Research to Measure If a Situational Approach to Leadership Matters
Recent leadership research by Blanchard studied the impact of different leadership styles to see if behaviors such as goal setting, listening, and decision-making impact employee perceptions of trust and well-being.
Three Key Findings About Different Leadership Styles
- People Experience Some Leadership Styles Far More Often
One of the four leadership styles was used very frequently by managers. Providing only highly directive (task) behaviors occurs, but very infrequently. Only 3 percent of employees reported receiving Leadership Style 1 (S1, high direction/low support). This suggests that managers are very sensitive to the sole use of directive behaviors.
The other three different leadership styles occurred more frequently. 33 percent reported receiving Style 2 (S2, high direction/high support), 22 percent reported receiving Style 3 (S3, low direction/high support), and 42 percent reported receiving Style 4 (S4, low direction/low support).
While Style 4 (low directive and low supportive leader behaviors) was the most frequent style received (42 percent), it is important to note that only 12 percent of the respondents reported needing Style 4. Some managers may be rated by their followers as providing S4 because they are stretched to their limits and do not have the time to be more than an S4 leader.
- Employees Tend to Prefer Different Behaviors from Their Leaders
Only 2 percent of the respondents reported needing S1 (high direction/low support), 59 percent reported needing S2 (high direction/high support), 26 percent reported needing S3 (low direction/high support), and 12 percent reported needing S4 (low direction/low support).
As you can see, the balance between high direction and high support is at the core of finding the right leadership style.
- A Leadership Style Fit to A Followers Needs Creates Better Outcomes
When followers reported a fit between their manager’s leadership style and their needed leadership style, they demonstrated more favorable scores regarding trust in their leaders, positive feelings about their job and work intentions, intent to perform, intent to endorse, intent to stay, intent to be a good organizational citizen, and positive feelings.
The Bottom Line
A situational approach to leadership matters. We know from leadership simulation assessment data that effective leader behaviors are context-specific, depending on the development level of the follower on a particular goal or task. If conscious efforts could be made to increase the fit between needed and received leadership behaviors, the work environment would become more emotionally enjoyable and productive.
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