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Different Types of Leadership: Prescriptive & Situational

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There are many different ways to lead a group of people, and different styles of leadership are more appropriate to certain situations than others. You should always choose a style of leadership that plays to your strengths instead of your weaknesses, but the personalities of the people you are leading must be accounted for as well. In the end, you must use your judgment when determining what leadership method suits you best.

Strengths of Prescriptive Leadership

Leaders with a notably forceful personality who have the time and energy to micromanage will likely be inclined towards prescriptive leadership. Prescriptive leadership theories describe what a leader must do to become effective and have a rather formulaic approach to effective management. Prescriptive leaders determine what kind of behavior is best for a situation and stick with it. With a prescriptive leader, you can count on dealing with someone who treats you the same as he treats everyone else.

Weakness of Prescriptive Leadership

The one-size-fits-all approach of prescriptive leadership may lead to a more predictable environment, but it tends to stifle creativity and reduces the ability of workers to take the initiative when they have a chance to excel. When placed in a highly regulated and controlled business environment, the prescriptive style of leadership may be the only option available to you. Regardless, it is not a very flexible way to lead people.

Situational Leadership Strengths

Situational leadership is a much more easily adapted management model. Fundamentally, it is the ability to exhibit multiple leadership styles that change with the situation. For the situational leader, there is no single "correct" way to do something, and it is perfectly acceptable to change your leadership strategy to better suit your employees or the task at hand. Situational leaders use leadership strategies that can be democratic, authoritative or collaborative. What matters is that they are adapting themselves to what works best.

Situational Leadership Weaknesses

While situational leadership can be very flexible, it is not without flaws. Frequent changes in how you relate to and organize the same group of people can be viewed as a lack of vision or direction. Also, a leader who treats different groups of people differently can be viewed as being unfair, further undermining his ability to lead well. This type of leadership is not very good for establishing long term stability, and is more suitable to be used when assigned to temporary groupings and projects.


Mike Thurau has written for his college newspaper since 2009. He has written editorials and freelance articles for the "BG News" and Cleveland's "Plain Dealer." He is currently enrolled in Bowling Green State University studying political economy.

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