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Situational Leadership & Motivation

Updated: Aug 28, 2020

Situational leadership, designed by theorists Ken Blanchard and Paul Hersey, is comprised of the following elements:

  • Amount of guidance and direction (task behavior) a leader gives.

  • Amount of socio-emotional support (relationship behavior) a leader provides

  • Readiness level that followers exhibit in performing a specific task, function or objective (Goodson, 1989).

Blanchard and Hersey postulated the effectiveness of four leadership techniques, in relationship to task structure and employee’s readiness levels: 1) Telling- high task structure, low subordinate readiness levels; 2) Selling- high task structure, relatively low subordinate readiness levels; 3) Participating- low task structure, moderately high subordinate readiness levels; and 4) Delegating- low task structure, high subordinate readiness levels (Goodson, 1989). These four motivational leadership strategies highlight the direct impact between variances in task and relationship characteristics.

           The needs and maturity of followers also impacts leaders’ motivational strategies. Humanistic theory developed by Abraham Maslow, postulates that humans are driven to achieve their maximum potential, unless obstacles are put in their path. Maslow created a hierarchy of needs, which includes the following: 1) physiological needs, 2) safety needs, 3) belonging and love needs, 4) esteem needs, and 5) self- actualization. Self- actualization is the complete understanding of one’s self, on a emotional, intellectual and spiritual level (AllPsych Online). The hierarchy of needs, in pyramid form, begins with the physiological needs, and culminates with self- actualization. 

  Argosy Online states that job maturity is determined by, “task- related abilities, skills and knowledge,” (Argosy Online, 2014). Argosy also defines psychological maturity as, “self- confidence, willingness and motivation,” (Argosy Online, 2014). As a result, an employee who has low job and psychological maturity will require more directive leadership strategies, while an employee who has high job and psychological maturity will require more delegated authority and work autonomy (Argosy, 2014). This researcher postulates that the construct of job maturity is connected to the readiness level of the situational leadership model, while psychological maturity is connected to the socio-emotional aspect of the situational leadership model. 

           It is necessary that this researcher thoroughly understand her own personal motivation variables, in order to effectively lead and motivate others. In her personal life, this researcher is motivated by family, personal relationships and faith. However, in her academic and professional life, this researcher is motivated by accomplishment and recognition (Argosy Online, 2014). This understanding is essential, as it serves as the source from which this researcher’s motivational strategies are developed, along with research- based best practices. 

           This knowledge is often operationalized in this researcher’s work and leadership responsibilities. Ilies (2006) postulates that leaders must appeal to followers’ affective and cognitive processes, to positively impact employee motivation. Ilies expounds that a charismatic, transformational leader who consistently exhibits a positive attitude will promote such an attitude within their followers; their followers will work toward goals which are deemed to be “positive and promotion focused”; and “followers will be motivated to persist longer in their efforts to complete work tasks successfully” (Ilies, 2006). The affective/ relational and cognitive/task oriented constructs mentioned by Ilies (2006) are also directly connected to the situational theory of leadership. In her work as Owner and Principal Consultant of Condisco Business & Education Services, this researcher consistently motivates clients with her positive attitude, use of transformational leadership strategies, and affinity for hard work.

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AllPsych Online., Retrieved January 10th, 2014

Argosy Online. L7431 Theory and Development of Motivation, Module 5

Goodson, J. (1989). Situational leadership theory: A test of leadership prescriptions. Group and Organizational Studies (1986- 1998), 46

Ilies, R. (2006). Making sense of motivational leadership: The trail from transformational leaders to motivated followers. Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies (13)1, 1-22

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