The Situational Leadership Model and the Jeanne Simmons Case Introduction: The Situational Leadership Model The situational leadership model is based on certain assumptions. One of these assumptions is that there are different levels (or situations) in which a leadership style is played out. In the same way that there are four different levels of readiness on the part of staff or "followers", there are also four leadership styles. On the whole it is the level that the followers are to be found that is most important element in the equation when a leadership style is seen to be to be the appropriate style and is chosen from among four possible styles. According to this idea leaders can choose to lead in any one of four styles and within that style can operate through directive behavior (strong leadership) or supportive behavior (employee developing leadership). The four levels of "follower ship" can be listed and annotated as follows: D 1 Low competence / high commitmentD 2 Some competence /low commitmentD 3 High competence / variable commitmentD 4 High competence /high commitment The essence of the situational leadership idea is that each different "situation" of employee readiness to follow calls for a different type of leadership.
For example, if we are talking about a Walmart "associate" training class we might be talking about D 1. This would call for a special style of leadership. The combinations are best shown in a graphic that is available online at: web The four leadership styles are named in each of four cells of the diagram. This gives us a good preparation to analyze the Jeanne Lewis story.
Jeanne Lewis at Staples When Lewis came to Staples she diagnosed a leadership problem in Safeway stores. The level of follower ship readiness in the organization was probably best described as D 2. The stores were under performing but store managers had been in place a long time. Lewis began by chopping out all the old dead wood. This was the low point in supportive. Lewis wouldn't support managers who were not putting out energy to lead their staffs.
At first Lewis's style was directive, but when some middle management executive staff didn't respond to her directive style Lewis fired them. The survivors were then brought along by Lewis who worked with them and who also encouraged store managers and other middle managers to compete with each other this would fit in best with the coaching style. Now we are moving into the coaching style as the developmental level of the employees is increasing. When Lewis moved down into the local structure of a store she saw that the buyers had been lazy.
She pushed them into productivity and soon there had been a 75% turnover in stock. The buyers responded positively to this kind of leadership and Lewis began to move into delegating style. She did not try to "micromanage" the buyers. She just gave them a big push and let them start making day to day decisions. Rewards for Leadership By 1996 Staples had increased to 500 stores and turned over $3 Billion a year. There were many more employees now so that ''leadership'' took on a bigger meaning.
Because Lewis had done such important work in store management she was selected for a big position in marketing that opened up. Obviously, her ability to apply the situational principle in deciding on the appropriate management style had worked out well for her. When she went to Marketing, however, Lewis had to change her style once again. Merchandising is a more "rough and tumble" world, but marketing had creative people that had to be handled a little differently. Lewis put her earlier experience to work for her and used the supportive style where necessary and the style when she could. Her record over all is a great recommendation for situational leadership..