Situational Leadership® and Whole Brain® Thinking

Have you ever made the mistake of purchasing something you had to take home in a box then assemble? Maybe it was a toy — or a tool or a table (perhaps even something else that begins with the letter “t”). Point being, many of us have found ourselves staring at separate piles of like materials neatly arranged on a garage floor trying to make sense of instructions that were clearly developed for somebody with special powers of interpretation.

Usually the only good news in that scenario is that almost invariably, as you “eyeball” your inventory of seemingly disparate parts, there are always a few that (for whatever reason) just seem to somehow fit together (i.e., you don’t need the piece of paper written in a foreign language with the bad graphics to figure out that “Part A” connects with “Part B”).

It struck me as I navigated my way around a training conference recently that if leadership development was the “toy, tool or table” you were trying to put together, you’d be able to figure out that the original Situational Leadership® Model (developed by Dr. Paul Hersey) and Whole Brain® Thinking (developed by Dr. Ned Herrmann and enhanced by his daughter Ann Herrmann) just fit together.

Let’s keep this simple:

  • Situational Leadership® is a model that is defined by adaptability. Empowerment, collaboration and structure are all viable leadership approaches (it simply depends upon when you do what). It is also a model that is dependent upon (and for all intents and purposes driven by) the ability to effectively diagnose circumstances:
    1. What is the task? At its “lowest common denominator,” what is the objective of my attempt to influence?
    2. What is the Performance Readiness® of the individual I am attempting to influence for the task in question (i.e., task-specific ability and willingness)?
  • Whole Brain® Thinking is a model that is also defined by adaptability. Much the same as leaders typically have a style preference that favors one approach (e.g., empowerment) over another (e.g., structure), there are distinct patterns our brain uses to perceive and process information. For instance, perhaps part of the struggle associated with “garage floor assembly” is a function of directions being authored in a manner that favor practical, rational analytics as opposed to instinctive, intuitive feel. With that thought in mind, ask yourself how many times you have been in some sort of an influence-related conflict with a colleague that featured the two of you addressing that set of circumstances from the following perspectives:
    1. “What’s not to see here? It’s obvious!”
    2. “We don’t have anywhere near enough information yet!”

So, net-net, Situational Leadership® is a model that depends upon accurate diagnosis. Diagnosis is a cognitive competency. Whole Brain® Thinking (at a minimum) helps leaders understand their strengths and potential blind spots when it comes to the task of diagnosing.

So, while you might understandably struggle with how some of the other pieces of your leadership puzzle might fit together, from our perspective, you don’t need to invest a whole lot of energy into trying to figure out how Situational Leadership® fits into Whole Brain® Thinking (or vice versa). It just fits!


Visit these two websites and either confirm (or challenge) the central theme of this blog: