Situational Leadership

This is probably one of my favorite topics in leadership because it really does help in coaching someone.

The keys to this philosophy:

  • Wen assessing someone it is task specific – someone can need one type of coaching in one situation and an entirely different one in another.
  • It’s a developmental curve – someone will go through each developmental level for each skill.
  • Each stage is based on ones competence (demonstrated ability) and commitment levels and the combination thereof.
  • For each Developmental level there is a Style of coaching based on a combination of support and direction.

A good leader can move in and out of each style effortlessly and can recognize which is most appropriate based on the specific task or skill. In our business, we look at 5 categories: The Field, Training, Interviewing, Team Management, and Office Presence.


D1: The Enthusiastic Beginner
This person has low competence and high commitment. This stage is when someone first starts to learn a new task or skill.

Example: When someone starts a new job. They are really excited to begin the new work or job, but they’ve never done it before and don’t necessarily know what they are doing.

S1: Directive
This style of coaching is high in direction and low in support. The person knows they are learning and their excitement makes up for any need of motivational support. In this situation, the person should be told exactly what to do with very specific parameters.


D2: The Disillusioned Learner
This person has demonstrated low to some competence and low commitment. This is the stage where someone starts working on a task and realizes it is more of a challenge than he or she expected.

Example: Someone that completed training on a new task and is expected to perform on his/her own now. Especially so when the task had more challenges than the person expected.

S2: Coaching
This coaching style is both high directive and high supportive. To effectively utilize this style, the leader should talk with the person and get their perspective, and then give them the answer. The job of this style is to provide perspective to a given problem – the issue often appears larger than it actually is.


D3: Capable but Cautious Performer
This person has demonstrated moderate to high competence, but variable commitment. This is the stage where someone has been doing a specific task for a while but it has not yet become something that can be done without thought. The trust in their own ability is not yet there.

Example: Someone that has been out of training for a while and is inconsistent on hitting higher standards.

S3: Supporting
This coaching style is low directive and high supportive. To effectively utilize this style, one has to show the person their ability. Go back to facts – show them that they’ve done it before. Show your faith in their ability. When they approach you with a problem, let them find the answer on their own. Ask them how you can help. Literally, put the control in their hands and let them know you believe in them.


D4: Self-Reliant Achiever
This person has demonstrated high competence and high commitment. This is the stage where someone has come into their own stride and can get the job done without outside motivation or direction.

Example: The person that has show consistent ability in a specific task and performs without complaint or concerns.

S4: Delogating
This style is low directive and low supportive. With this style, you can give the person what the objective is and they will get to the goal with their own methods. They don’t need to be micromanaged because they will get the job done without being checked in on. It is very important to still acknowledge this persons contributions – low supportive does not mean unnoticed.

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