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Effective Leadership Skills - Situational Leadership

Updated on July 15, 2013
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Mohan is a family physician, film and TV aficionado, a keen bibliophile and an eclectic scribbler.

Situational Leadership

Welcome back. In the last chapter we looked at Myers-Briggs personality type indicator in relevance to leadership styles. I hope you managed to do the little quiz around Autocratic and Democratic styles. So are you an autocrat or a democrat?

Many of us may face situations where we are called to be a leader. We do this without thought perhaps, and we reflect on the experiences afterwards. This may be at home, at play or at work. It may be a successful experience or it may be an experience that makes us uncomfortable and cringe.

There are times when our usual leadership styles and behaviors working consistently well, until we come across a situation where we fail to make an impact. This may make us question our style or we may just blame the team and the situation and move on.

We also know leaders who are one note, who have a tough task based style or a soft and gentle relationship style. While both can be effective, there will be situations where they find it hard to shift to another style that the situation or team requires.

On the other hand, we know leaders who are polyphonic. Those who can be tough when its called for, gentle when the situation demands, creative when ideas run dry and democratic when the team consensus is required.

A quick review of the various MBTI shows us there is a range of style to choose from...

MBTI  classification
MBTI classification | Source

A Task based leader may deliver goals and deadlines with efficiency. He/she may find it hard to motivate the team, may view them as disposable and expendable, and is very focused on outcomes.

A Relationship based leader will have heavy emphasis on building strong relationships, coaching and mentoring and believes in team development and the long term benefits but may struggle to get discipline, dictate goals and enforce deadlines.

Tasks versus Relationship

Perhaps the simplest way of looking at Leadership styles is to look at Task and Relationship.

We have all been at the receiving end of 'instructions' and 'deadlines' from someone who we perhaps don't respect or have a relationship with. We may do the task out of fear, repercussions or reward. We tend to do a task more collaboratively and enthusiastically with someone whom we respect and feel a connection with.

Both approaches have their benefits and disadvantages.

A Task based approach may give short term benefits, gets tasks done quickly and efficiently but in the long run may cause distrust, disenchatment and reduced efficiency due to lack of relationship, loyalty and connection.

Task based leaders may deliver goals and are very focused on outcomes. They may find it hard to motivate the team, and may view them as disposable and expendable,

A Relationship based approach has a lot of potential in buying loyalty and working that extra mile because the followers believe in the task and vision of our leader. However they may feel too close and too cuddly and may not necessarily fear repercussions and may not deliver.

Relationship based leaders will have heavy emphasis on building strong relationships, coaching and mentoring. They believe in team development and its long term benefits. However, they may struggle to get tasks done and enforce deadlines.

A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don't necessarily want to go, but ought to be.

- Rosalyn Carter


Now think first of the Great mother- a nurturing, supportive, benevolent entity who puts relationship before task who develops people in order to get things done.

By contrast look at the Warrior, a fierce, task oriented doer, who gets things done and doesn't worry about collateral damage, who puts task before people.

Jungian Archetypes

Carl Gustav Jung, The Swiss Psychiatrist and the founder of analytical psychology, believed in bringing our conscious and unconscious together in a process of what he called individuation. He felt this could be done without losing their relative autonomy. This is a process not dissimilar to raising self -awareness about the innate personality traits. ( Myers Briggs test is heavily influenced by his work)

Jung believed that deep underneath our unconscious mind, lie character traits that can be certain models or roles derived from fables and mythology.

He called them archetypes. Of all the archetypes he proposed ( and there are several- it needs a whole new hub to talk about them! ) four could be of interest to us. The Masculine and feminine versions are listed below.

Great mother (F) Lover (M)

Warrior (F) Warrior(M)

Good Queen (F) Good King (M)

Witch (F) Wizard/Magician (M)

each which their individual traits. These archetypes have been borrowed from fable and mythology. Jung was heavily into Eastern and Western mythology and believed these archetypal characters represent humanity's collective unconscious.

Knowing our archetypal influences really helps to understand our leadership styles and our personality in interacting with people and teams.

The Leadership Continuum in problem solving

· Leader creates a solution and 'announces' it

· Leader creates a solution and 'sells' it

· Leader presents ideas and invites questions

· Leader presents a solution as tentative subject to change if new ideas are offered

· Leader presents the problem, and invites solutions, but makes the final decision

· Leader defines limits to the solutions but asks group to make the decision

· Leader allows subordinates to function as an independent self sufficient teams towards a defined goal

A leadership continuum

As you may have guessed the Autocratic style is more the warrior archetype and the Democratic style is akin to the Earth Mother approach.

Truth is, neither style is a perfect one. To be a good leader is to be polyphonic. You need to way up your situation, weigh up your team and the task, assess the immediacy of what needs to be achieved and then pick your approach.

Another way successful leaders execute tasks is to incrementally move from one end to the other. Some may start as Democrats and then move to autocratic approach as the deadline approaches and task completion needs to be imminent. Some may adapt a more autocratic approach initially and then offer support and counsel after the task is completed.

A team lacking in confidence and lacking in the expertise to execute a task may need a high challenge, his support approach where the leader may well give out explicit instructions.

A team that is quite self sufficient and know their stuff may need a lot more free rein and a consultative, democratic approach.

In between there are several steps that could be incremental.

This approach is called Situational Leadership.

The leader is the organization’s top strategist... systematically envisioning the future and specifically mapping out how to get there

- Bill Hybels

The Good, Bad and Ugly

Each archetype has a shadow self - the extreme of the trait where good intentions may lead to bad results by overdoing it!


Good King :Democratic, Decisive, inclusive, benevolent, sharing, involving, encouraging

Weak King: Indecisive, slow, overindulgent, consults too many, insecure


Warrior: Powerful, Decisive, Leading, Visioning, Determined, Successful, Inspiring, Rewarding

Tyrant: Destroyer, collateral damage, others are expendable, win at all costs, selfish, Punisher


Earth Mother: Nurturing, supportive, encouraging, pastoral, protective, kind

Weak Mother: Overnurturing, supportive when challenge is needed, no discipline, no completion, poor growth due to low challenge, lazy team


Magician: Mercurial, full of ideas, creative, visionary, lateral thinking, outside the box, innovation

Mad woman: too many ideas, none completed, transient, incomplete, flitting, random, restless, distracted.

The Situational Leader

The Situational Leader knows the mood and the efficacy of the team. They observe, reflect, analyse and act. They have a variety of tools at their disposal. some they may be naturally good at, others they have learnt as a necessity.

They can choose to be the Warrior : telling, instructing, ordering , punishing, leading, visioning and ruthless in achieving the task.

They may choose to be an Earth Mother/Lover : nurturing, guiding, mentoring, training, helping to grow, rewarding

They may choose to the Magician/Witch : Giving ideas, creating, visioning, inspiring, dazzling, mercurial, quick witted, lateral thinking

Or they may be the Good wise King/ Queen: delegating, sharing, participating, democratic decision making, involving, encouraging

Situational demands should influence a situational style. Sometimes a mixture of styles may be needed for the task to be completed, or for different team members!

Most leaders find one or more roles more comfortable to wear and may feel uncomfortable with the others. Therein lies the development of a leader.

Which one is preferred style?


© Mohan Kumar 2012

Pick your Leadership Archetype!

Which is your preferred leadership style?

See results

Thank you and see you soon!

I hope you enjoyed this discussion on leadership skills.

Please do leave your comments below and don’t forget to vote.

If you liked what you read do visit the other hubs and share with your friends or family on Facebook,Twitter or other social networking sites. There are buttons below for ease of use.

I appreciate your attention & feedback. Do come back for the next chapter.

Thank you.


Copyright © Mohan Kumar 2012


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    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      7 years ago from south Florida

      Interesting examination of some of Jung's cherished archetypes, Docmo. You have provided just enough well-written information to intrigue your readers rather than annoy them with psychological concepts. Not easy to do. Bravo.


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