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Situational Leadership Theory


Approaches in the understanding of change management have become multifaceted and as such, theories have provided succinct structures in conceptualizing management approaches needed to develop and sustain change management. Situational leadership theory is one of such theories that relate to change management. Based on this understanding, this assignment succinctly addresses ways in which situational leadership theory relates to change management taking case studies from contemporary organisations. To contextualize the theory within the framework of challenges and benefits it creates, the paper further assesses weaknesses and strengths of situational leadership theory.

Understanding Situational Leachership

Situational leadership theory is defined as an approach that deals with ways effective leaders use to introduce and sustain change management (Orlikowski, 2009). According to Orlikowski (2009), situational leadership theory provides guidelines for managers so that they can be able to focus efforts as well as consolidating specific expertise around the process of change management. Change management in organisations has moved from being ‘one size fit it all’ or one dimensional approach to a process that stretches beyond meeting organisational demands and goals (Hornstein, 2015). The definition provided by Hornstein (2015) shows that the situational leadership theory seeks to evaluate change management from the position of methodologies and organizational demands.

Strengths of the Theory

Todnem (2005) argues that change management requires introduction of effective leadership culture that are geared towards meeting goals of an organizations. Situational leadership theory therefore provides this framework as it underlines task structure and power positioning essential for change management. This approach was applied at Apple’s change management strategies when Steve Jobs and Steve Chazin started their effective leadership culture to through introduction of iMac to challenge previous management structures that feared overturning the concept of ‘Apple doesn’t fall far from its trees.’

Secondly, this theory provides an avenue for change management by allowing managers to develop situations that can predict and overturn challenges organisations are likely to face. Putting this argument correctly, Orlikowski (2009) argues that situational leadership theory helps in identifying unstructured or unformulated processes within an organization and as a result, streamlines them for the needed change management. A good case study where situational leadership theory was applied to steer change management was the case of Parmalat Group that entered into bankruptcy but was later revived. By introducing new management to the company, situational leadership provided the change management needed as their leaders predicted the situation and averted further collapse by engaging in the following:

  • Investigation of principles of corporate governance and changes needed

  • Establishment of measures that could help the situation

  • Determination of areas of internal control that could assist in the introduction of the needed change

Weakness of the Theory

On the other hand, studies have also been concerned with the weaknesses of the theory as far as change management is concerned. This theory has merely concentrated in a given situation within an organisation and as such, spells change managements needed based on a given situation (Helfat and Peteraf, 2015). This approach may not be essential as it ignores task behavior which requires that leaders seeking change management spell out responsibilities for employees in an organisation so that specialization and effectiveness is lead to the needed change management.


The aim of this paper was to assess situational leadership theory and its relationship with change management. Taking case studies from organisational that have applied the theory in change management; the paper finds the theory as an essential component in finding solutions faced by organisations. Additionally, strengths and weakness of the theory has been assessed and as a result this paper concludes that the theory remains integral in understanding the extent to which managers can support and facilitate change management processes.


Helfat, C. E., & Peteraf, M. A. (2015). Managerial cognitive capabilities and the microfoundations of dynamic capabilities. Strategic Management Journal, 36(6), 831-850.

Hornstein, H. A. (2015). The integration of project management and organizational change management is now a necessity. International Journal of Project Management, 33(2), 291-298.

Orlikowski, W. J. (2009). The sociomateriality of organisational life: considering technology in management research. Cambridge Journal of Economics, bep058.

Todnem By, R. (2005). Organisational change management: A critical review. Journal of change management, 5(4), 369-380.