Does Situational Leadership® Work?

As one might imagine, we get this question quite a bit. It comes mostly from prospects that are thinking about becoming customers. In many cases those prospects have developed a healthy layer of skepticism over the years, and almost without exception that skepticism is grounded in their experience implementing one leadership development program or another with “mixed results.”

And when you are talking about a leadership/influence program “working,” proof is typically grounded in the higher order of Kirkpatrick’s Levels:

  • Level III – is there any evidence of measurable behavior change taking place on the job?
  • Level IV – are any of those behavior changes moving the needle in the right direction?

With all that as background, we would like to share three recent case-study examples, shared with us by customers that implemented Situational Leadership® training in a serious way, with the sole intention of responding to the question posed by this blog.

  1. Internal study conducted by a global services and technology company:
    1. Control and experimental groups established
      1. Control Group – sample of frontline managers (United States)
      2. Experimental Group – sample of “substantially similar” frontline managers
    2. Two parameters of examination
      1. Productivity (i.e. targets established as per performance objectives)
      2. Retention (i.e. analysis of comparative turnover)


    • Teams reporting to managers that had attended Situational Leadership® training during this study (12 month duration) outperformed their control group counterparts on identified productivity targets by 24%
    • Teams reporting to managers that had attended Situational Leadership® training during this study reported 16% less turnover than their control group counterparts
  1. Internal study conducted by a retail industry holding company that features retail stores, outlet stores and a direct order center:
    1. Company received a JD Power Customer Service Champion Award (2011)
      1. A large sample of company directors and managers surveyed after the award had been conferred identified the implementation of Situational Leadership® as a key contributing factor in the JD Power recognition
      2. “… we were able to meet or exceed expectations on a consistent basis by using the methodologies of Situational Leadership®


    • Company trained over 1,500 store managers and associates in tandem creating a “language of performance” where associates could actively “contract for a leadership style” with their direct supervisor. All company revenue generation targets were met, and in an industry notorious for high turnover, retention goals were exceeded across each line of the business
  1. Global pharmaceutical company contracted with an independent research firm (Advantis Research & Consulting ) in an effort to assess the return on their investment in Situational Leadership® training.
    1. In response, Advantis conducted 12 studies across 10 countries (North America; Latin America; Europe and Asia) which included hundreds of managers and thousands of direct reports.
    2. By design, the study targeted two parameters of focus:
      1. Did managers change their on-the-job behavior as a result of attending Situational Leadership® training?
      2. Did that behavior change have any discernible impact on business results?


    • Between 58 – 91% of direct reports surveyed (approximately six months after training) stated their manager had made “noticeable changes” in their approach to leading and/or coaching, and that those changes had resulted in increased effectiveness
    • Subsequent analysis revealed the improved skill level of first-line managers was a primary contributing factor to business results in a variety of different ways (i.e. 35% greater goal attainment; 3% market share increase)
      • The Advantis study can be reviewed in its entirety here

So, does Situational Leadership® work? Of course it does. And as we hope the examples provided would indicate, tangible results are the product of two very important things:

  1. A training program that truly builds foundational leadership and influence skills
  2. Active collaboration with a customer that is serious about measuring the impact of that skill development on outcomes



  1. Review the three case examples provided above.
  2. Design a study that would work at your organization to measure the impact of your leadership development efforts.