Situational leadership is a management theory put forth by authors Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard. Micromanagement is the act of personally controlling numerous details in subordinates' work. While these two concepts seem different at first, there is a distinct overlap between them: Situational leadership theory states there are specific situations in which micromanagement is an ideal tactic. Understanding micromanagement in the context of situational leadership can help you to add this technique to your repertoire and know when to use it.
Leadership styles are the foundation of situational leadership. Telling and selling are two leadership styles that include a tendency to micromanage. Telling leaders take a command-and-control approach to management, making decisions in a top-down fashion. Selling leaders possess the same drive for results as their telling counterparts, but they rely more on persuasion and explanation to get employees on board with their goals.
The participating and delegating styles are less likely to employ micromanagement. Participating leaders work alongside their subordinates and create an egalitarian team culture. Delegating leaders focus on creating self-sufficient teams in which employees are equipped to make their own decisions and hold themselves accountable.
The situational leadership model presents four distinct levels of maturity, with each level requiring a different type of leadership to be most effective. At the first level -- Maturity 1, labeled as M1 -- employees are neither motivated nor skilled enough to perform their jobs properly, and they lack confidence in their abilities. The telling leadership style is recommended for this level. At the M2 level, employees are willing and motivated to perform their jobs but lack the skills and experience required to meet expectations; the selling style is recommended here. The M3 level is characterized by a willingness and ability to do a job but with a lack of confidence; the Participating style is best at this level. The highest maturity level, M4, calls for the delegating style because employees are equally confident, skilled and motivated.
Micromanagement can take many forms, depending on the work environment, and it has gained an almost universally negative connotation in the Western world. However, micromanagement is not an inherently negative management technique. When the stakes are high or safety is a concern, micromanagement can be the right tool, and it can be useful with new employees as a learning aid for a short while. However, the misuse or overuse of micromanagement almost always leads to reduced productivity and job satisfaction.
When a telling or selling style is called for, micromanagement may be just the right thing to keep employees on track and ensure consistent quality of work. Consider an M1 employee such as a high-school student working his first job in a restaurant. Using a telling style and micromanaging certain aspects of the job can ensure that food safety standards remain up to par while the new employee learns the ropes. A college intern at the M2 level may be ready and willing to work but not know what to do. In this case, the selling style and a bit of micromanagement in the early stages can help the intern to get up to speed quickly.