What's Your Style of Leadership?

Understanding yourself will help you lead and manage others.

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Situational Leadership 

You may recognize your style in the above, or you've realized that while you feel most comfortable with one you tend to use different styles depending on the situation. This contingency-based model arose from a realization that no one style works in all situations. Leadership responds to the needs of the organization in the moment. The most effective leaders adopt their style to the situation, as described by Daniel Goleman in his book Primal Leadership.7

The popular Hersey-Blanchard Situational Leadership Theory assumes leaders fail when they don't match their style of leadership to the maturity of the person or group they are leading. It describes four main leadership styles mapped to maturity levels as listed in Table 3.

Table 3: Hersey-Blanchard Situational Leadership12 

Hersey-Blanchard Situational Leadership
Maturity Level Most Appropriate Style

M1 - low maturity; lack knowledge, skills, or confidence to work alone

S1 - telling / directing; tell people exactly what to do and how to do it

M2 - medium maturity; limited skills

S2 - selling / coaching; still provide direction but with more communication to "sell" the message and get people on board

M3 - medium maturity with higher skills but limited confidence

S3 - participating / supporting; focus more on relationships and sharing decision-making and less on direction

M4 - high maturity; able to work alone

S4 - delegating; most responsibility passed on to members of the group

If there is no "one size fits all" leadership approach, what common qualities do leaders possess? According to Ken Blanchard, co-creator of the Hersey-Blanchard model and best-selling author, "The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority."8 Whether influencing, persuading, or motivating, leaders have a talent to inspire others.

Leadership style effectiveness depends on forces in the situation, the leader and the follower. A leader must weigh the likelihood of a person accepting direction versus the importance of the decision. In a high-risk setting, an authoritarian style may be the easiest to apply, the most well-accepted, and least confusing for all involved.

Strength-Based Leadership 

According to Gallup, which surveyed more than one million work teams and interviewed more than 20,000 leaders, the most effective leaders constantly invest in strengths. When leadership focuses on employees' strengths, engagement rises dramatically. Effective leaders surround themselves with the right people and understand their followers' needs (trust, compassion, stability and hope). There is no one strength that all good leaders possess; the most effective leaders are acutely aware of their talents and use them to their best advantage.9

Successful leadership means learning to use your strengths in any situation to inspire, influence and motivate. This self-discovery can build your team's confidence, increasing productivity and satisfaction. Setting a direction for your team and encouraging them to participate in creative solutions is a winning approach to better patient care.

Scott Warner is lab manager at Penobscot Valley Hospital, Lincoln, ME.


1.      BrainyQuote. Retrieved May 14, 2011 from the World Wide Web: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/p/peterdruck131069.html

2.      Riggio R. Leadership vs. Management: What's the difference. Retrieved May 14, 2011 from the World Wide Web: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/cutting-edge-leadership/200911/leadership-vs-management-what-s-the-difference

3.      Emergenetics. Management vs. leadership: What's the difference. Retrieved May 14, 2011 from the World Wide Web: http://www.emergenetics.com/management-vs-leadership-whats-difference

4.      Karlgaard R. Four styles of leadership. Retrieved May 14, 2011 from the World Wide Web: http://www.forbes.com/forbes/2009/1102/opinions-rich-karlgaard-digital-rules.html 

5.      Cherry K. Lewin's leadership styles. Retrieved May 14, 2011 from the World Wide Web: http://psychology.about.com/od/leadership/a/leadstyles.htm

6.      About. Quiz: What's your leadership style? Retrieved May 14, 2011 from the World Wide Web: http://psychology.about.com/library/quiz/bl-leadershipquiz.htm .

7.      Wall Street Journal. Leadership styles. Retrieved May 14, 2011 from the World Wide Web: http://guides.wsj.com/management/developing-a-leadership-style/how-to-develop-a-leadership-style/

8.      BrainyQuote. Retrieved May 14, 2011 from the World Wide Web: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/k/kenblancha307860.html

9.      Gallup. New gallup book destroys the myth of the well-rounded leader. Retrieved May 14, 2011 from the World Wide Web: http://www.gallup.com/press/113536/Press-Release-Strengths-Based-Leadership.aspx

10.  Leadership-Tools. Leadership versus management. Retrieved May 14, 2011 from the World Wide Web: http://www.leadership-tools.com/leadership-versus-management.html 

11.  Mindtools. Blake Mouton managerial grid: Balancing task and people-oriented leadership. Retrieved May 14, 2011 from the World Wide Web: http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newLDR_73.htm 

12.  Mindtools. The Hersey-Blanchard situational leadership Theory: Choosing the right leadership style for the right people. Retrieved May 14, 2011 from the World Wide Web: http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newLDR_44.htm .

What's Your Style of Leadership?

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