Supporting Leadership Style


Paul Hersey and Kenneth Blanchard in the late 1960s were the first to describe the supporting leadership style.  The supporting leader passes the day-to-day task-related decisions along to the followers.  The followers and the supporting leader jointly participate in making decisions, sometimes carrying them out together.


Along with Daniel Goleman, Hersey and Blanchard were advocates of conditional leadership.  They believed no single style applied to all situations, and a successful leader would flex their leadership style to their operating environment.

The supporting leadership style is used in groups that are not yet comfortable in making decisions, but the followers have the ability to do the job correctly. The leader should support the followers when they are disappointed in progress.

Leadership styles were characterized by Hersey and Blanchard along four behavioral dimensions:

  • Telling: one way communication, providing explicit instructions to followers
  • Selling:  two way communication, providing support to followers so they feel a part of the decision making process
  • Participating:  sharing in the process of decision making
  • Delegating:  responsibility for decision making is passed onto followers

Related Terms

conditional leadership, transactional leadership, transformational leaders