Management Theory of Paul Hersey Key Terms

Understanding the elements of Situational Leadership Theory

Paul Hersey and Kenneth Blanchard developed their management theory in the late 1960s. The premise revolves around the fact that each individual has a different way of learning and responding to leadership and that leaders should adapt their approach based upon the individual need.

In order to fully comprehend the management theory of Paul Hersey, in addition to taking courses on the subject, there are some key terms that you must know.

Situational leadership

While there are many models of leadership, Hersey believes that, in order to be an effective leader, you must adapt your leadership approach to the development and skill of the follower. In other words, managers should determine the leadership style they use, or combination of appropriate styles, based upon the situation with each individual employee.


Directing, also known as telling, is one of the four main leadership styles in Paul Hersey's situational leadership theory. A directing manager is one that defines the employee's duties and assignments and basically makes the decisions for the employee, with communication being mostly one way.


A coaching manager still defines the employee's assignments and tasks, but also seeks suggestions and ideas from that employee. This is more of a two-way communication, in which the employee's opinions are taken into consideration.


A supporting manager gives the employee more control over day-to-day tasks and decision-making. The manager provides input on bigger decisions and projects, but overall trusts the employee with meeting standards in job performance.


A delegating manager gives the employee complete control of the task or project. The manager is still involved, but at the employee's discretion.

LEAD questionnaire

LEAD stands for the Leadership Effectiveness and Adaptability Description questionnaire. Hersey developed this questionnaire with the express purpose of determining what leadership style the respondent is most apt to use. The questionnaire describes 12 situations and the respondent must choose one of four possible responses for each situation.
University of Wisconsin, W. Robert Sampson, Ph.D., provides more details on the LEAD questionnaire.