Situational Leadership: Setting the Stage

What makes an effective leader?  Think back over those leaders you have interacted with over your lifetime, whether personally or professionally.  What was it about them that made them effective?  Were they inspirational?  Did they challenge you?  Did they treat you as a person and invest in you relationally?  Did they give you autonomy?  Did they give you detailed instructions on how to do the task at hand?  What made them an effective leader?


If you’re anything like me your answer probably is something along the lines of, “Well it depends.”  Sometimes they may have told you what to do, at others they laid down the law and held you accountable, while at other times they may even have sat with you and celebrated a success or even cried with you in the midst of a tragedy.  What made them an effective leader?  They met you where you were at and then adjusted their leadership style based on what you needed.

So for those who are asking “What is this Situational Leadership model you’re all talking about now in Pitt County Schools?” I’ve just described it in a nutshell.  Situational Leadership is about leaders adaptiving their leadership style to the needs of those they are leading.

Today we’re going to start a multi-week examination of leadership in general and SitLead (as we like to call it) in particular.  SitLead is something that’s been around literally for decades – it was first developed in the late 1960’s and has been continually refined and adjusted since then.  In fact, one of us up hare at DEEL was first exposed to it over 20 years ago in the Boy Scouts!  More recently, we’ve been intentionally studying the model and becoming certified to train it in our district – in the past year we’ve been able to certify 8 different trainers from DEEL in their foundational-level Building Leaders program.  And it’s not just something for school systems – when I attended my first training sessions I were there with representatives and executives from FedEx, Home Depot Canada, and Hooters.

Maxwell QuoteWhen thinking about leadership the first question we need to ask (and answer) is, “What is leadership?”  I’ll save you the trouble of conducing a google-search of the question – let’s just say it’s safe to say if you asked 25 different people you’d get at least 26 different answers!  For us, though, we boil leadership down to one key word: influence.  At its heart, leadership is any attempt to influence someone else.  John Maxwell said, “Leadership is not about titles, positions, or flowcharts.  It is about one life influencing another. Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less.”

This means that we can lead in multiple directions – leadership is not only reserved for 360 Leader_0those who supervise others on a task or project; it’s not just for “the boss”. If leadership is influence it means we can lead (influence) those all around us – our peers, our followers,, even our boss – because we can (and do) influence in multiple directions.  When you provide information your boss needs to make an informed decision you are leading up.  When you direct a student teacher to perform a certain way in your classroom or give feedback to a student on their assignment you are leading down.  When you influence your peers in a PLC, grade level meeting, or department meeting you are leading laterally.  Leadership is not exerting control over others, rather leadership is influencing others.  Paul Hersey, one of the co-developers of the original SitLead model, wrote, “Leadership is any attempt to influence the behavior of another person or group.”

This definition is a foundational concept for understanding and applying the SitLead framework.   We need to recognize that in some way we all are leaders and we all are followers – we all need to lead using different strategies based on the situations we face, and we all have different levels of readiness for completing a task as a follower.  SitLead isn’t just for “them” (principals, central office personnel, administrators, or others in formal leadership positions); SitLead is for all of us.

In the coming weeks I’ll take a deeper dive into the fundamental aspects of SitLead and how we’re using it here in Pitt County Schools.

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