The Situational Leader: The Other 59 Minutes

January 6, 2016
The Situational Leader: The Other 59 Minutes Book Cover The Situational Leader: The Other 59 Minutes
Paul Hersey
Warner Books (NY)
March 1st, 1985

The Situational Leader is the story of a manager responsible for achieving, developing people, and contributing to organizational success.

(via Goodreads)


I read portions of this book back in 2009 when I was training to become a Store Manager for Starbucks. (That’s right people, at one point I was training to become a Starbucks manager. I loved working there.) That is when I received this specific version of the book. This book is actually a first edition published from 1985. However, life led me elsewhere, and I recently took Situational Leadership II (SLII) training at my new company. This program is an updated version of The Situational Leader content for the 2000’s along with a classroom-led component. My new company did not give me a book to read, but instead we used workbooks designed for classroom training. This sparked my memories, and I pulled this book off the shelves with intending to read it all the way through for a post-class refresher.

This book is in majority duplicative information from the course I attended. It’s nice to know that in the past 30 year years little has changed. It shows the content has practical application and has been met with success. The single major revision seems to mostly affect the change in demographic and strategic direction companies tend to lean towards in the 21st century. The key philosophy remains the same: As a manager, you need to assess the maturity level of your staff for each task they are completing, then you need to adapt your leadership style to best help your staff member.Situational Leadership Model

  • If staff have low competence but high commitment, you need to give explicit direction.
  • If staff have some competence and low commitment, you need to provide coaching.
  • If staff have moderate competence and commitment, you need to be supportive.
  • If staff have high competence and commitment, you merely need to delegate.

I think that the philosophy within these pages is very useful and easily applied to leadership situations. However, it does require a lot of effort by the manager to use it successfully. In the course I recently took, it was suggested that staff learn about the process and complete self-assessments for their manager. I don’t know how I feel about that; I know that as a staff member I would be frustrated that I need to tell my manager how to work with me, but it does make some sense. As with all leadership models, you will need to take what works best for you and make it your own.

There was a section on power in this book which I found interesting. It caught my eye because this was not covered in the SLII course I attended. The perceptions and actions one takes with power effects relationships. This is not new information. But the book addressed how you can use power to encourage followers to follow more tightly. It’s definitely a section I will review during moments of intense office politics.

Overall, I think this book was a bit dry and a challenging read. It was challenging since there was a lot of theory and little suggestion on how to apply it. I found my attention wavering. The ending of the book infuriated me, too. There was an Epilogue to the narration. Throughout, this book is portrayed as a conversation between Rogers, a newly appointed manager, and the General Manager of the company. Rogers is sharing everything they learned from the previous manager. The Epilogue ONLY exists to point out that Rogers is the last name of a female manager. Why does that matter? I am certain that when published in 1985, the idea was that “women can be strong managers too!” However, this dated thinking infuriated me. I had not applied sex nor gender to either of these characters. Why does it matter? That in mind, I ended my reading of the book frustrated and angry.

Honestly, if I hadn’t taken the class, SLII, and seen the value of this model in practice, I would have completely dismissed the book. I’m glad to know the information has been re-created in a different format. It is quality leadership theory. Without the practical application I received in class or working directly with others, I would have never seen the value.

I recommend this to anyone who is a newly appointed manager, or who is a leader struggling to feel comfortable in a leadership role.

3 stars

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