Situational Theories in a Small Non-Profit

I recently interviewed Jonathan Zur, President and CEO of Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities. We discussed many different topics, including how the current times have amplified the need for his organization. He also discussed that because of this, what started as a small organization of five has now grown to thirteen with more employees potentially being added on.  Because of this, he described the process of adding new members and getting them comfortable within the organization. The way he described this style was very similar to Hersey and Blanchard’s situational theory of leadership.

Hersey and Blanchard’s Situational Theory depends on two aspects for the followers and two for the leaders. For the followers, what is important is their abilities to complete the tasks at hand and their willingness and confidence to do so. As for the leaders, what is important is whether they are task-oriented, relationship-oriented, both, or none. When followers are unwilling and unable, focusing on the tasks is what matters most. When they are more willing, but still lack the capabilities needed, the leader is both highly focused on the task and relationship-building. Then, the theory holds that the followers may lose some of their confidence but be very capable, which posits that the leader should focus more on relationships. Finally, when the follower is both highly capable and highly willing, the leader does not need to be task or relationship-focused and can delegate to their followers.

As there have been some recent new hires in his organization, Zur discussed how he handled them. He said that they would often come in with a bunch of ideas but not understand if they are really feasible or how the organization works fully. As they are already willing to do the tasks at hand, he employs a coaching style as he instructs them how the organization works and begins to form a relationship with them. Then, as they get more capable within the organization, he is able to ease up on being directive as he continues to focus on building a professional relationship with his subordinate. Over time, it becomes more of a collaboration and he does not need to focus as intently on building the relationship or enforcing the task. This approach shares a lot of similarities with the Hersey and Blanchard’s situational theory that has leaders changing their focus over time based on the capabilities and willingness of their subordinates and it was interesting to hear how this style was used in a real organization.


Hersey, P. H.., Blanchard, K. H., & Johnson, D. E. (2013). Leadership: Situational approaches. Chapter 7 in Management of organizational behavior (pp. 113-139). New York: Pearson