Hersey-Blanchard Model

Updated on April 12, 2024
Article byWallstreetmojo Team
Edited byWallstreetmojo Team
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

What Is Hersey-Blanchard Model of Situational Leadership?

The Hersey-Blanchard Model of situational leadership presents a dynamic approach, underlining the significance of adapting leadership styles to the varying maturity levels of followers. It recognizes that the effectiveness of leadership lies in tailoring the process to match the specific developmental needs of team members.

Hersey-Blanchard Model

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This model identifies and categorizes followers into four maturity levels, from initial low competence and commitment to advanced high competence and commitment. It also enables leaders to calibrate interactions, optimizing team development and achievement, which empowers them to create a supportive environment that nurtures individual growth and collective success.

Key Takeaways

  • Hersey-Blanchard Model was forged through collaborative efforts by Paul Hersey and Kenneth Blanchard.
  • This model seeks to harmonize effective leadership with the developmental stage of followers or subordinates.
  • This model categorizes leadership into four distinct styles: telling, selling, participating, and delegating, strategically matched with four levels of follower maturity: low, moderate, moderately high, and high.
  • The model provides a practical framework for leaders to adapt their approaches, fostering optimal team dynamics and achieving desired outcomes.

Hersey-Blanchard Model Explained

Hersey-Blanchard Model of situational leadership lies in its dynamic approach, emphasizing adapting the leadership styles according to followers’ maturity levels.

This model contends that there is no single, universally effective leadership style, and successful leaders must be versatile in their approach to meet the specific needs of their team members.

The Hersey-Blanchard model of leadership includes four distinct styles: telling, selling, participating, and delegating, each varying in the degree of direction and support offered to followers. Simultaneously, it identifies four levels of follower maturity, ranging from low competence and commitment to high competence and commitment.

By matching the appropriate leadership style with the corresponding maturity level, leaders can effectively guide and motivate their team, fostering an environment of growth and achievement.

This approach encourages leaders to be attuned to the development of their followers and to employ a situational leadership style that empowers them to thrive and accomplish collective goals.

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Leadership Styles

Leadership styles are closely tied to the maturity level of the followers. The model identifies four leadership styles, each associated with a specific group of follower maturity:

  1. Telling (S1) Style: This style is characterized by a high level of direction and low support. It is most suitable when dealing with followers with low maturity (M1) – they lack the necessary skills and confidence to perform tasks independently. In this stage, leaders must provide clear instructions, closely supervise tasks, and decide for followers.
  2. Selling (S2) Style: This style involves high direction and support. It is suitable when followers have moderate maturity (M2). In this stage, followers may be willing to work but require guidance and support. Leaders need to explain decisions, provide encouragement, and foster two-way communication to build confidence and competence.
  3. Participating (S3) Style: The participating style has low direction and high support. It is appropriate for followers with moderately high maturity (M3). In this stage, followers have the necessary skills but may need more confidence or motivation to take full responsibility. Leaders must involve followers in decision-making, seek their input, and encourage active participation.
  4. Delegating (S4) Style: The delegating style involves low direction and support. It is suitable for followers with high maturity (M4). At this stage, followers are capable and motivated to work independently. Leaders can provide minimal oversight, allowing followers to take responsibility for their tasks and decisions.


Let us look at some examples to understand the concept better.

Example #1

Imagine a small student group working on a community service project. The group consists of four students with different levels of experience and commitment:

  • Lisa (Low Maturity, M1): New and uncertain.
  • Mike (Moderate Maturity, M2): Experienced but needs guidance.
  • Emily (Moderately High Maturity, M3): Skilled, seeks occasional clarification.
  • Mark (High Maturity, M4): Experienced and self-motivated.

Using the Hersey-Blanchard Model, the group leader, Sarah, adapts her leadership style according to the maturity level of each member:

With Lisa, she gives clear instructions and guidance. For Mike, she makes decisions and provides support. She encourages responsibility and includes support for Emily. For Mark, she delegates tasks with trust.

This approach tailors leadership to individual readiness levels, improving engagement and effectiveness.

Example #2

Suppose, a store manager, Jessica, applies the Blanchard Model to lead her team of sales associates effectively in a retail environment. The team comprises four individuals with varying experience and drive.

  • Ella (Low Maturity, M1): Ella is a new team member with no retail background. Jessica utilizes a telling (S1) approach, offering clear guidance on customer service and sales techniques. She closely guides Ella’s interactions with customers, ensuring she gains confidence.
  • Ryan (Moderate Maturity, M2): Ryan has a few months of retail experience, yet he’s refining his sales skills. Jessica employs a selling (S2) approach, involving him in strategies and seeking his input on enhancing customer experiences. Guidance is given to improve his selling techniques.
  • Sophia (Moderately High Maturity, M3): Sophia, a one-year store veteran, displays strong sales prowess. Jessica uses a participating (S3) approach, recognizing her expertise and encouraging leadership with new hires. Jessica values Sophia’s input and seeks her ideas for store improvement.
  • Chris (High Maturity, M4): Chris, a senior associate, boasts impressive sales records and leadership skills. Jessica adopts a delegating (S4) style, entrusting Chris with training and sales leadership. Autonomy is granted for implementing ideas, with support available as needed.

Advantages & Disadvantages

Let us understand the advantages of this model.

  1. Flexibility: This model enables leaders to modify their leadership approach in alignment with their team members’ maturity levels. This adaptable nature assists in skillful guidance and motivation, ultimately amplifying individual performance and growth.
  2. Individualized approach: By recognizing that each team member is unique and may require different levels of direction and support, the model encourages a personalized leadership approach. Leaders can tailor their interactions to meet the specific needs of their followers.
  3. Improved communication: The model promotes open communication between leaders and followers. Leaders need to understand the maturity level of their team members, which fosters dialogue.

Listed below are the disadvantages of this model.

  1. Complexity in assessment: Determining the maturity level of each team member can be challenging. It requires continuous evaluation and understanding of their capabilities, commitment, and experience, making the model somewhat subjective.
  2. Time-Consuming: Adapting leadership styles for each team member demands time and effort from leaders. Constantly monitoring and adjusting leadership behaviors may be impractical in time-sensitive situations.
  3. Overlooking other factors: The model focuses primarily on follower maturity, possibly missing other essential elements that may influence team dynamics and performance, such as organizational culture or external constraints.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Hersey-Blanchard model is part of which theories?

This model is part of the contingency theories of leadership. Contingency theories propose that effective leadership is contingent upon various factors, such as the characteristics of the leader, the followers, and the specific situation or context in which leadership occurs. The Hersey-Blanchard Model focuses on how leaders should adapt their leadership style based on the maturity level of their followers, making it a situational or contingency-based approach to leadership.

2. Can the Hersey-Blanchard Model be applied in different contexts?

Yes, the model’s adaptability makes it applicable in various contexts, such as business, education, healthcare, and community settings, where leadership must align with the changing needs of followers.

3. Why is Hersey and Blanchard’s situational leadership theory different from other leadership theories?

Hersey and Blanchard’s situational leadership theory stands apart by advocating adaptable leadership styles based on follower readiness. Unlike rigid approaches, it acknowledges that effective leadership varies with situational context and follower maturity. This dynamic perspective enables leaders to tailor their actions for optimal results.

This article has been a guide to What Is Hersey-Blanchard Model. Here, we explain it with its examples, leadership styles, advantages, and disadvantages. You may also find some useful articles here –

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