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An exploratory content analysis of situational leadership

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Purpose ‐ Hersey and Blanchard's situational leadership (SL) model is widely utilised, but it has limited empirical support. This paper aims to investigate the model through content analysis of the transcripts of supervision sessions. Design/methodology/approach ‐ Eight transcripts of successful supervision interviews are subjected to in-depth content analysis to investigate the validity of aspects of the SL model, principally that successful leadership interactions would vary systematically according to the level of supervisee experience. The supervisees consist of a novice, four training therapists, and three post-graduate therapist practitioners. Statistical analyses are undertaken to investigate fundamental, predicted differences between the speech behaviours associated with the different developmental levels of these supervisees. Findings ‐ The findings offer only partial support for the model. As predicted, an increased proportion of supervisor speech is observed in the supervision of increasingly less experienced therapists. However, the majority of the more specific speech behaviours associated with supervisee experience level are not in keeping with the model. Originality/value ‐ These results are consistent with the findings of other evaluations of the SL model. As the present results are based on a novel approach, this increases the plausibility of the claim that SL lacks adequate empirical support. Areas of development and exploration are recommended, and limits associated with the model's utility are highlighted.

Keywords: Leadership; Leadership development; Management effectiveness

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2009-07-17

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