Changing management styles in a changing world

The fast pace of technology and communications is changing the way businesses operate and managers have to embrace this phenomenon as well as leading, motivating and managing others. 

"Situational leadership".....

 Internationally acclaimed US management gurus Paul Heresy and Ken Blanchard developed a concept management style called ‘situational leadership’ back in the mid 1970’s.  The fundamental precept of situational leadership is that there is no one best style and that managers need to be flexible and adapt to their employee needs as they occur. The theory is that leaders are more effective when they use a leadership style based on the individuals or groups they’re leading. The concept of situational leadership considers four general styles of management.

In a supporting role the manager listens to the individual, elicits ideas and encourages the individual to make decisions, solve problems and become self sufficient and productive.  This style is a collaborative and motivating approach and managers are usually supporting experienced employees.  They attempt to instill ownership of the task or plan.

In this style the manager provides specific instructions about the tasks or goals and closely supervises everyone’s performance.  It is used when managing inexperienced employees when they need to understand the task in a short period of time – eg new recruits in the army.  It is also appropriate to use the directive approach when compliance is paramount i.e. health and safety in the workplace.

This style of leadership usually involves a great deal of ‘hands on’ involvement.  This allows for greater two way communication.  Input from the employee is vital and for coaching to be effective, the employee acknowledges any weakness and indicates a willingness to improve or gain extra knowledge.

For some managers, especially in family owned and operated businesses, this is the hardest of the four styles of management.  The manager empowers an individual (who is usually experienced) to act independently, giving responsibility for an area or project and allowing the individual to make decisions as to how to complete the work. It allows for maximum creativity in how the individual chooses to go about accomplishing the task.  This is also reflective of the situation where individuals have the flexibility to work from home.

There has been has been much written about management styles, from communication and leadership to motivating employees. There is no one best practice, it depends on the employee’s competence, maturity and commitment at the time as to which management style to use. In this fast-paced world, technology and communication probably have moved on even since you started reading this article, but has managing people in today’s challenging, flexible, sometimes chaotic work place changed in the 40 years since Hersey and Blanchard developed the situational leadership styles?

In business, many different leadership styles are employed by managers - however, no one style of leadership fits all situations. Understanding different leadership frameworks and styles and employee types allows you to adapt your approach to fit the varying business situations. The way managers engage with their employees makes a noticeable difference to a company’s overall success.

Paddy Battersby, Battersby HR Consulting, 09 838 6338,

12 October 2014
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