The Necessity Of Situational Leadership Training

The Necessity Of Situational Leadership Training

Situational leadership is a necessary component of good management practices yet it is still severely underrated by most companies. 

Situational leadership training focuses on ensuring that managers are cognizant of its importance and implement it accordingly. People think of leadership as absolute when it is completely situational. A leader who performs excellently in one situation may end up crashing and burning on another situation. 

This is why a manager may succeed beyond expectations in one company but when they join another organization they turn into mediocre managers. Understanding that different types of leadership are required in different situations is the key to ensuring that your company is always being taken in the right direction.  

Every Leadership Style has its Own Special Qualities

Different times require different leadership. For example, when the company is doing well, your organization will need a leader that can ensure that growth keeps happening and investments are made in the right direction. 

On the other hand, if the organization is facing a hard time, you need a leader that knows how to focus on the core business and get rid of distractions. Similarly, if your company is growing then you need a leader that specializes in growing companies. 

There’s a reason most startups end up changing their CEO once the company is established properly. Someone who works very well when the company is an underdog may not be fit for the job once the company needs to act like a big organization.

Situational Leadership Training Allows Managers to Understand the Type of Leadership Required

Sometimes you end up seeing great management lessons from the most unexpected of sources. A superhero movie has the dialog, “He's the hero the city deserves, but not the one it needs right now.” 

which perfectly encapsulates the need for situational leadership. The hero being talked about is a good hero but the speaker realizes that the current situation of the city doesn’t need the hero; it instead needs a different type of hero that follows the rules to the city goes back to running according to the rules.

This is the core idea behind situational leadership. The training for this leadership focuses on ensuring that the leaders understand that their default method of leading the company may not be good enough for the current situation the company is facing. They need to change the way they work and make other people work.

Situational leadership is a concept that is respected in the military. The military knows that the type of leader that leads the battle on the field is very different from the type of leader that makes the plans for the battle. The military has perfected leadership over the years and they focus on creating different types of leaders that can deal with different situations. 

A full-scale attack will require a different type of leadership when you compare it to a stealth operation. It is time that organizations learn the same lesson if they want to succeed.

Situational Leadership Training That Works

A cartoon business leader is going in one direction while 4 robots are going in the other

Some leaders are totally out of sync with their company’s strategy and their employees’ needs. They don’t know how to communicate effectively or how to influence their direct reports toward more productive behavior and performance. Be wary if you notice your leaders and followers moving in opposite directions with no clear goals in sight.

Leadership training for these leaders may be the answer…but make sure it is a program that actually produces results. Investigate situational leadership training. We have seen it work again and again.

The situational leadership training program teaches new and experienced leaders how to design the best strategies for working with their team to achieve desired outcomes. They learn how to diagnose and manage the motivations, abilities and performance of their team members and then utilize the leadership style that would be most effective for that situation. Done right, there is an emphasis on real-world scenarios and hands-on practice focused on the situations that matter most for you.

Rather than working with their direct reports using a one-style-fits-all approach, situational leaders learn which style would be most effective with each individual according to the specific situation. A follower who is struggling with a certain task may need more careful supervision and direct instruction. But a follower who is able and motivated in a certain situation may simply need to keep the leader informed of their progress.

The statistics are telling. For example, a retail industry holding company that trained over 1,500 store managers was able to exceed retention goals and meet revenue generation targets. At a global services and technology company, those who had attended the training outperformed the control group (without training) by 24% of the productivity targets that had been identified as significant. Additionally, there was over 15% less turnover on these teams. And, in an entirely different industry, a follow-up survey at a global pharma company found that from about 60-90% of direct reports said that there had been noticeable positive changes in their leaders’ approach to coaching and leading.

If you need to boost the skills of your managers, and in the process boost the productivity and satisfaction of your employees, check out situational leadership training. It can make the difference you are looking for.

6 Ways Situational Leaders Spot the Learning Opportunity

An hour glass with sand pouring through

Good management is all about taking advantage of each situation as a learning opportunity…for you as well as for your followers. That’s what we highlight in our situational leadership training. Learn to spot and assess the situation…then act appropriately to guide your team members’ development.

And what about your own learning? Being a good leader and manager is not easy. It takes dedication to the team and a focus on how to lead that team to the goals that you all have set. Over three-quarters of team failures are due to ineffective managers. Their success and yours depends on your knowing how to manage well. 

Based upon lessons from over twenty years of situational leadership training programs, here are the top six things you need to do to be a smart and effective manager. 
  1. Be an effective communicator
    As a situational leader, it is critical that you clearly establish roles and responsibilities. There should be no question about what each team member needs to do to pull their weight and contribute to the overall goal. 
  2. Hold yourself and team members accountable
    Situational leaders set the standards of behavior and make performance transparent to all. When team members excel, they should be appropriately recognized. When their performance falls short, there should be an immediate response to support improvement. 
  3. Care about the individuals on your team
    The best situational leaders and managers are invested in the success and growth of their employees. They know the motivators, strengths, and ambitions of each. They recognize that their role is to marshal the team through its individual members to reach as high as they can. Good managers provide development opportunities so their followers are challenged to grow.
  4. Be a hands-on situational leader
    Good managers get involved. They set the example of hard work and open communication. They insist upon an environment of mutual respect and cooperation because they know how critical a trusting culture is to team success.
  5. Make good decisions
    No matter how strong a team, there will be conflicts. A good situational leader knows how to listen, assess the situation and sensitively, but positively, decide how to move forward. 
  6. Be straightforward
    Team members appreciate being well informed. They want to know how well the company is doing and what plans there are for the future. When change is needed, it is important for managers to communicate the rationale behind the change and guide their team toward behavior that supports the organization’s business strategy.

4 Problem Solving Best Practices to Embrace

a man is standing at a fork in the road: one sign points to "Solution" and the other sign to "Problem"

Some say that a leader’s main job is to solve problems. If that is true, the best leaders know how to solve problems most effectively. As part of our customized situational leadership training, we often closely examine best practices of problem solving. 

Here is what we have learned:

  1. Make sure all thoughts and ideas for solutions are welcome and fairly considered. 
    Unless problems are analyzed from all sides, you may well miss the most effective solution. Teams need to encourage everyone to speak up freely. Root causes may not be fully explored if communication is squelched or discounted. It is up to the leader to provide a setting where employees trust that blame is not the objective…solving the problem is.

  2. Establish a corporate culture where employees navigate freely across functions.
    Silos prevent free and open communication and are often the cause of problems…Team A does not know what Team B is doing. Each group becomes protective of their territory and progress toward enterprise-level goals can be blocked. As a leader, seek to break down cultural and functional silos and re-establish common goals. Make knowledge sharing the standard so teams can spot areas where collaboration will eliminate duplication of effort and drive performance more effectively.

  3. Look for and hire employees who value diversity and open communication.
    For a broad array of views on root causes and alternative solutions, build an organizational culture where different backgrounds are celebrated and respected. A corporate culture where everyone thinks alike is one where innovation suffers. Make sure your recruiting team and hiring managers know what to seek in job candidates for them to thrive in your culture. These values become the lifeblood of your problem-solving environment and long-term organizational health.

  4. Alignment of strategy, culture and talent is the key to success.
    An alignment problem solving framework can help to ensure that your root cause analysis and approach occurs at the right level.  For example, start by examining if the strategic objectives and goals related to the issue are clear, believable and implementable enough to the concerned parties.  If they are not, there is probably not much reason to dissect organizational or team issues until the objectives are clear.  If things seem clear at the strategic level, begin to investigate culture-based issues regarding success metrics, performance exposure mechanisms, rewards, communication, roles and accountability combined to see if there are any weak spots.  Then discuss if the issues are related to your ability to attract, develop, engage or retain talent.  This strategy, then culture, then talent thought process has helped hundreds of leaders solve problems faster at the right level.

When leaders come to view problems as opportunities for continuous improvement, individual employees, teams and the company as a whole will benefit.

A Leader’s Responsibility is to Create Accountability

a cartoon of 3 businessmen at lunch with one saying, "I start my day by making a list of everything I need to do...and who I can get to do it for me."

Ah, wouldn’t it be easy just to tell people what to do and then go off to lunch with friends?  

The leader in this cartoon seems to think he’s an expert at delegating…after all, he has left a list of to-do’s for his team. But we would say in our situational leadership training that he has, in many ways, forfeited his true responsibility as a leader. He has not remained available for his followers’ questions and concerns. He has left the “scene of the crime” without someone in charge to solve problems and guide team members. And he has probably not set clear expectations or worked toward shared commitment. He is acting more like a dictator than a true situational leader. 

One of the basic tenets of great leadership is maintaining accountability. And this holds true for leaders as well as followers. Leaders should be accountable for achieving their team goals. Followers should be held accountable for achieving their individual goals…goals that were established in discussions with their manager in the context of what the team needs to achieve. There is, however, an additional wrinkle. It is the manager’s responsibility to make sure the team members are committed to delivering the desired results. It is the manager’s responsibility to make sure the team members have the competence required to deliver the desired results in a way that makes sense.

The best leaders understand that they can’t hold workers responsible for a task they don’t know how to do – i.e. a low level of competence. This is when managers must offer opportunities for development and be ready to coach and supervise as the employee begins to practice the new skills. In this situation, the leader is accountable for the employee’s performance.

By the same token, when an employee has the skills, they are the ones who should be held accountable. Their leader recognizes them as able and gives them the right to personal accountability. This means that given the task, they can figure out how to accomplish it without their manager’s active engagement and frequent check-ins.

With this in mind, let’s take a second look at the cartoon. It is possible that the speaker has effectively trained, developed and coached his team in a way that they are ready to take on their own accountability. If so, he does not need to micromanage and deserves a break with his colleagues.

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How To Unlock Your Potential as a Leader

A businessman pulls aside his jacket to show a superman costume underneath

What distinguishes superstars from the rest of us who do our work diligently but don’t seem to rise above the crowd? 

Situational leadership training experts say that it is not their leadership skills as much as their ability to align themselves seamlessly with the company and its goals. They seem to have a kind of X-ray vision…they take advantage of every opportunity to solve important problems and make themselves useful and appreciated. They have the mindset of a “superman” who is always ready to step in when needed and knows what to do to advance the company’s collective path toward success.

Let’s take a look at how these superstars behave that attracts notice from their peers and their superiors alike and that casts themselves in such a favorable light.

  1. They are in sync with their environment. In other words, they work where they fit…where their values are a good match for the corporate values and beliefs of the company. They fit culturally and, as a result, their natural behavior is noticed and appreciated because it embodies the desired corporate culture and is modeled by company leaders.

  2. They have both a strategic and tactical view of their work contribution. They know clearly what they must do on a daily basis to achieve their personal performance goals; but they also keep an eye on how what they do contributes to the whole. They understand not just what they have to do but why it matters. This gives them the systems and strategic perspective of a leader who can anticipate before others on their team what needs to be done and why.

  3. They have empathy. They tune into what others are feeling and what others want. From this perspective of understanding and caring, they are able to pitch in to help their teammates as well as to support their boss’ success. They simply seem to know how to help others work well in a way that makes sense personally and professionally.

  4. They manage their time effectively. They seem to be able to accomplish so much more than anyone else on the team with far less stress. If you ask them how they do it, they are likely to say that they spend a few minutes each day to prioritize their schedule and approach based upon the situation. They work on the most urgent and important items first and then proceed down their to-do list in a methodical and focused way. They avoid distractions and don’t try to multi-task. They understand how to be present and focus on what matters most.  They do this while balancing short-term performance and longer-term health.

How to Transition from Boss to Situational Leader

a businessman is in front of a chart that compares a boss to a leader

When you want to grow from managing people as a “traditional boss” to truly leading people, there are a lot of changes you will need to make. Most importantly among them are 5 leadership skills that will set you apart. They are skills that have been found missing in leaders in almost every situational leadership training program that we have delivered over the last 20 years.

Before you begin reading the list, take stock of what you think are your personal strengths and weaknesses.  Be aware of your own limitations and be determined to improve. Ask for and be open to feedback from coaches, colleagues and subordinates. True leaders are willing to admit their shortcomings and are open to learning how to improve.

Here are 5 overall leadership skills that you can learn about in situational leadership training that will prepare you both for managing effectively (unlike the stereotypical “boss” described above) or for leading effectively:

  1. Motivate
    The best leaders understand what spurs their followers toward dedicated action. They know how to delegate and take advantage of what their employees like to and do best. They encourage and manage performance in a way that increases their employees’ discretionary effort and engagement.

  2. Inspire
    A gifted leader knows how to create a vision that inspires others to help realize it. Employees commit to their leader’s goals for the organization and know that their contributions are fully recognized and appreciated.

  3. Adapt
    Skilled leaders know that a big part of their job is to manage change effectively. They need to be able to communicate the reasons for change, overcome any resistance with the strength of their personality and example of commitment, and implement their change strategy with a positive and encouraging attitude.

  4. Plan
    Leaders are masters of strategy. They look at the big picture and then are able to translate the overall goals into steps to get there. They know what moves to make and they make them.  Their strategies are clear, believable and implementable.

  5. Develop
    Strong leaders believe in their people. They provide learning and career development opportunities for employees to learn and grow. Feedback and performance coaching become their tools for development, and their own commitment to continuous learning serves as the model.

Situational leadership is based on the premise that leadership is learned step by step as learners recognize the readiness and willingness of their followers to improve. How ready and willing are you to take that big step from manager to leader?

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