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Situational Leadership Theory. What kind of leadership style should be adopted to lead the employees of a McDonald's restaurant?

Hausarbeit 2018 23 Seiten

Führung und Personal - Führungsstile


Table of Contents

Executive Summary

List of Abbreviations

List of Figures

1 Introduction
1.1 Way to Situational Leadership Theory
1.2 Situational Leadership Theory
1.3 Level of development

2 Leading orientation in business environment
2.1 Case: McDonald’s Company
2.1 Transition

3 Conclusion


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Executive Summary

Due to the increasing democratic development, it is on the one hand much harder to find employees in the labor market and on the other hand, the employees who already work in the company must be kept. Therefore, care should be taken to keep the existing staff well organized and well led so that tasks can be done efficiently and effectively. In order to be able to lead employees well, however, it is necessary to know the level of development at which these employees are located, since not everyone can handle every task.

In order to find out more regarding leading different people, this assignment deals with the following research question:

“Based on Situational Leadership Theory: what kind of leadership style should be adopted to lead the employees of a McDonald's restaurant?”

Firstly, this paper will provide a short introduction about the theoretical background, namely Situational Leadership Theory. Within this, two main tools are introduced:

1. the employees’ readiness to fulfill a task
2. the level of development which describes the motivation and willingness of each employee.

This insight is needed to finalize the appropriate leading style in the end. After a short introduction of the McDonald’s Company, the theoretical aspects of the Situational Leadership Theory will be transmitted towards it, to get a deeper impression regarding this approach. As a result, a percentage distribution of the different lengths of employment is presented before combining and analyzing these findings with the gained knowledge from the theoretical background. Finally, a conclusion as well as a critical view of the theoretical background and the practical implementation are provided and additionally, some recommendations on how to deal with employees in a different stage are given.

List of Abbreviations

SLT Situational Leadership Theory

List of Figures

Figure 1: Leadership styles: Introduction to four quadrants

Figure 2: Employee readiness

Figure 3: Combined graph out of employee readiness and leading style

Figure 4: Average length of employment at McDonald‘s

Figure 5: Numbers of employees with different length of employment

1 Introduction

The quote, "If your people succeed, that's your success too."1, gave me the opportunity to search for a measurable basis for an appropriate form of leadership.

There are various approaches in literature trying to find a suitable solution to the question of an appropriate leading style.2 Since this work is limited by the number of words, only one theoretical approach, namely Situational Leadership Theory (SLT), is used as a basis. The SLT thus forms the theoretical background of this work and is used for the subsequent calculations.

In the following chapters the theoretical background is introduced as well as the model which is needed to answer the research question:

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Within the next two chapters the reader gets an insight into the SLT. This theoretical background will be adapted on employees of the McDonald’s Company and used in combination with their lengths of employment as the basis to find a solution how to lead them. Furthermore, based on the different lengths of employment it will be examined which tool the leader has to use to delegate tasks as well as which tool is necessary to support the development of the employees.

1.1 Way to Situational Leadership Theory

In 1938, Lewin3 introduced an experimental study about leading styles. This study emphasizes that a leader has two options4: The first option is an employee-oriented leading style, while the second option is a task-oriented leading style. In the employee-oriented form, the leader uses democratic ways to delegate the task. Typical for this is that the leader leads by support and participation. This leading style is characterized by a respectful treatment of the employee added with trust and friendliness.5 The task-oriented style is described as an authoritarian form of leading, in which the leader leads by delegating, giving directions and control. This form of leading style has the target not on the employee but on the task achievement and the procedure to fulfill it.6

In the previous mentioned study, the leader has to decide which of these forms, authoritarian or democratic, are appropriate. Due to the fact that both options are not the best types of leadership styles, Blanchard & Hersey developed a multidimensional model which is called “Situational Leadership Theory”. This study can be used to shift the question: “Which kind of leader am I?” into the question “When does it take which leadership style?”.7

The next chapter will introduce the Situational Leadership Theory more in detail.

1.2 Situational Leadership Theory

To be a good leader, as well as to lead effectively it is important to adapt the right leadership style when it comes to leading different people. If the guided have different needs and motives, the tool to treat them should be suitable to them.8

The model which is made by Hersey & Blanchard is based on a correlation between the task behavior (the amount of guidance and direction) a leader gives, the relationship behavior a leader provides and the employees readiness to fulfill a specific task. It is important that this model is only valid when the employees are willing to follow. Due to this model it is possible to understand the relationship between the employees' level of readiness and which kind of leadership style is necessary to lead different employees.9

As shown in figure 1, on the x-axis one can find the task behavior which is defined as the dedication of “spelling out the duties and responsibilities of an individual or group.”10 This includes telling the guided exactly what, when, how and where to do something, as well as who is responsible to fulfill the task. Relationship behavior, which can be seen on the y-axis, is defined as the way which form of communication the leader can use. It can be distinguished between two-way or multi-way communication. This includes listening, supporting and participating.11

Figure 1: Leadership styles: Introduction to four quadrants

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Source: Own figure in accordance with Hersey, P., Selling, 1985, p. 19.

Now the question arises how to proceed. First of all, it is important to know what kind of task should be influenced and which characteristics do the guided have. After this has been clarified, the leader has to determine the level of readiness. If these two decisions have been made, the leader can choose the appropriate leading style out of the four stages.12

The model of Blanchard & Hersey also highlights the importance of the employees’ readiness which should be appropriate when it comes to be guided. On the one hand readiness is given by ability and willingness and on the other hand ability is the skill, knowledge and later on experience to fulfill a specific task. Willingness, however, is described by confidence, commitment and motivation to fulfill a specific task.13 Additionally, readiness as a trait can be divided into four stages which represents different combinations of ability and willingness14. This is shown in figure 2.

Figure 2: Employee readiness

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Source: Own figure in accordance with Hersey, P., Selling, 1985, p. 27.

The reason why someone is unwilling at R1, becomes willing in R2 and unwilling again in R3 is because of the leader giving the direction at the lower levels of readiness. The employees are not responsible for the task direction. Later on, when it comes to a higher readiness, the employees are getting responsible for their task direction. Furthermore, to make the step from R3 to R4, the employee has to direct themselves in which they are not experienced enough at this moment. If they are getting more experience, they can make the step from R3 to R4.15

In figure 3 the four quadrants out of figure 1 and the four different readiness levels which are shown in figure 2 are combined in one graph including how the leader should act.

Figure 3: Combined graph out of employee readiness and leading style

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Source: Own figure in accordance with Hersey, P., Blanchard, K. H., Situational behavior theory, 1988, pp. 177-181.

According to figure 3, in R1S1 the employee needs a high amount of guidance and should be directed. The leader can accomplish this by telling the employee what, where and when to do it. In R2S2 the employee is unable but trying, the leader has to be supportive and explain the task. The difference between directing and explaining is the following: according to directing the employee knows exactly the procedure how to accomplish the task. Whereas explaining deals with the leader’s emphasis what to do but it is in the responsibility of the employee how to proceed. The leader’s task is to support during the whole procedure. In R3S3 the leader should participate in the task accomplishing procedure planned by the employee. In R4S4 the employee is in charge of planning the procedure of accomplishing the task as well as for the whole procedure. The only duty for the leader is to delegate the task.16

1.3 Level of development

Whenever people enter and start working for a company, they need to build up and improve a variety of skills on the job. This includes professional knowledge about the job and the needs for the company as well as competence, commitment and motivation. The company’s and leader’s aim should have is to possess employees with highest skills and dedication. Their task is providing employees with this development opportunity.17 In the following, all four stages are introduced.

Employees who are going through D1 are usually new employees, hardly knowing the company as well as the procedures within. Due to the new job including new tasks they also know only little about their tasks. As new experience should be collected these employees are highly motivated.18

Employees who are going through D2 have already been working in their job for some time. Within their work they could gain some experience as well as competence in their area of responsibility, but there is still a lack of skills recognizable. Since only little success could be realized they are partially frustrated and not satisfied. Additionally, the motivation is slowly slipping off because they have to deal with issues completing their tasks correctly.19

Employees in the third stage (D3) are working for a while in the company and gained a lot of skills and experience, the task achievement level is getting higher. However, the level of commitment and motivation depends on their success and the reputation after finishing a task.20

Employees in the last stage (D4) are described as highly motivated people which are working for a long time in the company, gained a lot of experience in all kind of responsibilities as well as are described as a guarantee of success. These employees reached an important level of being a part of the company.21

2 Leading orientation in business environment

The theoretical background which was introduced in the previous chapters will be applied on a practical example, the McDonald’s Company. Due to the given length of this paper the following introductions and calculations will be kept short.

2.1 Case: McDonald’s Company

Before the investigation of the average length of employment at McDonald’s starts, this chapter will give a short introduction about the company.

The McDonald's Corporation is one of the largest franchise fast food company worldwide which had 37.241 restaurants22 and approximately 235.000 employees worldwide23 at year-end 2017. The company produces and serves a range of different fast food products as well as beverages and warm drinks. Typical for McDonald's is to serve a standardized menu which includes for example hamburgers and cheeseburgers. Exceptions are given by the geographical locations of the restaurants. McDonald's restaurants in Germany and many other international markets also offer a breakfast menu. All the products which are offered by McDonald's are well known because as usual for companies this size all products have their own brand name, for example Big Mac, Chicken McNuggets and many more.24


1 Blanchard, K, Zigarmi, P., Zigarmi, D., Minute Manager, 2001, p. 20.

2 Cp. Lindstädt, H., Differences, 2005, p. 33.

3 Cp. Lewin, K., Lippitt, R., White, R., Beginning, 1939, p. 271.

4 Cp. Blanchard, K, Zigarmi, P., Zigarmi, D., Minute Manager, 2001, p. 48.

5 Cp. Lask, J. E., Kriechbaum, R., Employee-oriented leadership, 2017, p. 282.

6 Cp. Frey, D., Schmalzried, L. K., Philosophy, 2013, p. 40.

7 Cp. Blake, R. R., Mouton, J. S., Managerial Grid, 1964, pp. 509-511.

8 Cp. Schein, Edgar H., Psychology, 1965, p. 61.

9 Cp. Hersey, P., Blanchard, K. H., Situational behavior theory, 1988, p. 170.

10 Hersey, P., Selling, 1985, p. 19.

11 Cp. Hersey, P., Selling, 1985, p. 19.

12 Cp. Hersey, P., Blanchard, K. H., Situational behavior theory, 1988, pp. 182-183.

13 Cp. Hersey, P., Selling, 1985, pp. 25-26.

14 Cp. Hersey, P., Selling, 1985, p. 27.

15 Ibid.

16 Cp. Hersey, P., Blanchard, K. H., Situational behavior theory, 1988, pp. 177-181.

17 Cp. Northouse, P. G., Leadership, 2016, p. 96.

18 Ibid.

19 Ibid.

20 Ibid.

21 Ibid.

22 Cp. McDonald's, Amount of Restaurants, 2017, no page.

23 Cp. McDonald's, Employed people, 2017, no page.

24 Cp. Marketline Industry Profile, Fast food, 2012, p. 23.


ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Buch)
Institution / Hochschule
FOM Hochschule für Oekonomie & Management gemeinnützige GmbH, Düsseldorf früher Fachhochschule
Situational Leadership Theory Leadership Leadership style McDonalds



Titel: Situational Leadership Theory. What kind of leadership style should be adopted to lead the employees of a McDonald's restaurant?