Situational Leadership Theory: Do Followers Have a Preference?

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Pearson, Ashley Howell
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Middle Tennessee State University
Situational Leadership Theory (SLT) is an intuitive leadership model widely used in organizations; however, it suffers from a lack of empirical support. Researchers have attempted many creative ways to test the theory, but none to date have found strong support. This study discusses several possibilities for the lack of support, including the multiple revisions of the theory, confusion within the literature, and the operationalization of follower readiness at the job level versus the task level. This study takes a fresh perspective by considering the follower’s task readiness level and its relationship to the follower’s preference for leadership styles as conceptualized by SLT. Participants (N=253) were placed into one of the four SLT follower readiness conditions (i.e., R1 as the least ready to R4 as the readiest), responded to an open-ended prompt about personal experience with a task reflecting their assigned condition, followed by a survey measuring their preference for leadership as well as several personality characteristics. Hypotheses stated that followers should prefer the leadership style that matches their level of task readiness. Taken together, results indicate that only followers with an R4 readiness level recognize and prefer the appropriate leadership style (i.e., delegating) as recommended by SLT. Three potential personality characteristics were also tested as covariates but were not found to have strong moderating effects. Limitations and future recommendations are discussed.
Follower preference, Leadership styles, Situational leadership, Psychology