Definition of Situational Leadership

by Kenneth V. Oster - Updated September 26, 2017

Those who serve in leadership positions develop an individual philosophy on how to lead their organization. Personal approaches to leadership are constantly challenged by unforeseen situations and issues that arise each business day. Situational leadership is the change in approach that a manager must take in response to the day-to-day challenges of business.

Adaptive Leadership

Situational leadership is the art of adjusting your leadership style to effectively respond to any change in your work environment. Changes that you may need to respond to include technological advances, unforeseen business setbacks or emergency situations that develop on short notice. Since employees do not always respond positively to rapid, unforeseen change, situational leaders must develop good communication skills. The basis for leading an organization to accept rapid change is the ability to communicate and promote the value of the change that must be made.


Situational leadership involves examining a situation to determine the best course of action. Successful examination of an issue requires that leaders employ higher level critical thinking skills. Determining the best leadership style for a particular situation requires that you dig a little deeper into the problem to understand all sides of the issue. After a decision on how to approach a problem has been made, the next step is to evaluate the results and make any further adjustments as necessary.

Video of the Day

Brought to you by Techwalla
Brought to you by Techwalla

Coaching Skills

The art of situational leadership involves being able to coach and encourage subordinates to follow a specified course of action. The main job of a leader is to influence people to accomplish a task the way that it must be done, regardless of everybody's opinion. Since every person responds differently to authoritative instruction, situational leaders learn how to adjust their approach to the different personality traits of the people they are leading.


Every person views a situation from their own philosophical point of view. A situation that seems like a serious problem to one person may not even be considered a problem to another. Leaders must be careful that they do not overreact to the everyday problems in their organization, but at the same time they must be ready to respond to emergency situations effectively and objectively. Each situation requires a different response from those in leadership positions.


Effective leadership is an important part of making an organization productive. Leadership that is unresponsive to the needs of employees and the needs of customers will cause an organization to lose the confidence of the people they are supposed to be serving. Situational leadership programs are designed to help you learn how to be responsive to the needs of the people who work for you and how to be responsive to the people you are serving.

About the Author

Kenneth Oster's leadership experience includes an Air Force career, pastoral leadership, and business ownership in the automotive repair industry. He has a MBA from Western Governors University, and is working toward a DBA degree from Northcentral University. Oster authored the book, "The Complete Guide to Preserving Meat, Fish and Game: Step-by-Step Instructions to Freezing, Canning, Curing and Smoking."

Photo Credits

  • Confident business woman image by MAXFX from
Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article