Life Cycle Theory of Leadership

The Life Cycle Theory of Leadership was initially developed by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard in the 1970s and eventually was renamed Situational Leadership theory instead. Both authors developed their own models of leadership based on this theory, but both of them have one thing in common above all else: there is no single style of leadership that is the best. The best leaders, in fact, are able to adapt to changing circumstances so that a higher outcome can have the greatest chance of success at all times.

How Would You Direct a New Recruit?

In the Life Cycle Theory of Leadership, there are four key behaviors and four key maturity levels that are focused upon. By combining the right behavior from the leader, whether that is directive or supportive, with the current maturity level of the employee that is being led, the correct result should be achieved.

Imagine taking a new employee and requiring them to do high level tasks on their own without any support from the rest of the team. How successful with the final outcome be in this circumstance? The odds are that extra work would need to be done for the assignment to be completed properly. This is why maturity is just as important as behavior being displayed. Directing an experienced employee to do a high level task is proper. Directing an employee without experience to complete a high-level task would be improper.

For this leadership theory to work, every leader must be able to recognize what support system needs to be implemented at any given time. When directing is needed, then delegation would not be the appropriate response. When coaching is required, then supporting a staff member would not be the appropriate response. In examining the maturity level of each team member, the leader can then look at a task and develop an appropriate response.

Why Is This Leadership Style So Successful?

Many theories of leadership put the emphasis of focus on the leader. How is the leader reacting? How is the leader completing their job? These theory of leadership, however, puts the emphasis on each team member. How is the employee reacting? How does the team get the job done? By accounting for this information, the leader can react appropriately while proactively anticipating what the next steps will be.

The individualized response is what creates success. Each direct report feels like the leader has gotten to know them well enough to anticipate their needs. This fosters confidence, high morale, and lower overall employee turnover rates.

No system of leadership is 100% successful. Leaders who respond inaccurately in the Life Cycle Theory of Leadership may cause problems that other theories of leadership wouldn’t cause. It all depends on the observational skills of the leader, their overall awareness, and their unique experiences. When combined correctly, every situation can have a positive outcome.

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