Leadership is a subject studied seriously in the military. Due to the nature of military operations, how we lead in various situations can mean the difference between life and death. The Hersey and Blanchard model serves as an excellent model to teach military leadership and management. The Hersey and Blanchard model must be translated into a military context due to the uniqueness of military operations. Specifically, the model does a good job of highlighting the appropriate leadership style based on the "maturity" or "development level" of the followers. However, the model must be re-constructed for each level at which leadership is exercised. There are different styles that may be required because of the demands of combat. The Situational Leadership Model can be applied in numerous military applications and as a mid-career officer, I feel that the model is particularly useful as I progress from unit-level leadership positions to more senior leadership positions involving more people and more complex missions.
Almost all leadership theory is based on the relative importance assigned to the leader versus the follower in mission accomplishment. Those who believe that leaders are sufficiently enlightened, heroic, or charismatic (Magee, 1993) cite examples of bold leaders such as Alexander the Great, Napoléon and Hitler, and they favor the authoritarian model of leadership. The military has long been a bastion for authoritarian leaders and to this day it has maintained a predominantly authoritarian leadership style.
We began the twentieth century focused almost exclusively on a leader-dominant theory of leadership that assumed a low opinion of the followers' motivation, maturity, and abilities (Hersey, & Blanchard, 1982). At the turn of the century, however, social scientists began to be interested in the worker as a means to improve production. Robert Tannenbaum and Warren Schmid developed a picture of the evolution of leadership in their "Continuum of Leader Behavior" (Hughs, Ginnett, & Curphy, 1999). They show that all leadership theory is based on the relative emphasis placed on either the follower or the leader.
In their book, Hersey and Blanchard (1982) observe that the function of the leader under scientific management or classical theory was obviously to set up and enforce performance criteria to meet organizational goals. The main focus of a leader was on the needs of the organization and not on the needs of the individual.
This contrasted with another type of management theory that had become popular in the early 1900, human relation theory. In this theory, the function of the leader was to facilitate cooperative goal attainment among followers while providing opportunities for their personal growth and development. One of the more recent studies, Douglas MacGregor's Theory X and Theory Y, provides a useful framework for analyzing a leader's attitude concerning his or her followers. Theory X leaders assume followers are not sufficiently mature or motivated to be allowed much autonomy. Theory Y, in contrast, assumes just the opposite.
The Situational Leadership Model
Hersey and Blanchard (1982) concluded that no one theory of leadership ...