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Situational Leadership Theory and Supporting Style

Big Changes for a Small Hospital

According to the situational leadership theory, there are four basic leadership styles depending upon the level of supportive behavior and directive behavior. Depending upon the behavior the leadership style of the leader may be categorized as: Directing, Coaching, Supporting or Delegating, named as S1, S2, S3 and S4, respectively. Jacobs’ style in the given case would be categorized as S2, i.e. Coaching; Jacobs demonstrated high level of both, supportive and directive behavior. Jacobs was not only providing direction to the entire organization, but he also had open channels for two-way communication, and made everyone feel ownership of the hospital.

Jacobs and the Least-Preferred-Coworker Scale

The least preferred coworker scale is one of the two building blocks of Fiedler Contingency model. It is a tool used to measure the leadership orientation of a leader. Jacobs would definitely score quite high on the LPC scale, because scoring high means that he is a preferred coworker, and that is exactly what he was. He was very supportive of the ideas and opinions of the employees, to the extent that when he decided to revive the hospital he started with interviewing the employees. In addition to this he went a step further and also talked to people in the general community. He was very open, cooperative and supportive; he has practically transformed the culture of the medical center into a community center.

Situational Favorability for Jacobs

The situational favorability refers to the level of control the leader has over the behavior of his subordinates, and whether the situational favorability is high or low depends upon the following three factors (Miller, Butler, & Cosentino, 2004):

  1. Relationship between the members and the leader. Jacobs was able to establish a very good relationship with his coworkers; he was quickly accepted and supported by the staff.
  2. Structure of the task. Jacobs knew what he had to do, but the task itself was not very clear-cut, and goals were not very measurable. There was a certain level of ambiguity in the tasks.
  3. Power of the leader. Jacobs certainly had power and control in the hospital. He had the decision making power and all his coworkers happily followed his decisions. He had the formal position which gave him the power to reward and punish the employees, as well.

Keeping in mind these three factors it seems like Jacobs had a pretty favorable environment, I would not call it very favorable because there was a certain ambiguity in the nature of the task.

The role of leadership is of utmost importance in any organization, and the organizational environment has a significant impact on the effectiveness of the leader (Blanchard, Zigarmi, & Zigarmi, 1985), and this case proves it. Jacobs came into Windber when the hospital was practically at the brink of bankruptcy, but with his vision and effective leadership style he was able to bring everyone on board, and the entire outlook of Windber was transformed. The hospital also became a financial success, since it started generating over $500,000 annually. This case proves that in a favorable environment, where the leader has the required level of control and good relationships with the subordinates, a coaching leadership style can be very effective. This does not mean that it is the only best leadership style; however it does illustrate the importance of it.


Blanchard, K. H., Zigarmi, P., & Zigarmi, D. (1985). Leadership and the One Minute Manager: Increasing Effectiveness through Situational Leadership. New York: Morrow. Print.

Miller, R. L., Butler, J., & Cosentino, C. J. (2004). Followership effectiveness: an extension of Fiedler’s contingency model. Leadership & Organization Development Journal , 362-368. Print.