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Situational Leadership

Situational Leadership

Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it” (www. leadershipnow. com[->0]). This is just how Jeanne Lewis a graduate from Harvard Business School approached management. She motivated and pushed her followers to accomplish the things she felt needed to be done. As a leader within Staples Inc. she was able to accomplish a great deal by recognizing the readiness of her followers and applying the correct leadership style.

In the following paragraphs we will discuss what follower readiness is, it’s four levels, the four levels of leadership style and how the leadership style used is determined by the readiness level of the followers. We will also take a look at how Jeanne Lewis successfully assessed her follower’s readiness and appropriately chose the correct leadership style for each situation she was in. It is important to first understand follower readiness and how it relates to the Situational Leadership styles Jeanne used.

Readiness can be defined as the follower’s ability and willingness to accomplish the task at hand. A follower’s readiness is often related directly to the task itself and how comfortable the follower is with their ability to successfully accomplish the task that has been asked of them. As tasks change the followers readiness may also change and each of these changes may call for a different leadership style. This helps to motivate subordinates to accomplish the job at hand. To accomplish this, the leader may need to apply a leadership style that is appropriate to each individual situation.

An example of this would be that it is inappropriate for a manager to constantly be looking over the shoulder and carefully directing every move of a follower who has the knowledge and motivation to accomplish the task with little supervision. In order to choose the correct leadership style we need to look and the four levels of follower readiness. To see how Jeanne was able to be a successful leader it is necessary to understand each of the four readiness levels of those she was placed charge over. The first level is Un-able and Un-willing.

At this level the follower has neither the skills nor the motivation to accomplish the task at hand. The second level is Un-able but Willing. Here the follower lacks the skills to accomplish the task but is motivated and willing to give it a try. For example, John is an up and coming employee who has been asked by his supervisor to edit information to the company website. John is excited to have new opportunities and projects but has no experience with web pages. In order for him to accomplish the task he will need guidance and step by step instructions in order to get the web page updated.

Level three follower readiness is Able but Un-willing. With this level the follower has the necessary skills to successfully accomplish the task but lacks the motivation. This lack of motivation can be due to the insecurity of the follower not being confident in their ability or simply the lack of desire to perform the task. The fourth and final stage of readiness is Able and Willing. At this level the follower has the skills and the confidence or motivation to accomplish what it is that is being asked of them. With each of the four readiness levels there are also four leadership styles.

The first leadership style is High Task and Low Relationship. Here the leader is more or less pushing the task to be accomplished and is not considering the feelings or suggestions of the followers. Leadership style two is High Task and High Relationship. The leader is concerned with getting the task done but is also aware of the follower’s feelings and suggestions concerning the task. The third leadership style is Low Task and High Relationship. With this style the leader is more concerned about the follower’s suggestions and feelings and less concerned about the task at hand.

The last leadership style is Low Task and Low Relationship. With this style the leader takes more of a back seat approach to the task. There is little need for concern since the followers are capable and motivated to complete the task. Now that we know the four levels of readiness and the four leadership styles we can match the readiness level to the appropriate style. Readiness level one is best matched with leadership style one. This style is the best approach because followers are not skilled enough and lack the motivation to accomplish the task on their own.

The leader is responsible for making sure the followers understand what they need to do and how they need to do it. Leadership style two best fits readiness level two because the follower still needs the support of the leader to tell them what needs to be done and how to do it but at this level the follower is motivated. They are willing to learn and offer suggestions for accomplishing the task. Leadership style three and readiness level three are a good match since the follower has the ability to do the task but lacks motivation.

By the leader taking interest in the follower’s feelings and suggestions the leader can often help to motivate the follower to get the job done. Low Task and Low Relationship leadership style is a good fit to the Able and Willing follower since this follower doesn’t require much supervision. They have the skills and the motivation to accomplish the task. This allows the leader to be able to delegate a lot of the responsibility to the followers and can trust that things will be done and done correctly. Lewis was a great example of matching the correct leadership style with the correct readiness level of her followers.

Moving thru the different departments and management positions throughout Staples, Inc, Jeanne quickly realized that she was often times working with people who had more experience in the work she was trying to direct them in. She says “I was put in charge of managing people who had all `been there, done that’ for years” (Cases in Advanced Leadership and Professionalism [Cases in ALP] p. 81). Even though Jeanne knew her followers had been more experienced she also knew that at times changes were needed in order to be successful.

She was put into the Operations Department and quickly realized the stores were not meeting the expectations of the company in the money they made and the growth of their sales. Lewis was able to look at the situation and went to work to correct it. She took on a High Task and Low Relationship Leadership Style. In a 12 month period she replaced 25 associates and helped her teams set aggressive goals and rejuvenated performance. She forced her subordinates to step up to the challenge and improve production. Later Lewis was asked to head up the Marketing Department.

Here we see another great example of Jeanne realizing her leadership style needed to be adjusted. Typically she had managed people who were less sensitive and were more tasks driven. As Lewis began to take charge of the Marketing Department as she often had in the past she started by encouraging debate and challenging programs. Jeanne recalls, “The first time I decided to challenge a marketing program, I thought we were going to have some good honest dialogue around it. But the person was just devastated” (Cases in ALP p. 84). It was at that point Lewis knew she was going to have to take a different approach and adjust her Leadership Style.

She knew that she was going to have to take on more of a High Relationship style with the Marketing Department. A direct report of Lewis’ said Jeanne had “an open door policy and made an effort to be approachable…you could pop into her office for anything, even to tell a joke, as long as it was the right time” (Cases in ALP p. 84). Jeanne Lewis made it a point to understand the difference between the groups she managed. Anytime she changed positions and began working with a new group she would dig deep into the group she was working with. She would ask questions and pay attention to how her followers would operate.

As described by one of her colleagues, Jeanne “tended to manage tightly at first, then loosened the reins (Cases in ALP p. 81). Another reported his first impression of Lewis as being a “micro-manager” but then “realized that she liked to inspire dialogue and debate to ensure that they dug deeply in their decision making” (Cases in ALP p. 81). After taking the time to learn about her subordinates she would then decide on the proper approach to manage her followers. She took the time to assess their readiness level and then find the appropriate Leadership Style that best fit the situation in which she was managing.

Because Jeanne Lewis understood follower readiness she was able to look at each situation she was in and choose the appropriate leadership style. This gave her an advantage in all the management positions she held including those she didn’t have much experience in. She understood that to be a great leader she needed to have the support of her followers and needed them to be motivated and willing to accomplish all she would ask of them. With each group she managed it was important for her to understand who they were, what they were capable of, and what it would take to motivate them.

She truly knew the “art of getting someone else to do something she wanted done because they wanted to do it. ” Reference List Eisenhower, D. (1996). Leading Thoughts. Leadership Now. Retrieved July 22, 2009, from www. Leadershipnow. com[->1]. Seusse, J. & Hill, L. (2005). Jeanne Lewis at Staples, Inc. , [Electronic Version]. Cases in Advanced Leadership and Professionalism (pp. 78 – 91) McGraw – Hill Companies Hersey, P. , Blanchard, K. , & Johnson, D. (2001). Management of Organizational Behavior. Upper Saddle Ridge, NJ: Prentice Hall. [->0] – http://www. leadershipnow. com [->1] – http://www. Leadershipnow. com