Situational Leadership

Ken Blanchard — a management expert, author of The One Minute Manager and creator of Situational Leadership. Blanchard has created this business language and a framework for employee development that transcends cultural, linguistic, and geographical boundaries.

I wanted to discuss the development model he’s come up with and address how leaders engage and customize Situational Leadership specific to the level each individual contributor is in.


The levels again are:

  • D1 – Enthusiastic Beginner with Low Competence/High Commitment/Low Stress – Hopeful, Inexperienced, Curious, Optimistic, Excited, Eager
  • D2 – Disillusioned Learner with Low Competence/Low Commitment/High Stress (Most likely to quit OR get fired) – Overwhelmed, Confused, Demotivated, Demoralized, Frustrated, Discouraged, Flashes of Competence
  • D3 – Capable/Cautious Performer with Moderate to High Competence/Variable Commitment/Variable Stress – Self-Critical, Cautious, Doubtful, Capable, Insecure, Contributing, Bored, Apathetic
  • D4 – Self-Reliant Achiever with High Competence/High Commitment/Low Stress – Justifiably Confident, Consistently Competent, Inspiring, Expert, Autonomous, Accomplished, Self-reliant

So a leader’s engagement with a team member who is a D1, would be S1. A D2 would require S2. A D3, S3, and a D4, an S4 approach. D = Development. S = Style.

The Style of leadership is as follows:

  • S1 – Directing: High Directive and Low Supportive Behaviors – specific direction about goals, shows and tells how, closely tracks the individual’s performance to provide frequent feedback on results. Planning, orienting, teaching, monitoring, feedback.
  • S2 – Coaching: High Directive and High Supportive Behaviors – explains why, solicits suggestions, praises right behavior, directs goal and task accomplishment. Clarifying, redirecting, encouraging, praising, defining.,
  • S3 – Supporting: Low Directive and High Supportive Behaviors – make decisions together, facilitate, listen, draw out, encourage, support. Asking, listening, facilitating, collaborating, appreciating, exploring.
  • S4 – Delegating: Low Directive and Low Supportive Behavior – empower independent action with appropriate resources to get the job done. Trusting, allowing, confirming, empowering, affirming, challenging.

Though we are all D3/4 in our clinical skills, we are scattered in our skills in working in highly matrixed and integrated corporate environments in the midst of an ever-changing and highly complex healthcare model and have team members at all levels from D1 through D4. In fact, we can look at almost any activity that we encounter in life in this way in order to determine how we are best led, and how we best improve as we seek to advance to the D4 level.

Another twist – we are all led and all lead – we all answer to someone, and we all have those who answer to us. Contrary to current societal beliefs, authority and submission to authority matter, and are actually good (maybe that’s the military coming out in me). In fact, I had a mentor who used to say “You’ll never be over those things that God’s put under you, until you are under those things that God’s put over you.” Good words to live by. That to say, we are all a team and each has a different role(s). We work best when we understand where we are in the organizational structure, who we are and what our skills are, how we work best, and what it takes from us and others to draw out our best and their best as we work together to contribute to our teams, our families, and our world.

See Ken’s PDF here.