Positive Effects of Situational Leadership
The positive effect of situational leadership is obvious due to how it enables managers to be more flexible in the way they lead those under them. This particular leadership style also has a certain intuitive appeal to it given the capacity of most managers to realize that there is no such thing as a “one size fits all” strategy when it comes to managing people and, as such, it is often necessary to take a step back, evaluate what is necessary and change leadership tactics to better suit the situation at hand.
Whether it involves managing an office or a large retail outlet, the processes all remain the same wherein managers must be able to balance the needs of the business, take into account current business trends, the culture of the organization they work for as well as the various aspects inherent in the employees they are tasked to supervise. It is due to such needs that situational leadership truly shines as a prime example of a multi-faceted leadership style that can address a wide variety of issues as they come.
Based on the work of Christian, Edwards & Bradley (2010), it was noted that the relationship between managers and employees is an essential component when it comes to any form of leadership, yet, such a relationship often needs to be aligned based on the needs of a project or the type of work required to contribute positively to company operations. This is one of the reasons why situational leadership is often more tasks oriented as compared to the more relationship-oriented predilection of other leadership styles. Lynch, McCormack & McCance (2011) delved into this aspect of manager-employee relationships by explaining that one of the main issues when it comes to present-day managerial operations within companies is the fact that project managers often cultivate the wrong type of relationship with employees.
For instance, Oostrom, Born, Serie, & Van der Molen (2012) point to the establishment of various call centers within the Philippines wherein project managers are often brought in from the U.S. to help establish the framework for localized teams. The inherent issue that was found was that the managers adopted the same authoritarian management technique within the accounts they were in charge of and neglected to bring the local operations managers up to speed with the subtle nuances and tasks that needed to be implemented when it came to managing an account.
What occurred was a situation where the management of the account revolved around the project manager with the various operations managers simply following what was being told to them. This type of leadership was incompatible with the operational style of the call center since the project manager would only be there for a month. When the project manager left, the local operation managers were lost since there was an insufficient level of task delegation that was implemented resulting in a distinct drop in operational efficiency.
This example shows that understanding the needs of a given operation is essential when it comes to managing employees and it is due to this that the use of situational leadership becomes appealing since it would enable project managers to adjust their style based on their perceived notion of what the current situation needs (Cubero, 2007).
What must be understood is that as companies attempt to expand into new markets, it becomes necessary to expand the diversity of workforces due to the competitive market companies find themselves in. It is due to this that a high degree of adaptability is necessary which is exemplified by situational leadership.
Negative Effects of Situational Leadership
One of the inherent problems associated with situational leadership is the confusion it sometimes brings to employees. The very nature of business operations dictates the need to be flexible to respond to a varied amount of potential circumstances. It is due to this that situational leadership is often valued as a necessary tool to help work teams adapt to the ever-changing business environment that they find themselves in (Singer & Singer, 1990). However, with this level of flexibility also comes the issue of continuity wherein workers may find themselves in a situation where the leadership style of their manager continuously changes which creates issues concerning consistency in team operations (Korzynski, 2013).
What must be understood is that the type of leadership that is employed often dictates the organizational structure and method by which tasks and operations are carried out (Caudle, 2013). While situational leadership is an ideal method for addressing a wide variety of possible circumstances, it brings about the risk of inconsistency wherein employees will not know where they “stand” so to speak when it comes to how things are supposed to be done (Sims, Faraj & Yun, 2009). For instance, a manager that shifts between an authoritarian or democratic method of leadership based on the needs of the company may find that the employees are confused as to whom they are supposed to report to or if they should utilize their initiative when it comes to resolving tasks (Butler Jr. & Reese, 1991).
Other potential issues concerning continuity in operations come in the form of employee perception concerning shifts in personality when managers attempt to inexpertly achieve a situational leadership style (Graeff, 1983). In such cases of improper implementation, managers tend to believe that by changing their personality and how they deal with employees, they are in effect employing situational leadership. Skog, Peyre, Pozner, Thorndike, Hicks & Dellaripa (2012) state that this is another common misconception within several companies and often results in a considerable degree of confusion among employees.
Another of the problems associated with situational leadership is the focus leaders place on tasks instead of on developing relationships with their employees. First and foremost, what must be understood is that effective leadership is defined as the ability to successfully integrate the individual talents of various individuals into a cohesive and cooperative whole. As such, the characteristics of an effective leader consists of being able to create cooperation and cohesiveness within a team setting, promote and guide the individual talents of team members, create effective and open lines of communication within the team and set appropriate goals and expectations for people to understand what is expected of them (Remland, 1981).
It is within this context that the lack of relationships between leaders and employees can be considered as detrimental towards situational leadership as being effective. McCleskey (2014) supports such a statement by explaining that developing relationships with employees should be at the forefront of a manager’s leadership style since it in effect allows both parties to understand and relate with one another thereby forming a working partnership that helps to ensure that tasks are completed as indicated.
Without such a relationship in place, there would likely be a breakdown in the communication process thereby resulting in the possibility of errors being made, of mistakes going unreported, or a problem escalating when it could have been resolved early on if both the manager and the employee had a good relationship in place that fosters open communication and collaboration (West 2013).
The last negative aspect of situational leadership that will be discussed is its supposed capacity to remove the focus of managers from long-term strategies. Bedford & Gehlert (2013) explain that the very nature of situational leadership is that it focuses on adjusting to issues as they happen and implementing a leadership style that can adequately address the concerns that have been brought up. As such, it is a very task-oriented leadership style that focuses on the “here and now” so to speak.
However, it is due to its very nature that this leadership style is criticized as moving the attention of leaders away from long-term strategies and instead focuses all their attention on anticipating issues through leadership adjustment. While in the short term such a strategy can be considered effective, in the long term it detracts from the potential performance of the manager since leadership strategies should take into consideration long-term goals and set achievements rather than focusing exclusively on short-term strategies.
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