How to identify styles of team leadership

DSM Digital School of Marketing - leadership

Leadership style is the manner as well as approach of providing direction, implementing plans in addition to motivating people. As seen by the employees, leadership style includes the total pattern of explicit and implicit actions that are performed by their leader. The first significant study of leadership styles was carried out in 1939 by Kurt Lewin who led a number of researchers to identify different styles of leadership. These are the following:

  • Authoritarian or autocratic – the leader tells his or her employees what to do and how to do it, without getting their advice
  • Participative or democratic – the leader includes one or more employees in the decision-making process, but the leader normally maintains the final decision-making authority
  • Delegative or laissez-faire (free-rein) – the leader permits the employees to make the decisions but the leader remains responsible for the decisions that are made
  • Situational leadership – the leader must adjust his style to fit the development level of the followers he is trying to influence.

Situational leadership

In this article, we will focus on Situational Leadership Theory, which is a behavioural theory.

The behavioural theorists identified determinants of leadership so that individuals could be trained to be leaders. They developed training programmes to change managers’ leadership behaviours and assumed that the best styles of leadership could be learned.

Hersey-Blanchard Situational Leadership

This leadership theory is based on the amount of direction (task behaviour) and socio-emotional support (relationship behaviour) that a leader must offer given the situation as well as the “level of maturity” that the followers exhibit.

The term ‘task behaviour’ refers to the extent to which the leader takes part in spelling out the duties as well as responsibilities to a person or group. This behaviour incorporates telling individuals:

  • What to do,
  • How to do it,
  • Wwhen to do it,
  • Where to do it, as well as
  • Who’s to do it.

In task behaviour, the leader takes part in one-way communication. Relationship behaviour is about the extent to which the leader engages in two-way or multi-way communications. This includes listening, facilitating as well as supportive behaviours.

In relationship behaviour, the leader takes part in two-way communication by giving socio-emotional support. Maturity is the willingness as well as the ability of an individual to take responsibility for directing their own behaviour. Individuals tend to have differing degrees of maturity, depending on the precise task, function, or objective that a leader is trying to accomplish through their efforts.

In order to determine the appropriate leadership style to utilise in a particular situation, the leader should first determine the maturity level of the followers regarding the specific task which the leader is trying to accomplish through the attempts of the followers.

As the level of followers’ maturity rises, the leader should begin to lessen his or her task behaviour and then increase relationship behaviour until the followers get to a moderate level of maturity. As the followers start to move into:

  • An above-average level of maturity,
  • The leader should lessen not only task behaviour but also to relationship behaviour.

The four leadership styles

Once the maturity level is recognised, the proper leadership style can be established. The four leadership styles are:

  • Telling,
  • Selling,
  • Participating, and
  • Delegating


  • ‘High task/low relationship behaviour’ is referred to as “telling”. The leader provides clear instructions and a particular direction. A telling style is best matched with a low follower readiness level.
  • ‘High task/high relationship behaviour’ is referred to as “selling”. The leader inspires two-way communication and assists with building confidence and motivation on the part of the employee, although the leader still has the responsibility and controls decision-making. The selling style is best matched with a moderate follower readiness level.
  • ‘High relationship/low task behaviour’ is referred to as “participating”. With this leadership style, the leader and followers share decision-making and no longer require or expect the relationship in order to be directive. Participating style is best matched using a moderate follower readiness level.
  • ‘Low relationship/low task behaviour’ is labelled “delegating”. This style is suitable for leaders whose followers are ready to achieve a particular task. These leaders are competent as well as motivated in order to take full responsibility. Delegating leadership style is best matched with a high follower readiness level.

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