£199.99 £139.99 for one year of Unlimited learning. Offer ends on 14 November 2022 at 23:59 (UTC). T&Cs apply

Find out more
What is situationally appropriate leadership?
Skip main navigation

What is situationally appropriate leadership?

Here, we will look at the power of situationally appropriate leadership, which is a lateral, distributed approach.

Here, we will look at the power of situationally appropriate leadership, which is a lateral, distributed approach to running any organisation.

The NASA example

With the complexities, risks and constraints it faces, NASA is a supercharged case study in innovation under pressure. Former astronaut Scott Parazynski learned on the job that “situationally appropriate leadership” is often more effective than rigid, top-down bureaucracy. The idea is to build a diverse organisation, then empower individuals on the frontlines of any given problem to assemble and lead a team to solve it. The result is a much more adaptable, efficient, and innovative organisation that grows and retains talent naturally.

Situationally appropriate leadership

A group problem-solving approach in which the individual best suited to address the challenges of a given scenario takes charge, regardless of rank or title.

  • The person with the highest rank doesn’t always have the knowledge or situational awareness to make the best critical decision.
  • The best decision-maker may be the person who can see the situation in ways others can’t.
  • Often it’s the people on the frontlines who are most fit to solve problems.

Building multi-disciplinary teams

  • Seek out people of different educational, disciplinary, and cultural backgrounds. Diversity of thought helps to uncover blind spots.
  • As you embrace situationally appropriate leadership, ask for feedback: How’s it going? Am I speaking too much or too little? Is the creative spirit of the team working?

Over to You

Consider the following questions.

  • Consider a difficult decision/problem your company now faces. Which department and/or individual is best suited to lead the team to solve it?
  • What risks might be involved in “situationally appropriate leadership”? How might an organisation go about mitigating them?
  • Why do you think “situationally appropriate leadership” might lead to better talent retention?
This article is from the free online

Critical and Strategic Thinking in Practice

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education