How effective is ‘situational leadership’?

How effective is ‘situational leadership’?
Managing a team of people with diverse personalities and capabilities seems like a daunting task but according to one leadership expert, a situational approach to managing a team such as this would make it less of a headache.

“Situational leadership approach lies in a manager’s or leader’s ability to mould his/her management or leadership style based on the task at hand and the ‘maturity’ of their team,” said Sunil Puri, Director – Asia Pacific, Research, Innovation & Product Development at the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL).

It comprises on a leader’s ability to find the right balance between directive and supportive dimensions, he said. 

“Leaders may dial-up or dial-down the emphasis on task and level of empowerment with people depending on what needs to be accomplished.”

He added that it is a practical, intuitive approach to leadership that is widely-practiced and adopted because it “encourages leaders to be more invested in the task at hand and get a better understanding of their teams”.

But the style is not without its critics.

Some point out that it underplays the role of culture, claimed Puri, particularly when viewed in the Asian context.

“Getting a balance between directive-supportive style for instance may manifest differently in Asia as often there are deep cultural nuances around how executives communicate and their values around individualism, hierarchy, and the role of family,” he said.

“Also, since the leader is constantly evaluating team and situation dynamics and tweaking her style, she may get distracted from longer term strategy and vision.”     

There’s no need to change one’s style, however, rather he said that leaders need to be aware of keeping an eye out on longer term strategy.

Four fundamental skills
Puri said that there are four fundamental skills that leaders at all levels need to have, according to CCL studies:

1)    Self-awareness of own abilities, development needs, feelings;
2)    Communicating effectively to get connect with the team, peers, key stakeholders;
3)    Learning agility to value and seek out lessons of experience, learnings from mistakes, being open to feedback; and
4)    Influencing ability to build commitment from people at all levels.

“Leaders with these ‘fundamental 4’ can really lift their game in terms of accomplishing goals through team work,” he said.