Four Key Qualities For Effective Situational Leadership

Business teams that consistently produce expected outcomes have team leaders that are tuned into their operating environment. These team leaders display situational leadership as they know their team’s environment and adapt to changing circumstances. It’s important for team leaders to be active situational leaders and this article presents four qualities for developing capability in situational leadership: Awareness; Focus; Leading by example; and Action.


A key way to develop situational leadership is for team leaders to understand the business’ operating environment. This includes being aware of the stakeholders that make up and influence day to day business activities. For example, customers are essential stakeholders, therefore knowing their likes and dislikes and identifying trends in consumer behaviour is important. Giving this information to your team means that they can be better equipped for dealing with customers and are more likely to deliver good quality service.


Being aware of an issue or likely event provides the opportunity to do something about it. Seizing the opportunity requires the team’s attention and the way to do this is for the leader to focus on the outcome that is needed and clearly explain it to all team members. How to achieve the objective can then be asked of team members as useful ideas often come from those doing the actual work. Team members are often hands-on and know the business’ processes, including its weaknesses, from their close involvement with customers and suppliers. Team members may also know a lot about competitors through feedback received from customers. Focus is about pointing the team at a target and facilitating a pathway to get there.

Leading By Example

Leading your team appropriately is essential to achieving team goals as team members look to their leader for guidance. This may not necessarily mean that team members ask questions to fill in the gaps in their understanding. They may simply observe the team leader’s behaviour in a particular situation so as to find out acceptable ways of doing business. Being a capable and trustworthy role model is therefore very important. It’s also challenging, as we all fall below our own expectations or those of others from time to time.


The final key quality in situational leadership is action. Taking advantage of opportunities and moving towards set goals requires action based on awareness of the operating environment, focusing on important issues and acting in ways that produce positive outcomes. Action is all about team members engaging with stakeholders, adapting to changing circumstances, learning from their experiences and achieving goals.

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Andrew Dunning

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