Situational Leadership® and Fierce Conversations®

When I consider Situational Leadership® and Fierce Conversations®, the first word that comes to mind is “complementary.” As a Master Facilitator of Situational Leadership® training around the world, I am surprised how often I quote Susan Scott (author of “Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success at Work and in Life One Conversation at a Time”) to reinforce a point I’m making during one of our programs.

As we know, Situational Leadership® follows a practical and straightforward four-step process:

  • Identify the specific task
  • Assess current Performance Readiness®
  • Match and communicate leader response
  • Manage the movement

Fierce Conversations® emanate from the idea that: “Our careers, our companies, our personal relationships and our very lives succeed or fail gradually, then suddenly, one conversation at a time.” In essence, “The conversation is the relationship.”

Building on that premise, Susan Scott suggests that a Fierce Conversation has four objectives:

  • To interrogate reality
  • To provoke learning
  • To tackle tough challenges
  • To enrich the relationship

So, how do these tools “come together?” If you accept the notion that leadership (by definition) is an attempt to influence and that somewhere along the way that attempt will take the form of a conversation between the prospective leader and the targeted follower, the intersection of these two frames becomes self-evident.

Leaders that learn how to leverage the Situational Leadership® Model effectively find they are better equipped to impact not only bottom-line results, but also the engagement and retention levels of those that are actually performing the work. The same is true for leaders that learn how to consistently engage others in Fierce Conversations®.

Consider the following matrix for reciprocal points of “cross-over and reinforcement”:

Situational Leadership® Fierce Conversations®
Step1 Identify the specific task.

(Break that task down to its lowest common denominator.)

Objective1 “The problem named is the problem solved.” Interrogating reality is the first step in finding a solution.
Step2 Assess current Performance Readiness®.

(Is the person performing the task consistently performing at or above standard?)

Objective2 “Transparent exchange (between a leader and a follower) on the specifics of ‘readiness for a task’ is the essence of provoking learning.”
Step3 Match and communicate leader response.

(Conduct a performance-focused conversation based on the task and the assessment.)

Objective3 “Our careers, our companies, our personal relationships and our very lives succeed or fail gradually, then suddenly, one conversation at a time.”
Step4 Manage the movement.

(Accelerate development or reverse regression.)

Objective4 “Adapting leadership approach to ‘meet followers where they are’ enriches the relationship and accelerates the journey.”



  1. Identify a person you would like to influence for a particular task that believes they are performing at a higher level than your reality suggests.
  2. During the course of your influence attempt, intentionally “provoke learning and interrogate reality” (i.e., find out what is driving this person’s perception and what you can do to introduce an elevated sense of objectivity).