Four Industries That Use the Situational Leadership® Methodology

The Situational Leadership® Model has been a viable tool organizations have relied upon to build leaders and drive behavior change for over 50 years. Certainly, the dynamics of leadership have changed significantly over that period of time (massive understatement), but, by the same token, there are timeless, foundational components of leadership we believe will ensure our model’s ongoing relevance. For example:

  • There will always be a task! (an objective or a goal the leader needs to pursue through the behavior of others)
  • There will always be a follower! (a person or a team at varying levels of task-related ability and willingness to perform the task)
  • The leader will always have a choice! (The style the leader employs with the follower(s) for the task will ultimately be a function of the leader’s judgment and range of flexibility.)

But are there certain sizes or types of organizations where the Situational Leadership® methodology seems to work more effectively than others? The short answer to that question is no. Over the years, the model has been used by large and small organizations in the public and private sectors and across industries. Here are examples of the Situational Leadership® Model used in four separate (and very different) settings.

Examples of Situational Leadership®

Situational Leadership® In The Technology Sector

In large part, technology companies live on the cutting edge and continually need to reinvent themselves in order to survive and prosper. They don’t manage change; they intentionally drive change!

The Situational Leadership® methodology is a language of change! It recognizes we live in a dynamic world where nothing stays the same. Things are either getting better, or they are getting worse. And when change hits, the readiness of employees to perform shifts. Knowledge and skill may be rendered temporarily obsolete by the new creative reality and, right along with it, performance-related confidence and/or commitment.

As such, technology companies in particular need to foster a culture where “high skill and high will” have the license to be creative. They not only empower their teams to think creatively and be innovative, but they also actively encourage and support it.

And when ideas begin to migrate from the hypothetical to the real, the managers in those settings employ the Situational Leadership® framework as a response mechanism with the goal of accelerating development and demonstrating resilience.

Situational Leadership® In Team Sports and Coaching

The sports page of your favorite newspaper or the web page of your “go-to” sports site have long been excellent repositories of the Situational Leadership® approach in action. That makes perfect sense when you think about it because coaches:

  • Teach
  • Hold players accountable
  • Console and support
  • Empower and trust

In essence, successful athletic coaches use every style in the Situational Leadership® Model depending upon the makeup of their team.

One of the best descriptions of that reality in professional sports was provided years ago by Bum Phillips. At the time, Coach Phillips was the head football coach for the Houston Oilers. He was asked by a reporter what he thought of Hall of Fame Coach Tom Landry of the Dallas Cowboys. He replied in his signature southern drawl by saying:

“He can take his’n … and beat your’n … and he can take your’n and beat his’n.”

Vernacular aside, Coach Phillips described a Situational Leader perfectly! They will adjust as they need to based on the skill level and motivation of those they are leading in the moment.

Situational Leadership® In Military Leadership

If you work in an organization that has been around for any length of time, chances are it was modeled after the U.S. military.

The pyramid is the visual that commonly depicts the structure, and the general philosophy behind it is that “rank has its privilege” (i.e., The higher you ascend as a leader, the more responsibility and decision-making authority you are granted, and the greater impact you have the potential to make.).

In reality and despite assumptions to the contrary, the military has long operated with a profound respect for the multidirectional nature of leadership. Successful and effective commanding officers are cautious to give orders without studying facts and data, seeking advice from their peers and tenured members of their command. This is by no means an accident!

The Situational Leadership® methodology has been a core part of the leadership development initiatives in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard since the early 1980s. Senior enlisted, junior officers and senior officers are frequently grouped together during training because alignment on tasks and the readiness of followers to execute those tasks are crucial components of effective military operations.

Situational Leadership® In Nursing and Healthcare

It is not uncommon to hear roles in the health-care industry referred to as “callings,” and with good reason! Health-care providers are expected to deliver consistent, high-quality care while frequently being asked to work extended shifts under high stress. Navigating these challenges requires thoughtful leadership efforts that target success as well as effectiveness.

Success is measured by outcomes. Effectiveness is measured by how followers feel about producing those outcomes. These two parameters have long “formed the frame” of Situational Leadership® training. We believe that to be one of the primary reasons so many health-care systems around the world have adopted it as their language of leadership.

In a high-stress vocation like nursing, for example, turnover is a formidable challenge. We also know from irrefutable research from Gallup that 75% of engagement and retention challenges (regardless of industry) are a function of one thing—the manager. The Situational Leadership® framework provides healthcare managers with a practical tool they can leverage to initiate discussions with nurses and other frontline providers around the very important work that needs to be done. As such, Situational Leadership in nursing just makes sense.

Develop Your Leaders With The Center For Leadership Studies

At The Center for Leadership Studies, we have been at the forefront of leadership development for decades. We truly believe on the basis of our current reality that the Situational Leadership® Model is more relevant today than it ever has been for leaders across industries and in every walk of life.

We provided examples of our extended experience in four critical, yet significantly diverse, industries in this article. But as documented above, we know of no industry or leadership setting where the Situational Leadership® methodology would not be a viable tool for leaders to actively consider and tactically employ.