Situational Leadership Styles


A leadership model that links the effectiveness of a leader's style to the current work environment is referred to as situational leadership.  Described by both Goleman and Blanchard, a deep understanding of conditional leadership allows the manager to change their leadership style as conditions warrant.


Goleman and Blanchard agree that most managers exhibit multiple leadership styles at work; however, the dominant style should be matched to the current environment to maximize the manager's effectiveness.  Goleman used his emotional intelligence model, and leveraged what he learned through research, to come up with six conditional leadership styles:

  • Coercive:  accomplishes task by bullying employees; works best when a fast company turnaround is needed.
  • Authoritative:  an expert that knows what needs to get done; works best when the workgroup is without clear direction.
  • Affiliative:  promotes harmony and helps to solve problems; works best when morale is low and teambuilding is needed.
  • Democratic:  gives followers a vote in nearly every decision; a time consuming style that requires knowledgeable employees.
  • Pacesetting:  sets very high work standards for themselves and the followers; works best when followers are skilled and morale is high.
  • Coaching:  clearly defines roles and tasks, focus is on two way communication; works best when followers are experienced and agreeable.

Blanchard derived four situational leadership™ styles, which were based on two basic kinds of leadership behaviors, directive and supportive:

  • Directing:  provides specific instructions and closely monitors progress; works best when followers are inexperienced.
  • Coaching:  see explanation above.
  • Supporting:  provides direction and works together with followers to solve problems; works best when followers are not yet comfortable making decisions.
  • Delegating:  turns over responsibility for making decisions to followers; works best when followers are experienced and comfortable making decisions.

Related Terms

transformational leaders, transactional leaders