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the 4 faces of situational leadership

I believe that different situations require different skills, and therefore, different leaders and leadership styles, from authoritarian to democratic and permissive. If you naturally gravitate towards the democratic styles, does it mean that you cannot be more authoritarian at times? And how to know when to be one or another? Are there any other styles that you can adapt? This and other questions are examined below. 

By spending time actually observing the behaviour of leaders in a wide variety of situations, the Ohio State staff found that they would classify most of the activities of leaders into two distinct and different behavioural categories or dimensions. They named these two dimensions “Initiating Structure” (task behaviour) and “Consideration” (relationship behaviour).


How much engagement or management a leader must display/provide to the people they lead depends directly on the difficulty of tasks that are set before the team - that we all understand and have experienced on our lives. But it also depends on a different dimension - the relationship that a manager or leader has with the team. These two elements are complementary, not mutually exclusive as it was believed previously (Hersey and Blanchard).

Banana Pattern

The two dimensions are represented below in the Situational Leadership Model

Banana Pattern
Banana Pattern
Banana Pattern

THE situational leadership MODEL

The Situational Leadership is based on an interplay among (1) the amount of direction (task behaviour) a leader gives, (2) the amount of socioemotional support (relationship behavior) a leader provides, and (3) the “readiness” level that followers exhibit on a specific task, function, activity or objective that the leader is attempting to accomplish through the individual or group (followers).

High-task/low-relationship leader behavior (S1) is referred to as “telling” [or 'delegating'] because this style is characterised by one-way communication in which the leader defines the roles of followers and tells them what, how, when, and where to do various tasks.

High-task/high-relationship behaviour (S2) is referred to as “selling” [or 'supporting'] because with this style most of the direction is still provided by the leader. The leader also attempts through two-way communication and socioemotional support to get the followers psychologically to “buy into” decisions that have to be made.

High-relationship/low-task behaviour (S3) is called “participating” [or 'coaching'] because with this style the leader and followers now share in decision making through two-way communication and much facilitating behaviour from the leader, since the followers have the ability and knowledge to do the task.


Low-relationship/low-task behaviour (S4) is labelled “delegating” [or 'directing'] because the style involves letting followers “run their own show.” The leader delegates since the followers are high in readiness, have the ability, and are both willing and able to take responsibility for directing their own behaviour.

As I mention at the beginning of this article, different situations will require different balance of direction (task behaviour) and support (relationship behaviour). Determining the type of leadership one must take on depends on the level of readiness (or competence) of the team.

[...] in working with people who are low in readiness (R1) in terms of accomplishing a specific task, a high-task/low-relationship style (S1) has the highest probability of success; in dealing with people who are of low to moderate readiness (R2), a moderate structure and socioemotional style (S2) appears to be most appropriate. In working with people who are of moderate to high readiness (R3), a high-relationship/tow-task style (S3) has the highest probability of success; and finally, a low-relationship/low-task style (S4) has the highest probability of success in working with people of high task-relevant readiness (R4).


Hersey, Paul., Blanchard, Kenneth H. (2014). Situational Leadership. A Summary. Available at

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