It says you can’t say one leadership style is better than the other. You can’t say that one leadership style is good and the other is bad. Rather, the model’s main focus is the people the leader will lead and their abilities to perform.

The situational leadership model suggests that the leader should alter his leadership style and stay flexible depending on the team members. The leadership style implementation depends upon the type of task allotted and the leader-member relations.

The situational leadership theory is highly based on the maturity levels of the team members. The leadership style will depend on the team members’ nature and the tasks’ complexity.

An Overview Of The Hersey And Blanchard’s Situational Leadership Theory

Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard came up with the Situational model. They believed that the leadership style needed to remain dynamic. Rather, it would be flexible and depend upon the tasks allotted to the task force and the leader’s relationship with the workforce. 

In the model, they presented that the maturity levels of the members will also play a key role in determining the choice of leadership style. 

The members with high maturity levels might need minimal direction and instructions from the leaders. Those members with a low maturity level will need special directions from the leaders. Hence, there will be differences in the application of leadership styles when the maturity levels among the members differ.

Four situational leadership styles will apply to different situations. These include telling style, selling style, participating style, and delegating style.

As per the Hersey Blanchard model, the implementation of leadership style will depend on the maturity levels of the members.  

The Approach Of The Situational Leadership Model

The situational model or the Hersey Blanchard model stresses the four important leadership styles, which can be applied based on the maturity levels of the members. Here are some of the vital elements of the model.

1. The extent of maturity levels

The extent of maturity levels would mean how mature the team members are. The situational leadership model, or the Hersey Blanchard model, focuses on four maturity levels. These include M1, M2, M3 and M4.

  • M1: The group members need to be more skilled and have very low maturity to perform the job. They do not have enough knowledge, and at the same time, there is no willingness to work.
  • M2: The group members have the willingness, but they lag back in skills and knowledge. 
  • M3: The group members have the willingness as well as the skills. They also have thorough knowledge. But they are afraid to take responsibility.
  • M4: The group members are skilled experts with good knowledge and willingness to do the task. They are also ready to take responsibility.

2. The leadership styles as per the model

The model consists of 4 leadership styles. They are:

  • Telling style: This leadership style makes the leader tell the members how something should be done. The members depend on the leader to start and complete a particular task. 

  • Selling style: This leadership style includes the leader selling their ideas and the members buying them. There is no actual buy or sell transaction here, but the leader should motivate the members to complete the task promptly.

  • Participating style: This leadership style does not direct or instruct the group members. Rather, the leader allows members to participate in certain processes to feel valued.

  • Delegating style: This leadership style includes delegating tasks to smart workers. Those members make the relevant decisions when needed, and they also take responsibility for the work that they do. These members are self-starters and need very little leader intervention.

3. How to match the leadership style with the maturity levels of the members?

As per Hersey Blanchard’s situational leadership model, here’s how leaders can decide which leadership style will match which maturity levels.

  • The telling style matches with M1, meaning the lowest maturity level. Initially, this leadership style will be effective when the member joins the organization or the team. The member may have low skills, knowledge, and maturity levels so that the telling style will be prompt at this stage.

  • Medium maturity levels will need a selling style as the effective leadership style. Members might have moderate levels of maturity and a need for more motivation. With the selling style of leadership, the members with M2 will benefit.

  • For medium maturity levels, one more leadership style might be effective. This style is participative. Members of the M3 maturity group might perform decently, but they need more confidence and may be willing to take responsibility. For the M3 group, the participative style is the best. In the participative leadership style, the leaders let the members participate in the company processes to gain better confidence levels. 

  • For group M4 which includes skilled and responsible members, the delegating leadership style seems to be the most suitable. The members are confident that they can perform the tasks well, take responsibility, and make project decisions. The delegating style works here because the leaders confide in the members, and even if members are mature enough to make the relevant decisions, the process works smoothly.

What Are The Challenges In The Hersey Blanchard Situational Leadership Model?

The model faces several challenges, and they are mentioned hereunder:

  • The situational leadership model might only work in some situations. Even though it looks practical, it is only applicable in some situations.

  • This model must sync with the company’s long-term goals and objectives. It covers only the level of maturity and work delegation. But here, there is no mention of the other factors.

  • Sometimes, the leaders have to be rigid and might not consider the maturity levels as the decisive factors because there might be other factors like limited resources, time constraints and fewer options at the resort. Since these things are not considered, the model must be completely equipped.

  • The model depends too much on the leader, and his decision might be flawed or biased.

Despite these challenges, the Hersey Blanchard Leadership model is considered one of the most popular.

Hersey-Blanchard Model And Leadership Styles

-The model emphasizes the importance of adapting leadership style to suit the situation and the needs of the followers.

-The model proposes four leadership styles: directing, coaching, supporting, and delegating.

-The leadership styles are matched to the maturity level of the followers, which is assessed based on their competence and commitment to the task.

-The directing style is appropriate for followers who are low in competence and high in commitment.

-The coaching style is appropriate for followers who are low to moderate in competence and variable in commitment.

-The supporting style is appropriate for followers who are moderate to high in competence and low in commitment.

-The delegating style is appropriate for followers who are high in competence and high in commitment.

-Effective leaders must be able to adapt their style to suit the needs of their followers and the demands of the situation.

-The model emphasizes the importance of flexibility and situational leadership.


The Situational Leadership Model considers the strengths and weaknesses of the team members and hence provides the flexibility to the leader to decide which leadership style will work in one particular case. 

The Hersey Blanchard model came up with different leadership styles and situations based on the members’ maturity levels.

Many leadership models exist, and this model is one of the most popular ones. Every company wants the best for its organization. 

Implementing the right leadership style will allow the members to grow in sync with the organization. The model is based on the thought that leadership styles change based on the situation and are not static.

The leaders have to be flexible, and this is what makes the model practical and applicable in situations where the strengths and weaknesses of the members have to play a key role.

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