Why we aren’t fans of Situational Leadership®

The Situational Leadership® model is great for an asymmetric power relationship, either master/apprentice or boss/worker. As the world progresses to more advanced workplace cultures, we think Situational Leadership looks dated for management – it is really only suited for training.

The assumption is that information and authority flows one way.  We think there is no space in the model for true Open Management: servant leadership, collaborative decision making, learning from those who do the work, etc.  There is nothing collaborative about delegation. (Even the word “empowerment” implies a gift from above, that can be taken back.  We say liberation).

We cannot use SL in our own models of course, so the following picture is offered only for commentary on SL: we think it needs a fifth area, “serving”, that relationships should progress quickly to, or even start there. (And I add a sixth area to the left as a joke).

Situational Leadership was (is) great in an environment of conventional command-and-control management and pedagogical learning.  It’s now of limited use.


Oops, I left the word “Ha” on the diagram. That’s worth explaining: we use a Shu-Ha-Ri model when thinking about workplace skills. As mentioned, SL is OK for a master/apprentice relationship. That is, a Ri master leading a Shu apprentice. Once the apprentice transitions to Ha practitioner, they leave the Situational Leadership “box” and enter a collaborative relationship with the master who becomes a servant to the work.

(Situational Leadership is a registered trademark of The Center for Leadership Studies)