Situational Leadership® and Happiness | CLS

Situational Leadership® and Happiness

“How does Situational Leadership® fit in with Happiness?” This is a question we have been receiving on a recurring basis since Shawn Achor’s “happiness wave” hit the beach. And to be completely candid, that “happiness wave” is more like a “happiness tsunami.” On the off chance that you have not heard about (or investigated) Happiness, we would encourage you to take a brief bunny trail here:

  • The Happiness Advantage
  • Before Happiness

From our vantage point (and in admittedly overly simplistic terms) Happiness is a leader that matches their approach to the Performance Readiness® of an individual performing a particular task. In more specific terms, that equates to a leader that:

  • Empowers individuals to complete tasks they have mastered
  • Provides direction to individuals that are starting something new
  • Collaborates or participates with individuals that are somewhere in between novices and experts

Regardless of the circumstances, situational leaders create Happiness by executing a course of action that gets the job done (success) in a manner that both the leader and the follower feel good about as they reflect upon the journey (engagement).

But beyond that surface-level analysis we feel that the messengers and the core messages of Situational Leadership® and Happiness have much more in common:

The Messengers

  • Paul Hersey – Dr. Hersey was a really smart guy. When the field of leadership development was in its infancy, he saw things that others couldn’t see and made connections that others couldn’t make. He studied foundational contributions in organizational behavior on seemingly independent dynamics like leadership traits; the attitudes or predispositions of leaders; scientific management; human relations; active listening; reflective questioning; power; motivation; achievement and much more to weave the cohesive fabric of the Situational Leadership® Model
  • Shawn Achor – By all accounts Shawn Achor has an IQ that could probably boil water. He was a Harvard University graduate and professor before he founded his company GoodThink. And he has integrated his own research on positive psychology with the insights of others from a variety of different disciplines like neuroscience; stress management; anxiety disorders; depression; emotional intelligence; social intelligence and much more in the development of products and related services on Happiness. Achor’s contributions provide a compelling case that happy people experience less stress, have better health and are more productive

The Core Messages

We would suggest the thing that turns authors like Hersey and Achor into legitimate thought leaders is the practical simplicity of their messages in combination with the relative ease with which those messages can be put into motion by all of us:

  • Leadership – Effectively (and intentionally) influencing others on a consistent basis is a process that is governed by a series of intimidating variables. Success is impacted by your boss, your co-workers, the culture of the company you work for, the kind of month/quarter/year your company is having, etc.

    Situational Leadership® helps leaders navigate that sea of contingencies by suggesting they ask (and, more importantly, answer) the following three questions:

    1. What is the specific task?
    2. What is the ability and willingness of the person I am attempting to influence to perform that specific task?
    3. Given the answers to questions 1 and 2, what approach gives me the highest probability of success? (e.g. Empowerment? Collaboration? Structure?)

    Does it work every time? Of course it doesn’t. But at a minimum Situational Leadership® provides any leader attempting to influence anybody on anything a research-based starting point and a path to success.

  • Happiness – One of the most compelling bits of information Shawn Achor shines a light on is that “your reality is your choice.” Achor points out that our brains receive 11 million pieces of information from our environment every second … yet we have the capacity to process only 40. So, all of us make choices – choices, in large part, we don’t even consciously recognize on things like what to pay attention to and how to perceive it.

    With that as an oversimplified backdrop, Achor unveils a methodology for all of us to “train our brains.” That training includes (but is by no means limited to) practical advice on how to:

    1. Choose the most valuable reality
    2. Map a path to success
    3. Accelerate that success
    4. Eliminate negative or useless information
    5. Transfer our positive reality to others

    Does everyone that reads one of Achor’s Happiness books find Happiness? Probably not. But Achor provides all of us with a passageway to improvement…if we are willing to take it.

BOTTOM LINE: Situational Leadership® and The Happiness Advantage are research-based practical approaches that make a highly complicated world a little less complicated!


  1. Identify an individual you would like to influence on a specific task (i.e. a person you work with, a member of your family, etc.) and apply the three steps listed above that form the foundation of Situational Leadership®.
  2. Reflect upon “the things you pay attention to … and how you perceive them”:
    1. Are you paying attention to “the right things?”
    2. Are there “alternative realities” you may wish to consider?