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The Situational Leadership® Approach: One Size Doesn’t Fit All

Team leader talks with colleagues about Situational Leadership®
The Situational Leadership® Approach: One Size Doesn’t Fit All

Learn how the Situational Leadership® Modal can help leaders adapt their approach for improved performance and agility based on individual and team readiness levels.

To a casual observer, leadership might seem like a one-size-fits-all role. However, in reality, it is far more nuanced. 

Just like an experienced sailor changes his path according to the shifting winds and tides, an effective leader needs to be able to adjust their approach based on the situation at hand.

There is no ‘template’ for leadership, and we should be suspicious of anyone who claims otherwise.

Welcome to the dynamic world of the Situational Leadership® Modal that can act as a compass in your journey to becoming the inspiring leader your people need. 

What Is the Situational Leadership® Modal?

Any leader worth their salt knows there are plenty of variables to consider when you work with a team. All members have their own unique:


  • Temperament
  • Learning style 
  • Background and experience
  • Ego 
  • Motivators
  • Area of expertise

How you can adjust your style in response to these variables is what will define you as a Situational Leader.

In its essence, the Situational Leadership® Model explains that there is no one single leadership style that is always correct. Instead, it highlights flexibility, encouraging leaders to shift between different leadership styles, taking into account both the dynamics of their team and the challenges at hand. 

What Are the Leadership Styles of the Situational Leadership® Framework?

The Situational Leadership® Model consists of four distinct leadership styles. Each of these are employed depending on the Performance Readiness® of the team member performing the specific task. 

Style 1: Telling 

“Telling”, also known as directing and guiding, is when you, as the leader, make most of the decisions and “tell” your team members to follow them. You provide specific instructions about roles and goals and closely supervise the individual’s or team’s performance. However, that doesn’t mean you are not open to suggestions. 

This leadership style is extremely helpful in emergencies when immediate actions need to be taken, or in situations where a team member does not have the necessary experience and skill set to perform the task at hand or when they are not motivated. Perfect for beginners. 

Style 2: Selling

In the “Selling” leadership style, you provide two-way communication and reinforce small successes to boost the team or team member’s participation. You help team members develop and improve their skills through the use of encouragement and constructive feedback. 

This style is useful when team member has little to no experience or competence to perform a task independently but demonstrates enthusiasm or motivation. 

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Style 3: Participating

The “Participating” style is used when a team member has demonstrated the competence required to perform a task, but lacks the confidence or motivation to do so. Here, your role as a leader is to encourage them to take a more hands-on role in coming up with ideas and making decisions. 

You support them by removing obstacles, asking questions, and serving as a sounding board.

Style 4: Delegating

So, what do you do when a team member is experienced, confident, and motivated to successfully complete an assigned task? You take a step back and let them do their thing.

In the “Delegating” leadership style, you assign tasks, roles, and responsibilities to the experienced team members. But here, you take on a more supportive behavior by only monitoring the progress without getting involved. The group or team member works on their own and updates you when needed. 

situational leadership

When To Use Each Leadership Style?

The Situational Leadership® Model is based on the idea that the most effective leadership style depends on the Performance Readiness® level of the individual or team being led. 

Here are the four levels of Performance Readiness®

Unable and Insecure or Unwilling (R1)

It’s natural for developing team members who don’t have the specific skill set required for a task to be insecure or unwilling to perform it. This calls for a more directive style (S1), where you give detailed instructions on what to do, how to do it, and by when.

Unable but Confident or Willing (R2)

These team members have some skills, but not at the level that’s needed to be successful in performing the task. However, they demonstrate confidence and motivation for the task. 

The most appropriate leadership style to use here is one that explains decision making and provides clarification (S2). 

Able but Insecure or Unwilling (R3)

These team members are highly skilled and might even have more expertise than you in their respected field! However, they are experiencing low confidence or insecurity about performing a particular task on their own for the first time. 

The leadership style that best supports this situation is one that encourages team members and inspires risk-taking (S3). The skills and knowledge of the team member can be combined to tackle the challenge at hand.

Able and Confident and Willing (R4)

These developed team members are highly skilled, and they have a high level of confidence and commitment for the task. This calls for a more delegating style (S4), where you will empower them to work independently toward achieving agreed-upon goals. 

What Are the Benefits of the Situational Leadership® Approach?

Integrating the Situational Leadership® Model into the fabric of your culture: 

  • Provides a common language of performance

Situational Leadership® training establishes a common language that enables you and your team to gain alignment on tasks, address barriers to success, communicate needs, and provide support. 

  • Enables agility

In the face of change and disruption, the Situational Leadership® framework serves as a roadmap that allows organizations to navigate ambiguity and get back on track faster. 

  • Reduces time to autonomy

When your team understands their roles and responsibilities within the organization and are given a framework to assess their own performance and communicate their needs, it accelerates the quality and pace of development. 

  • Helps leaders and their teams thrive

As a leader, you are equipped with the skills to own your role in the leadership process by identifying and communicating what you need to be successful. This also means more engaged team members — and that is the foundation for innovation.

Unlock Your Leadership Potential With the Situational Leadership® Model 

DOOR International has been at the forefront of leadership development for more than four decades. We truly believe that the Situational Leadership® Model is more relevant today than it has ever been for leaders across all industries and in every walk of life. 

But enough about us. Here’s what world-leading organizations who use the Situational Leadership® framework to accelerate their performance say:

“Situational Leadership® gives us a road map for how to behave, provide perspective, and approach the new way of thinking.” — Hilti Group 

“Situational Leadership® is fundamental to how we wanted our managers to behave – how to adapt their leadership style and how to affect others’ perception of them as leaders.” — Lafargeholcim North America 

DOOR International is an authorized partner of The Center of Leadership Studies, and is able to deliver Situational Leadership® training, the most successful and widely adopted leadership training available.

We deliver training programs that can empower your leaders to build meaningful connections that drive exponential growth.If you’re ready to propel your organization to the next level, download the Situational Leadership® brochure here, or contact us today to get started. 

Situational Leadership® is a registered trademark of Leadership Studies, lnc. dba The Center for Leadership Studies