Leading and Following
Blanchard and Hersey Model for Situational Leadership:
- Directing Leaders define the roles and tasks of the ‘follower’, and supervise them closely. Decisions are made by the leader and announced, so communication is largely one-way.
- Coaching Leaders still define roles and tasks, but seeks ideas and suggestions from the follower. Decisions remain the leader’s prerogative, but communication is much more two-way.
- Supporting Leaders pass day-to-day decisions, such as task allocation and processes, to the follower. The leader facilitates and takes part in decisions, but control is with the follower.
- Delegating Leaders are still involved in decisions and problem-solving, but control is with the follower. The follower decides when and how the leader will be involved.
- Effective leaders are versatile in being able to move around the grid according to the situation, so there is no one right style. However, we tend to have a preferred style, and in applying Situational Leadership you need to know which one that is for you.
Clearly the right leadership style will depend very much on the person being led – the follower – and Blanchard and Hersey extended their model to include the Development Level of the follower. They said that the leader’s style should be driven by the Competence and Commitment of the follower, and came up with four levels:
High Commitment – Experienced at the job, and comfortable with their own ability to do it well. May even be more skilled than the leader. Works best with a Delegating Leader.
Variable Commitment – Experienced and capable, but may lack the confidence to go it alone, or the motivation to do it well / quickly. Works best with a Supporting Leader.
Low Commitment – May have some relevant skills, but won’t be able to do the job without help. The task or the situation may be new to them. Works best with a Coaching Leader.
Low Commitment – Generally lacking the specific skills required for the job in hand, and lacks any confidence and / or motivation to tackle it. Works best with a Directing Leader.
Blanchard and Hersey said that the Leadership Style of the leader must correspond to the Development level of the follower – and it’s the leader who adapts.
Obviously, within whitewater sports, the environment and the group dynamic can change radically and quickly. Therefore the educator needs to take special care in observing their group as well as observe individuals. It is not uncommon to have the issue of feeling coerced into a situation because the group consensus deemed so. Because we are working in an environment that can be extremely intimidating we need to take extra caution in making sure all of our participants are comfortable in their new environment.