Joseph McCann in Human Resources Planning (2004) explains that at its most basic, situational leadership involves the ability to adopt different leadership styles depending on the situation. McCann adds that this skill can be learned, but some managers and leaders have the ability to analyze the needs of the situation, and then adopt the most appropriate leadership style for the situation (McCann, 2004, 42).
Thomas Mahnken and James Fitzsimonds in Parameters (2004) explain that Army leadership is embracing new opportunities for leadership in which no one's opinion is discounted. This is not to suggest that the Army is or should be a democracy. It has always been and will always be a hierarchical organization. However, significant changes are needed to give the Army the additional flexibility it needs to achieve its evolving roles as war makers and peacekeepers, and part of the solution is to recognize when participative management can be used both as a training tool and to gain fresh perspectives, and when authoritarian and autocratic leadership is the best and only way to accomplish the mission (Mahnken, Fitzsimonds, 57).
Leaders are required to demonstrate a number of different skills in the average day. For example, it a training setting a leader will be expected to Direct the activities of the trainees. During training, the leader will be expected to Coach trainees in order to help them improve their ability to respond appropriately to specific situations. At some point, a leader will probably become a Facilitator, and in this role will support the trainees as they attempt to determine the appropriate solution to a training scenario or problem.
I interviewed a manager in a retail store. After explaining the concept of situational leadership to make certain we had a common frame of reference, I asked how she made use of it. She responded that with customers even though she was the store manager she was expected t...