Situational Leadership Theory

We're touched on situational leadership theory previously in our Leadership theories section. It was quite indirect as I didn't want to over-ride the value on these different theories as they have a place in leadership. Initially proposed by Paul Hersey in his book "Situational Leadership" this theory basically steps back from all other leadership theories and states that no single proposition of leadership theory is correct. This is also the position of Leadership Lime as we, along with Hersey, believe that your depth of leadership shouldn't be limited by one single set of principles but rather diverse enough to find the best praxis to each situation.

Although this theory has taken a few twists and turns in its development from early conception, it is now believed to be an evolutionary process of leadership through maturity of the leader themselves. This is basically saying that as modern leaders grow they will adapt situational leadership theory as normative. This is a result of two growth areas:

Competence - Commitment

These two areas can be broken down even further to reveal more theory. The contention is that these two areas will derive the way in which you lead.


  • Competence:
  • Ability - How strong your leadership characteristics are.
  • Knowledge - The amount of helpful information you possess.
  • Skill - How proficient you are at implementing the previous two.


  • Commitment:
  • Confidence - Feeling positive and strong in yourself.
  • Motivation - The willingness to throw yourself into something and get it done.


Using these two measurements you can distinguish which leadership theory to adapt to. For instance, when you approach a new task or job as a leader you can have a lot of commitment, confidence and motivation but often very little competence, knowledge or skill. This is no problem and is very common but whilst your bringing up your levels of confidence you may use a different leadership theory to get the best results in this new endevour.

There are of course many elements to keep in mind but situational leadership theory states that these things come together to change and shift between different leadership theories to best suit your situation. Your leader will of course work with you to help mature you into a position where your competence level is higher to master your current role. This is the essential goal of situational leadership theory and hope of all leaders.

We encourage this theory and we've outlined many options on how to cope in this process of maturity as a leader. Situational leadership theory uses various leadership theories and we can't encourage you enough to learn them and apply them to your unique position for ultimate success.

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