The Theory of Situational Management

The Theory of Situational Management


The theory of situational management stems from the work of Paul Hersey and Kenneth Blanchard (1980). For the authors, a "good" leader is someone who adapts his or her management style to the situation.

The main lessons of the model :

  • There is not one universal management style, but management styles.
  • The effectiveness of management depends on the manager's ability to adopt the style of management that best suits the situation, i.e. the level of autonomy of the employee in a given activity and context.
  • In order to develop each employee, the manager must be able to diagnose the level of development of his or her employees and then deduce their behaviours, based on the needs associated with the level of development.
  • It is therefore quite conceivable that a manager might adopt different leadership styles for the same person in the course of the same day. In the same way, he or she could adopt different leadership styles for different people.

Situational leadership involves the development of three essential skills:

1. To be able to diagnose the level of development of an employee, and to do so dynamically as the context changes;

2. Be able to change leadership style (flexibility - situational intelligence);

3. To be able to establish a partnership (an enabling environment) with each employee with a view to performance and satisfaction.


For the manager, it is first of all a matter of diagnosing the level of development of the employee. By assessing the right level of autonomy, i.e. the employee's level of motivation and skills, the manager can apply the right leadership style.

Level of development
1. Competence 2. Commitment/ Involvement 3. Motivation 4. Self-confidence
Beginner enthusiastic (position M1 in the graph below)
1. Low 2. High 3. High 4. Low
- Recognition (enthusiasm and transferable skills) - Clear objectives - Standardised description of expectations - Unwritten rules about "the work process". - Information about the task and the company. - Practical learning. - Guidelines on how, when and with whom - Deadlines - Priorities - The frame of reference: limits on authority and responsibility. - Regular feedback on results.
Apprentice disillusioned (M2)
1. Low to medium 2. Low 3. Low 4. Medium to high
- Clear objectives - Overall vision - Regular feedback on results. - Recognition of progress - Recognition of the right to make mistakes - Explanations as to why. - Opportunities to discuss concerns - Involvement in the decision-making process and problem-solving. - Encouragement and active listening - Putting difficulties into perspective.
Person capable, careful (M3)
1. Medium to high 2. Variable 3. Good 4. Variable (skills to be developed)
- An available manager-coach - Opportunities to discuss concerns. - Support and encouragement to develop problem-solving skills - Support to look objectively at one's abilities to increase confidence. - Recognition and reward for high levels of competence and performance. - Support to remove barriers to goal achievement Achieving the goal
Expert autonomous (M4)
1. High 2. High 3. High 4. High
- Variety and challenge. - A leader who is more of a guide and collaborator than a superior. - Recognition of contributions. - Recognition of expertise. - Autonomy and authority. - Trust.


Depending on the employee's stage of development, there are 4 possible management positions

DIRECTIVE MANAGEMENT (position S1 in the graph)
- More in organisation than in the relationship, he/she aims first of all to structure his/her team with well-defined objectives objectives, to set the framework - He is the sole decision-maker. - He plans and control.
- Focused on organisation, objectives, and results. - Top-down Top-down. - Schedules, programmes, agendas agendas, job descriptions, checklists, procedures... - Planned checkpoints, with a precise timetable, adhered to.
- speaks, listens little. -answers questions, with questions, with the detail, with an eye for precision / accuracy. -willingly uses the written word (procedures) as a mode of communication and has little interest in questions -seeks legitimacy in his job and likes to be asked about technical issues.
- You manage a crisis or emergency situation. - You take on the management of a new team. - You need to accompany changes in structure or procedures.
• mobilises and unites its teams around a common goal. • decides, and gives instructions but explains the reason why he has taken a particular made a particular decision. decision. • is as much about the organisation as it is about relationship.  • must persuade his or her teams on the value of the objective and motivate them towards achievement
Many explanations: the reasons, the causes, the consequences… • Highlighting of projects, objectives, activities and benefits.  • Control and monitoring of achievements
puts forward projects, exposes its ideas, its convictions.generates and responds to objections. • favours the relationship by small groups for the consultation and training. • likes to pass on and and to make his employees competent is very pedagogue
No hierarchical link (cross-cutting project). • Team of professionals and experts (R&D). • The qualitative aspect of the work is predominant. • The environment is intellectually competitive with other experts.

• works on an equal footing with staff.  • Involves/enables participation, and buy-in • advocates "we" and takes on the role of advisor. • Makes decisions with the team.
• takes into account ideas, suggestions and proposals  • helps to resolve conflicts and advises employees; he/she is a mediator. • develops complex solutions that take into account the mutual interests of employees and companies.
• is not sensitive to external signs of authority. • creates a friendly and relaxed working atmosphere
• The team is mature enough to meet deadlines and targets. • The relational aspect of the work is preponderant: atmosphere, brand image, service companies…
• decide to empower the members of his team. • remains in the background to make room for the initiatives of each and empower • is however present for answer to different solicitations.   • Decision-making responsibility is left to the team
defines the guidelines, objectives, the projects that the employee (or group) will carry out, according to their own self-management methods. • Innovative initiatives missions, objectives or projects can be initiated by the staff or the team, he/she will support. • meet periodically to review the situation but leaves much autonomy
Expresses confidence by being prepared to provide help indirectly : contacts, support, information... is available in case of need, and is a resource.Evaluates the results on an ad hoc basis with the and the team, and gives the right to make mistakes. Do not like to control much even if he has to.
• The collaborators are experienced, competent, and know operate in network. • The team is able, in autonomy, of manage by her even the cohesion of band. • The work lends itself to management by assignments or by rather projects intense and short.

3. BE ABLE TO ESTABLISH A PARTNERSHIP (a favourable framework) with each employee with a view to performance and satisfaction.


Professionalizing management, therefore, consists in adapting (or aligning) one's management style to the employee....

... And to the situation:

  • Managing a situation of radical change with the Direct mode.
  • Share expertise with the Informative/Persuasive mode.
  • Get the creativity of a group to produce with the Participative mode.
  • Develop autonomy using the Delegative mode.