Applying Hersey and Blanchard’s Situational Leadership Theory to Psychological Practice

In psychological practice and counseling, “leaders” must be able  adapt her behavior to fit certain situations because of the many different types of situations and clients they deal with on a daily basis. This style follows Hersey and Blanchard’s Situational Leadership Theory. According to this theory, also known as SLT, there is not one “best” leadership style. Instead, effective leaders must adapt their leadership style to match different situations. In SLT, there are two fundamental variables: leadership style and follower ability and willingness. According to this model, leaders can embody four leadership styles based on the situation at hand. Leaders can be supporting (low directive, high supportive), coaching (high directive, high supportive), delegating (low directive, low supportive), or directive (high directive, low supportive). Depending on followers ability and willingness, leaders can adapt their leadership style. Leaders are shown to be most effective when they take into consideration the task at hand and the ability of their followers.  

One of my interviewees who both have their own private practices working with vulnerable populations embody this theory of leadership. Dr. Sean Hiscox is a forensic psychologist with his own private practice called the Somerset Psychological Group located in Pennsylvania. In his practice, Dr. Hiscox conducts forensic evaluations, provides testimony, and works as a consultant for juveniles and adults in a wide range of criminal areas. Additionally, he conducts individual therapy sessions with clients that are not involved in the juvenile justice system. Based on my conversation with Dr. Hiscox, it is undeniable that he shifts the way in which he leads his practice based on the task at hand. Because he is responsible for a range of job duties, he must be flexible in the way he leads. For example, when he is testifying before a court making a decision on whether or not a child is mentally component enough to proceed with trial or he must use a directive approach to his leadership style in order to be effective. He must be very task-oriented to effectively conduct his duty. On the other hand, when he is meeting with a potential new client to conduct weekly therapy sessions, he must take on a more coaching leadership style. Especially if a client is new to therapy, Dr. Hiscox must give off high levels of direction as well as support. Once he begins to see a client more regularly, he can then switch to a more supporting leadership style in which the client needs less guidance or direction and instead needs more emotional support. If Dr. Hiscox portrayed one, static leadership style, he could never be effective or efficient in his job as a leader. His ability to be flexible and adapt his leadership techniques to fit specific situations proves to be highly advantageous in his line of work.