The Hersey-Blanchard Model is a leadership model that focuses on the ability and willingness of individual employees. Developed by Paul Hersey and Kenneth Blanchard, the model is also referred to as the Situational Leadership Model.
Unlike other leadership models, the Hersey-Blanchard model disregards the idea that corporations require a single approach to leadership. Instead, the model proposes a leadership style that adapts to the unique circumstances of each workplace.
By evaluating each employee’s ability and experience, leaders can adapt their leadership methods to encourage professional development in their employees. It results in a progression of leadership methods that continuously adapt alongside an employee’s professional development.
The Hersey-Blanchard Model is a leadership model that focuses on the ability and willingness of individual employees. It’s also referred to as the Situational Leadership Model.
The model outlines four leadership styles, each corresponding with a specific level of employee development.
Although the model is well-regarded among professionals, there are still difficulties with its application in the real-world.
Analyzing the Hersey-Blanchard Model
The Hersey-Blanchard model uses a diagram to classify employees based on their capacity and experience. In the model, employees are referred to as “followers,” while managers are referred to as “leaders.”
The diagram below outlines four distinct groups of followers, each organized by their ability and willingness to work. Ability refers to a follower’s ability to perform their job successfully with a combination of skills and experience. Willingness refers to followers who are motivated to take on a task and have the confidence to carry out their responsibilities.
Based on the Hersey-Blanchard model, the four groups of followers are:
1. Unable and Unwilling (D1)
D1 followers are unable to complete their tasks because they lack the proper skills to succeed. They are also unmotivated and lack confidence in their abilities.
2. Unable and Willing (D2)
D2 followers are unable to complete their tasks, usually due to a lack of skills and experience. However, they are still willing to try and attempt the task. It exemplifies new employees that are motivated to succeed but lack adequate knowledge and ability.
3. Able and Unwilling (D3)
D3 followers have the capacity and experience to complete their tasks but are unwilling to do so. It can be attributed to a lack of self–confidence in their ability or a lack of motivation to follow their leader’s guidance.
4. Able and Willing (D4)
D4 followers have the necessary skills and experience, as well as the confidence in their ability to complete tasks successfully. The employees have the highest level of capacity and can complete tasks while also taking responsibility for their work.
Leadership under the Hersey-Blanchard Model
Under the Hersey-Blanchard model, a leader must adapt their leadership methods depending on the ability and willingness of their followers. For example, a follower with a D2 development level should be led differently than a follower with a D4.
Therefore, the Hersey-Blanchard model outlines four distinct leadership styles, each corresponding to a specific level of employee development.
1. Directing (S1)
The S1 leadership style focuses primarily on providing direction to employees. At the S1 stage, followers lack the ability and willingness to complete their tasks, and leaders must clearly define their responsibilities and ensure they develop the foundational skills to be successful. Typical S1 leadership methods include simple instructions, clear explanations, and careful supervision.
2. Coaching (S2)
The S2 leadership style provides followers with both direction and personal support. In the S2 stage of development, followers are still unable to perform their tasks but are motivated to succeed. Therefore, leaders should ensure that followers are developing the necessary skills but still maintaining their self-confidence. Ultimately, this results in followers that can take on personal responsibility for their tasks.
3. Supporting (S3)
The S3 leadership style focuses on supporting followers and less emphasis on providing direction. At the S3 stage, the follower has already developed the necessary skills to complete their tasks. Therefore, the leader should focus on providing feedback and support to motivate the employee and encourage greater development.
4. Delegating (S4)
The S4 leadership style involves minimal direction and support, as the follower is already capable of performing their tasks independently. At the S4 level, the leader should provide support when needed but also provide the follower with autonomy over their responsibilities.
Downsides of the Hersey-Blanchard Model
Although the Hersey-Blanchard model is well-regarded among professionals, there are still difficulties with its application in the real-world. Since the model is highly focused on the individual, it can be challenging for leaders to apply the model to groups with varying degrees of abilities and experience.
Also, not all leaders can adapt their leadership styles, especially if they hold beliefs that have been established over time.
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