Wk3: Case StudyRefer to Case 3: Operational Problem, Chapter 5, page 72. Apply the instructions from #1 and #2 listed on page 70 for applying to Case 3.
Using APA 7th Edition guidelines, write a minimum of 1,000-1,500 word paper including the following headings and content (note the word count at the end of the paper):
Include at least two Quotations, Citations, and References – one from Leadership for Organizations and one other source.
Leadership for Organizations
The Situational Approach to Leadership
By: David A. Waldman & Charles O’Reilly
Book Title: Leadership for Organizations
Chapter Title: "The Situational Approach to Leadership"
Pub. Date: 2020
Access Date: November 6, 2022
Publishing Company: SAGE Publications, Inc.
City: Thousand Oaks
Print ISBN: 9781544332727
Online ISBN: 9781544360508
Print pages: 55-76
© 2020 SAGE Publications, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
This PDF has been generated from SAGE Knowledge. Please note that the pagination of the online
version will vary from the pagination of the print book.
The Situational Approach to Leadership
The Situational Approach to Leadership
“Motivation is based on what you bring to it as an individual. What is motivational to one person isn’t motivational to another.”
— Bob Nelson, author and management consultant
• 5.1 Identify why flexible approaches to the situational approach to leadership are more practical
• 5.2 Apply the situational approach to leadership to instances involving day-to-day leader behavior, as well as specifically to decision-making
• 5.3 Appraise the potential problems with applying the situational approach to principles
• 5.4 State other important leadership issues that are not taken into account by situational approaches to leadership
A question that is continually addressed in this book is: What makes for effective leadership? For many years, the predominant approach to understanding effective leadership was to identify behavioral factors that would be practiced by any good leader across situations and contexts. In other words, the predominant approach was generic. Thus, the types of styles that were identified in chapter 2, such as relations- and task-oriented leadership, were considered to be universal behavioral qualities that should be practiced across situations and contexts.
On the other hand, when asked what effective leadership is all about, one thing that is likely to come to mind for many people is that “it depends.” And rightfully so—to a large extent, it does depend. Effective leadership, and more specifically the behavioral style that should be emphasized, partly depends on the nature of the people who the leader is attempting to lead, or followers. As mentioned in chapter 1, it may also depend on the greater context in which the leader and followers find themselves. That greater context can include a host of factors such as industry, institution or type of work, and even the geographical context.
In this chapter, we will explore what it depends is all about. As we will see, this situational point of view of effective leadership has a number of practical implications for how leaders should lead on a day-to-day, or problem-to-problem, basis.1 On the other hand, it also has a number of challenges for leaders. For example, getting an accurate reading of followers and their needs and expectations can be challenging. However, such a reading is critical if a situational approach to leadership is to be effective.
There are two ways to consider this approach. The first is an inflexible manner of leading. It essentially assumes that a leader has a predominant style that is not flexible. In other words, the leader will attempt to use a desired or “comfortable” style, regardless of the situation. For example, a leader with a predominantly task- oriented, directive style will want to use it regardless of the nature of the followers whom he or she is leading and regardless of the context. So even if the situation called for a more people-oriented approach, the leader would still want to remain task oriented or directive.2 One possibility would be to simply place such a leader in a context that, at least for the most part, would benefit from a task-oriented, directive leader. Examples might include situations in which work standards or conduct have become lax, in which workers were accustomed to such leadership in the past, and in certain jobs or institutions in which directive leadership is the norm (e.g., military or paramilitary organizations).
Likewise, there are some contexts that institutional norms and the nature of workers typically require more of
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a people-oriented or participative style. Examples include the leading of knowledge workers (e.g., university faculty members, computer science specialists, and engineers) and volunteer organizations. A leader with a predominantly people-oriented or participative style would be placed in such contexts.
Accordingly, an inflexible approach could make sense at times. If a particular leader is known for being task oriented or directive, it could be a good match for some situations, while being more of a people-oriented or participative leader might make sense in other situations. In other words, the situation is static, and there is not much need for leader flexibility in terms of the type of style that might be shown toward followers.
a way of considering situational approaches to leadership whereby a leader’s style is considered to be static (or not flexible), and the leader is matched to the prevailing situation.
But with that said, there are two key problems with the inflexible approach. First, the general situation or context may shift over time. For example, when a leader is first assigned to a particular context, followers may generally need and expect a more authoritarian approach. However, over time, followers may mature and develop, thereby making a directive approach less appropriate, while necessitating more people-oriented qualities on the part of the leader, such as participative behavior. However, it may not be practical or desirable to just simply fire or transfer leaders around in order to fit a particular context or changes in that context over time. Second, most situations are fluid and can essentially “zig-zag” in terms of the required leadership approach at a particular point in time. Some followers may need more of a “human touch” at times in terms of people-oriented leadership, or they may have the need and capability to be more fully involved in decision- making. However, other followers may need a more directive approach. In addition, the leader himself or herself may not have enough knowledge or expertise to tackle certain problems alone and, thus, might need some participation on the part of followers, depending on the issue or decision to be made.
In short, more of a flexible approach is warranted, whereby any given leader can handle and adapt to the various needs and capabilities of different followers and situations at various points in time. Accordingly, we describe three such approaches in the remainder of this chapter: (1) path-goal, (2) Hersey/Blanchard situational approach to leader decision-making, and (3) Vroom/Jago contingency leadership. Although they all represent different forms of a flexible approach, Table 5.1 depicts different aspects and foci of these models. Perhaps most importantly in terms of the targeted behavior, path-goal represents a generalized form of flexible leadership because it pertains to day-to-day interactions with followers—and the problems or issues they face, that may or may not involve decision-making processes. Somewhat more narrowly, both the Hersey/Blanchard and Vroom/Jago models deal more specifically with how leaders go about making decisions that affect or could include followers. We consider these different approaches in more detail below.
a way of considering situational approaches to leadership whereby any given leader can handle and adapt to the various needs and capabilities of different followers and situations at various points in time.
Table 5.1 Overview of Models of Situational Approaches to Leadership
Targeted Behavior Situational Factor(s) Possible Leader Styles
Path-goal Day-to-day interactions and problems or issues that are faced by followers
Needs of the follower and leader, as well as demands of the work environment
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Decision-making Follower readiness in terms of both ability and motivation
Vroom/Jago Decision-making Nature of the decision, situational readiness of followers, and leader expertise
At a basic level, the relationship between leaders and followers is all about transactions. Leaders and the organizations that they represent get something out of the transaction (i.e., employee performance), while at the same time, followers benefit as well from the transaction (i.e., various rewards such as continuous employment and better work assignments). The problem is that issues or difficulties may arise on a day-to- day basis that keep these transactions from being consummated to everyone’s satisfaction. To this end, the overall purpose of path-goal leadership is for leaders to adapt their style to fit the situational needs of followers and their work environment.3 The goal is for leaders to use an appropriate style that will clarify the actions that need to be taken by followers (i.e., the “path”) so that they can realize their rewards, while avoiding problems, such as reprimands. But simultaneously, the needs of the work environment, including the leader himself or herself, must be met in order for a transaction to be effective.
Let’s consider some examples based on follower needs that are shown in Table 5.2. If a follower is relatively new on the job or is facing a task with which she has no experience, it would help to have directive leadership. That directive leadership will provide clarity so that the follower will be more assured that her efforts will lead to effective performance and rewards (e.g., job security, the possibility of more responsibility, and so forth). In addition, if there is a great time pressure to get something done, the leader may feel a need to be directive in order to realize organizational goals, as well as the personal goals of followers.
If a follower lacks confidence, the leader should focus on supportive behaviors to help prop up the follower’s self-confidence. Such is oftentimes the case for new employees. Although positive reinforcement should be applied to all followers, it may be especially important for new employees who may lack confidence. Further, from time to time, followers may experience personal difficulties (e.g., problematic personal relationships, death of a significant other, and so forth) that might hurt them emotionally and that threaten their ability to accomplish work goals. Under such circumstances, it behooves the leader to show supportive behavior.
As also shown in Table 5.2, sometimes followers desire more involvement or voice, which in and of itself could reflect a personal goal (i.e., followers may have a felt need for involvement in their work settings). For example, followers may feel a need to get involved in a range of decision-making, even beyond how their job tasks are performed, such as team scheduling, production standards, quality improvement efforts, and so forth. By being more participative and allowing employee voice, the leader enhances the follower’s sense of control and ensures that his or her needs are met. On the other hand, and as articulated further later in this chapter, there can be a conflict between a follower’s desire for more participation and his or her readiness or capability to effectively handle that participation—at least in the eyes of the leader.
From a path-goal perspective, follower voice can have an additional advantage that goes beyond task-related or workplace decision-making. When leaders allow for followers to speak up or have voice, they can learn more about their own personal goals or needs. For example, in a video associated with chapter 3, the head of a minor league baseball league, Dave Kaval, describes a conversation with an employee who has not been following his directives. Instead of just reprimanding the employee, he takes the opportunity to provide
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the employee with voice, thereby learning about a special desire that the employee has to play the role of a team’s mascot. In a path-goal mode, Kaval negotiates with the employee about how this desire can be satisfied if the employee learns to more conscientiously follow directives. In this way, the goals of both Kaval and the employee are attained.
Table 5.2 Situational Demands, Path-Goal Leadership Styles, and Effects on Followers
Follower Needs Leadership Style Effects on Followers
Work is ambiguous for followers; time pressures exist in work environment
Directive Clarifies what needs to be done in order to attain rewards
Followers lack confidence or need personal support Supportive Increases followers’ confidence or emotional ability to achieve work results
Followers both desire and should have more voice or involvement
Participative Allows a sense of control in making sure that results are achieved and rewards are attained
Work is not challenging for followers Achievement- oriented
Allows followers to strive for higher-level goals
Finally, achievement-oriented leadership may be warranted when a follower is not being appropriately challenged. If not properly challenged, followers may get bored and frustrated, which could eventually lead to turnover. But again, it is always possible that a follower may think that she could use more challenging work, and she might even lobby her leader for it, but the leader may feel differently, or such opportunities are simply not available in the organizational context. This often occurs for relatively new employees or employees who are “freshly minted” from school. The leader may feel that the new employee is not ready for increased challenges, or that the new employee has not “paid her dues” in terms of time spent conducting lower-level tasks.
One thing that should be emphasized is that these styles are neither mutually exclusive, nor rigid in their application. In other words, it is possible that in a given situation, a follower might best be served by applying more than one style relatively simultaneously, although one of those styles might be predominant. For example, a leader might choose to be mainly directive but still be somewhat supportive. In addition, if in a given situation, a leader has shown a strong tendency toward being supportive, but it has not worked out well in terms of achieving goals for either the follower or the organization, it is always possible to switch to another style over time (e.g., become more directive).
As a final note about path-goal leadership, it should be clear in the above discussion that it is largely about the follower and specifically dealing with individual follower needs. However, the follower is not the only one with needs. The needs of the work environment, as well as those of the leader himself or herself, must be met in order for a transaction to be effective. It is quite possible for the needs of the various parties to clash. For example, there could be times when a follower needs personal support, but the needs of the work environment or the leader suggest that a more directive approach is warranted. Highly uncertain or crisis conditions come to mind, whereby even if a follower has personal problems (which might suggest the need for supportive leadership), the leader might perceive a lack of time to provide such support, and instead, he is highly directive and demanding of the follower in that situation.
Hersey/Blanchard Approach to Decision-Making Based on the Situation
Decision-making is an obviously important task for leaders. From a leadership perspective, we focus on the process by which leaders make decisions rather than on the nature of the decisions that are actually made.4 We especially consider the extent to which they involve followers in that process. Hersey and Blanchard put forth a situational approach to leadership, specifically leader decision-making that has been used primarily to
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help leaders determine a decision-making style in various situations that they face.5 The basic question is if, and to what degree, followers should get involved in decision-making.
As shown in Figure 5.1, there are four basic styles that may be used. The first style is to be directive, whereby the leader makes decisions for followers and provides explicit directives or instructions. A second style is consultative, whereby the leader seeks input from followers, allows for questions, and overall provides followers with some degree of voice in the decision-making process. Indeed, the leader might even go through more than one iteration, whereby a solution to a problem is posed, followers provide input, the leader reformulates a modified solution, followers provide more input, and so forth. Third, the leader may engage in a facilitative style, whereby the leader encourages equal participation with followers in a decision-making process. As such, a decision or plan of action is not reached until both the leader and followers come to consensus. During the process, the leader may act as a discussion facilitator, but the leader makes it clear that he or she has just one voice, and followers have equal voice. Finally, the leader may choose a delegative style, whereby the decision-making process and its implementation are turned over to followers.
Two things should be noted about these styles. First, each one could apply to a single follower, or to the larger team as a whole. For example, if a decision or task applies to a single follower and if the leader determines that consultative is the appropriate style, the leader would confer with that follower alone. However, if the decision or task pertains to the larger team, the leader would consult with multiple individuals in the team. Depending on the leader’s preference, such consultation could be conducted one-on-one or, alternatively, take place in a team meeting.
Figure 5.1 Leader Decision-Making Styles
Source: Adapted from Vroom, V. H. (2000). Leadership and the Decision-Making Process. Organizational Dynamics, 28(4), 82–94.
Second, Figure 5.1 shows a dashed line that signifies Demarcation of Control. At its core, decision-making is all about control, versus giving up control. The dashed line signifies the point at which control of decision- making shifts to followers, specifically through the use of facilitative and delegative styles on the part of the leader. It is interesting to note that consultative is a very popular style among leaders, since it gives them the sense that they are involving followers in decision-making and providing them with voice. However, a consultative style does not involve what might be termed true participation, since the authority or control remains in the hands of the leader. Some leaders might argue that regardless of the situation, control should always rest with the leader. After all, in the end, the leader will be held to account for decisions and actions emanating from his or her team. However, the situational viewpoint would suggest that there are times or
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contexts in which either facilitative or even delegative styles of leadership would be more appropriate. But what are these situational factors?
Demarcation of Control
the point at which decision-making control shifts from leader to followers, specifically through the use of facilitative and delegative styles on the part of the leader.
Using the Hersey/Blanchard approach, the key situational variable to consider is follower readiness, which takes into account both ability and confidence or motivation on the part of the follower. As shown in Table 5.3, there are four readiness levels. At level 1, followers have low ability and low confidence or motivation. Accordingly, the prescribed leadership style is for the leader to be directive. A directive style might thus be most appropriate when followers are very new to a job, and they lack both ability and confidence. At level 2 readiness, a consultative style should work best. Followers lack a high degree of ability or expertise to make a decision, but they demonstrate a degree of confidence and a motivation to be involved in the decision-making. For example, after some time on the job, followers may start to increase their abilities and expertise pertaining to certain decisions, but not to the extent of being able to fully involve them in decision- making through a facilitative process. However, at level 3 readiness, followers have the requisite abilities, information, or expertise to be highly involved in a decision-making process, even to the degree of having an equal voice with the leader. With that said, they may also lack some confidence to make a decision on their own and carry it out. Accordingly, the leader should facilitate the decision-making process. Finally, at level 4 readiness, followers are able, willing, and confident enough to essentially take over or accept responsibility for a decision-making process. Using this delegative approach, the leader may simply provide an overall goal, vision, or general parameters of what needs to be accomplished. But the actual decision-making and implementation are left to followers.
Table 5.3 Effective Leadership Style Based on Follower Readiness
Leadership Style Follower Readiness Levels
Directive Level 1: lack of ability and confidence regarding the problem at hand
Consultative Level 2: lack of ability, but confidence and motivation to be involved in decision-making for the problem at hand
Facilitative Level 3: strong ability or information pertaining to the problem at hand, but low confidence to make a decision independently
Delegative Level 4: very high readiness in terms of both ability and confidence to address the problem at hand
For instance, consider the following situation that happened to a recent MBA graduate who was appointed the manager of a kidney dialysis clinic. Although she had several years of experience as a teacher and educational administrator, she had little experience in health care. The clinic consisted of 40 staff members, including kidney dialysis technicians, nurses, administrative personnel, and social workers, all of whom had long tenure and in-depth technical skills. The problem facing the new manager was a complicated scheduling issue that needed to accommodate vacations, personal time off, and unexpected absences. The manager’s first instinct was to use her considerable spreadsheet skills and construct the optimal schedule for the clinic. Doing this quickly in a directive mode would be both quick and efficient. Upon reflection, however, she realized that the staff—although they may have lacked her modeling skills—were willing, able, and confident enough to come up with the schedule themselves. Although it took longer, by delegating the task and decision-making to her staff, she ended up with a schedule that the employees “owned.” In other words, they were willing to live with the schedule that they had devised in a way they might not have if she had simply used her own expertise to solve the problem and make the decision.
Fluidity is one thing that should be made clear about the real-world application of the Hersey/Blanchard
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approach, as well as that of Vroom/Jago, which follows next. That is, different styles of leadership might be shown to the same followers in different decision-making situations. For example, over time, followers may achieve a relatively high level of readiness with regard to the technical aspects of their own work; hence, the leader might be either facilitative or delegative with these aspects. However, for broader organizational issues (e.g., unit-level scheduling and work standards), followers may not be so ready to assume control of decision-making. In those circumstances, either a directive or consultative approach would be optimum. Even for a given decision-making process, depending on how things proceed, the leader might feel the need to change course over time. For example, a leader may have initially determined that delegation was the way to go to formulate a vacation schedule for her employees. But after a few meetings among employees, it becomes apparent to them that they cannot reach agreement due to a lack of confidence or knowledge regarding scheduling parameters. If this were to occur, the leader might feel the need to backtrack and either use a more facilitative or consultative approach to solve the problem and make a decision. Of course, as will be considered later in the chapter, followers may not understand or appreciate fluidity in the leader’s decision- making, which might cause them to question or even not accept the leader’s situational approach.
how different styles of leadership might be shown to the same followers in different decision-making situations or even in the same situation over time.
Vroom/Jago Approach to Decision-Making Based on the Situation
While the work of Hersey and Blanchard is useful in an attempt to understand situational approaches to leader decision-making, the situational factor to be considered, follower readiness, is somewhat simplistic or incomplete. There are other factors that come into play, including the significance of the problem or decision at hand, leader expertise to deal with the problem on his or her own, the amount of commitment that is necessary from followers, and followers’ ability to work together as a team to solve a problem (assuming that the problem is team, rather than individual, based). All of these factors are considered simultaneously by an approach to leader decision-making that was authored by Vroom and Jago.6
As shown in Table 5.4, in any given decision-making situation, there are seven questions that are relevant to determining the degree of follower involvement. Depending on the answers to these questions, the leader would be pushed more or less toward follower involvement in the decision-making process. A distinguishing aspect of this process is that the leader follows a decision tree analysis as shown in Figures 5.2 and 5.3. A decision tree allows for branching out in different directions with the different questions that are depicted in Table 5.4. The path that one takes in the decision tree depends on the answer to a prior question in Table 5.4. For instance, in the scheduling problem described above, although the clinic manager had sufficient information to make the decision, she also realized that acceptance among her subordinates would be critical and that they had the skills to come up with a good solution. Using the models depicted in Figures 5.2 and 5.3, these aspects of the situation would push the manager to be either facilitative or delegative.
Table 5.4 Situational Questions and Implications for Follower Involvement
Situational Questions Implications for Follower Involvement
1. How important is the decision or problem in relation to the effectiveness of the organization?
If the decision lacks importa
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