What kind of manager are you? Do you prefer to tell your employees what to do? Do you prefer to delegate? Do you need “buy-in” from your employees? Do you prefer to share the decision-making? Good news: whatever style you prefer, you have the best style—sometimes.

Is there one management style that is the best?

Although we all search for one easy answer to this question, the answer is no. There is not one best management style for every situation. There are endless management styles and each one has value in an organization; we need all types of managers in order for an organization to be complete.

So how do I choose a style?

The most successful managers learn to adapt their style to each unique situation. Paul Hersey and Kenneth H. Blanchardhave developed a model that outlines leadership styles as they relate to various situations. Their model is based on the amount of direction and the amount of emotional support a manager must provide to an employee in any given situation.

Giving direction is considered a task behavior. Providing emotional support is considered a relationship behavior. Task (directive) behavior and relationship (supportive) behavior make up the two dimensions that help determine which management style to use in any given situation.

These behaviors are defined by Hersey and Blanchard as:

Task behavior is the extent to which a leader engages in one way communication by explaining what each follower is to do as well as when, where and how tasks are to be accomplished” (Hersey and Blanchard, 1996).


“Relationship behavior is the extent to which a leader engages in two-way communication by providing socioemotional support, ‘psychological strokes’ and facilitating behaviors.” (Hersey and Blanchard, 1996).

There are four leadership styles defied by the Situational Leadership model: directing, coaching, supporting, and delegating.  These four stylesare determined by the level of supportive and the level of directive behavior given from the manager to the employee.

A directing style is high in directive behavior but low in supportive behavior; the employee needs clear, concise directions on how to complete a task and little nurturing support in order to be successful. This style is useful for a new employee, or for an employee charged with completing a task that is new to them.

A coaching management style combines both high supportive and high directive behavior. This style is ideal to use for employee development. It provides the employee with clear direction but also allows the manager to provide support in order for the employee to become a master at their job.

A manager using a supporting style is actively participating with the employee; there is a low level of directive behavior, but a high level of support. The manager works along side the employee. This style is useful for a seasoned employee who may need a moral boost. Providing support to an employee without telling them how to do their job can build autonomy into any job.

The last management style is delegating. This style is low in both supportive behavior and directive behavior. This style is the ultimate preference for managers who want to give there trusted employees autonomy and build their skill set.

The employee’s level of readiness is also important to perfecting your management skills. Situational Leadership defines readiness as “the ability and willingness of a person to take responsibility for directing their own behavior.”  (Hersey and Blanchard, 1996). Levels of readiness cannot be measured in a total sense; the level will vary depending on the specific task, function or objective.

For example, if an employee demonstrates a high level of readiness, that employee is ready to have the manager delegate tasks (using a delegating management style). This style allows the employee to work independently and experience autonomy; job satisfaction will be through the roof!

As a manager, you should have the ability to use any of the Situational Leadership styles in your management skills toolkit.

When you encounter a situation as a manager, try to determine the level of directive and supportive behavior needed. Does the employee know how to complete the task? How confident are you in their abilities?

As the level of employee readiness increases, the manager should adapt a style with reduced task behavior and increased relationship behavior. By adapting your management style and using all the management skills you now have, you will increase your own effectiveness as well as your employees’.

Refer to the model below to see where each style falls on both the task behavior and relationship behavior spectrums.

management skills

For more information on Situational Leadership, visit http://www.situational.com or contact the Corporate Learning Institute for individual coaching to develop your personal management skills at mailto:corplearning@corplearning.com or at 800-203-6734.

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