The following essay will discuss the Situational Leadership Model and also the application of the model to the leadership style of Jeanne Lewis as she led various teams at Staples, Inc. This essay addresses the concept of follower readiness as it relates to the model, the 4 levels of follower readiness, leadership styles and matching the readiness with the best suited leadership style according to the leadership model. The case of Jeanne Lewis will be discussed in how she was able to align her leadership style to the employee readiness throughout the various teams she led during her career at Staples, Inc.
There are three primary elements of Situational Leadership Model. These elements include task behavior, relationship behavior, and followers. Task behavior can be determined as the way in which a leader gives specific work assignments to individuals or a group. This behavior is could also be categorized as one direction, from leader to follower. Next, relationship behavior is characterized by the way in which a leader is able to communicate back and forth with individuals. This involves more two way communication with feedback and questions from both the leader and follower. Finally the third element is the follower, which is the most critical aspect of the model. There cannot any leadership without a follower or followers of some type (Hersey, P., Blanchard, K.H., & Johnson, D.E., 2008).
The cliché’ willing and able are the most important factors in the four levels of follower readiness. In the first level (R1), the follower is incapable and insecure or reluctant to perform given duties. For the second level (R2), the follower is still incapable of performing the task but is willing and confident to perform with oversight from the leader to provide direction. The successive third level (R3) varies from the preceding levels because the follower is capable at this level but not willing or possibly insecure about completing the assignment. The fourth level (R4) of readiness is the most desired by leaders as the follower finally achieves the cliché’ of both willing and able (Hersey et al., 2008).
The four primary leadership styles in the Situational Leadership Model are telling, selling, participative and delegation. The telling style of leadership provides the follower with particularized information and guidance over the objective. The selling style varies in the sense that there is a chance to straighten out any potential misunderstanding after a decision has been explained to the follower. In the participating style of leadership, there is more free flowing ideas shared between leader and follower to the extent in which the follower is allowed to share in the final decision making process. Finally with the delegation style, a leader is able to hand over a task to the follower with very little guidance. The follower for the leader that is able to delegate has demonstrated to be trustworthy and able enough to be accountable to carry out the given task (Hersey et al., 2008).
Readiness and Leadership Style
The Leadership Style needs to appropriately align with follower readiness level. A leader should use a telling style as discussed earlier with the follower that has little ability, confidence and shows reluctance. Over time as the follower becomes a bit more skilled and able the leader can transition to a selling style in which the follower is given an opportunity to seek clarification after a decision has been given.
As the follower demonstrates ability and willingness, the leadership style can progress to a participating style in which both are able to share ideas with each other and aid in the decision making process. A delegation style leadership is given for the most willing and able follower. This person has demonstrated that they have the confidence to take responsibility for actions and decisions. The previous descriptions entail that a leader must transition through each of the styles as the follower needs varied guidance moving through their individual performance readiness (Hersey et al., 2008).
Jeanne Lewis adjusted her leadership styles while at Staples, Inc. aligning leadership style to the appropriate level of her followers at the various teams she led. She knows that her personal style of leadership is telling and has stated; “I jump in and say; ‘here’s the way to do it’ ” (Suesse, J.M., & Hill, L. A. 2005). This style is effective for the insecure or incapable follower. However, Jeanne recognized that adhering to this one style could be limiting to both her and the Staples organization. As she began to advance in the company, she learned to adjust to a more selling style and her employees stated, “She tended to manage tightly at first, and then loosened the reins (Suesse et al., 2005).” This is reflective of the selling style as Jeanne came to know her followers skills and abilities better. This selling style was more appropriate for the follower that was allowed to ask questions in clarification as this follower is unable but willing and confident to perform as Jeanne directed. As Jeanne continued to quickly advance in promotions she was at a point of overseeing two separate departments during transition of a potential merger, she was using participative style leadership predominantly. Jeanne would have one on one meeting’s with her direct reports formally in order to really understand what each of their distinct roles and warned them ahead of time she would want to ride shotgun with them and ask a lot of questions in order to learn as much as she could” (Suesse, J.M., & Hill, L. A. 2005) . These direct reports were the opposite of the prior follower as they are capable but have some insecurity or are unwilling. As these direct reports overcome their insecurity and become willing, they would then be able to move into the delegation category. At this point, Jeanne would be able to give them a task and completely turn it over to the individual. This point is when both leader and follower are confident and able in the employee being empowered for full responsibility of job performance. The Jeanne Lewis case is an example of just how a leader can be fluid in leadership style according to follower needs and ever changing skill level.
Hersey, P., Blanchard, K.H., & Johnson, D.E. (2008). Management of Organizational Behavior. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education Inc.
Suesse, J.M., & Hill, L. A. (2005). Jeanne Lewis at Staples, Inc. (A) (Abridged). Boston, MA: Harvard Business Publishing.