Hersey & Blanchard’s Contingency Theory of Leadership Simplified

The general belief of situational or contingency theories of leadership is that leaders are products of real situations rather than gifts of nature.

These theories mainly focus on task requirements, peers’ expectation and behavior, employees’ characteristics, expectations and behavior, organizational culture and policies etc.

This theory focuses on the followers. Successful leadership is achieved by selecting the right leadership style which is contingent on the followers’ maturity level.

The term maturity refers to ability and willingness of people to take responsibility for directing their own behavior.

Maturity has two components—job and psychological maturities.

Hersy and Blanchard considered task and relationship behavior of a leader either high or low and then combined them into four specific leadership styles.

These styles are described as telling (high task-low relationship), and delegating (low task-low relationship).

Another component of the theory is defining four stages of maturity of subordinates:

  • M1: people are neither competent nor confident),
  • M2: people are motivated but currently lack appropriate skills),
  • M3: people are able but unwilling to do what the leader wants) and
  • M4: people are both able and willing to do what is asked of them).

In short, this theory states that right style should align with level or subordinates’ maturity level.