Hersey Blanchard Model

According to this model, the leader has to match the leadership style according to the readiness of subordinates which moves in stage and has a cycle. Therefore, this theory is also known as the life-cycle theory of leadership.

The theory, developed by Paul Hersey and Kenneth Blanchard, is based on the ’readiness’ level of the people the leader is attempting to influence. Readiness is the extent to which followers have the ability and willingness to accomplish a specific task. Ability is the knowledge, experience, and skill that an individual possesses to do the job and is called job readiness. Willingness is the motivation and commitment required to accomplish a given task. The style of leadership depends on the level of readiness of the followers.

The readiness(R) is divided into a continuum of four levels which are:

R1 - low follower readiness - refers to low ability and low willingness of followers i.e. those who are unable and insecure
R2 - low to moderate follower readiness - refers to low ability and high willingness of followers i.e. those who are unable but confident
R3 - moderate to high follower readiness - refers to high ability and low willingness of followers i.e. those who are able but insecure
R4 - high follower readiness - refers to high ability and high willingness of followers i.e. those who are both able and confident

The direction is provided by the leader at the lower levels of readiness. Therefore, the decisions are leader directed. On the other hand, the direction is provided by the followers at the higher levels of readiness. Therefore, the decisions in this case are follower directed. When the followers move from low levels to high levels of readiness, the combinations of task and relationship behaviors appropriate to the situation begin to change.

For each of the four levels of readiness, the leadership style used may be a combination of task and relationship behavior.

  • Task behavior: Extent to which the leader spells out the duties and responsibilities of a follower which includes providing them direction, setting goals, and defining roles for them. Usually a one-way communication exists which is meant to provide the direction to the followers.
  • Relationship behavior: Extent to which the leader listens to the followers, and provides encouragement to them. Here, a two-way communication exists between the leader and the follower.

By combining the task and the relationship behavior, we arrive at the following four different styles of leadership which correspond with the different levels of readiness as shown in the Figure 1.

S1 - Telling: This style is most appropriate for low follower readiness (R1). It emphasizes high task behavior and limited relationship behavior.
S2 - Selling: This style is most appropriate for low to moderate follower readiness (R2). It emphasizes high amounts of both task and relationship behavior.
S3 - Participating: This style is most appropriate for moderate to high follower readiness (R3). It emphasizes high amount of relationship behavior but low amount of task behavior.
S4 - Delegating: This style is most appropriate for high follower readiness (R4). It emphasizes low levels of both task and relationship behavior.

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Leadership