Leading for Quality: The Implications of Situational Leadership

October 2001
Volume 8 • Number 4

Contents

Leading for Quality: The Implications of Situational Leadership

By Lisa Walters, American Red Cross Biomedical Services and Healthy Solutions Quality Consulting, LLC

This case study determined whether the flexibility of CEOs to adapt their style to the followers’ ability and willingness to change affected the implementation of an effective quality system. The Hersey-Blanchard situational leadership model provided a framework to describe the relationship between the leader and the organizational members. The model holds that when leaders are flexible and aware of critical situational factors, such as the ability and willingness of members to change, they will adopt an appropriate leadership style.

To determine the degree of quality system effectiveness at each of two plants, a Quality Report was calculated. Using the Quality Report, the results indicated that only one CEO accurately diagnosed her followers’ readiness to change and responded with an appropriate leadership style. In contrast, the CEO of the other plant did not appropriately diagnose his followers’ readiness and, hence, did not respond with an appropriate leadership style.

The results of this case study are encouraging in that there appears to be a relationship between leadership style and quality outcomes. Until further study can occur to establish a statistically sound relationship, it is prudent for leaders to understand the organizational environment in terms of readiness and move their followers through the spectrum of readiness to the quality culture, with each movement compelling the organization toward increasingly greater quality rewards.

Key words: Hersey-Blanchard Leadership Model, leadership styles, organizational readiness, quality culture

INTRODUCTION
Paul Hersey, Kenneth Blanchard, and Dewey E. Johnson (1996) describe a quality culture as one in which the basic assumptions of the organization reflect a customer-driven focus and well-developed cross-functional teamwork. “This culture is able and willing to deliver quality” (Hersey, Blanchard, and Johnson 1996, 539). But what about organizations that do not demonstrate an appropriate responsiveness to customer needs or willingness to work cohesively? Are these organizations doomed to failure? Can a sufficiently high level of quality be achieved prior to the complete transformation of an organization to a quality culture? The good news is that the answer is yes.

This article presents a case study illustrating that an effective quality system can be implemented even when the organization culture is not consistent with the definition of a quality culture. Two manufacturing plants of a FDA-regulated pharmaceutical company are compared in terms of organizational readiness for quality and leadership style. Further, the success of each plant with regard to successful quality system deployment—when that success is defined in terms of meeting or exceeding FDA or internal quality standards—is also compared.

Significance of the Research
This research is important because it demonstrates that when a CEO exhibits flexibility in response to existing organizational readiness, certain quality objectives, such as the implementation of a quality system, can be met. Further, the study provides the groundwork for further research that may be able to demonstrate a statistically sound correlation between this flexibility and the ability to implement a transformational strategy. The results of this research show that to achieve a high level of quality, a CEO needs to understand the environment in terms of readiness and move his or her organization through the spectrum of readiness, with each movement compelling the organization toward increasingly greater quality rewards.

This research is important because it demonstrates that when a CEO exhibits flexibility in response to existing organizational readiness, certain quality objectives, such as the implementation of a quality system, can be met.

BACKGROUND
The organization studied is a large pharmaceutical manufacturer, with significant motivation to meet quality challenges. Bound by a consent decree of permanent injunction, the organization responded by redesigning its quality program. The redesigned program involved the implementation of an ISO 9000-compatible quality system to ensure not only FDA compliance requirements, but also customer satisfaction. These would be achieved through superior business practices.

The challenge to meet the requirements of the newly designed quality system began in fiscal year 1995. As the manufacturing plants of the organization were audited by the internal audit division, it became apparent that some plants were meeting the challenge while others continued to struggle in both the quality and the regulatory aspects of production. This fact was evident in the reports of internal findings and in FDA inspection reports.

For the most part, the manufacturing plants share consistent resources and face similar environments. All were issued the responsibility of meeting the expectations of the quality system through the same mechanism. All understood the consequence of not conforming, that is, jeopardizing their manufacturing license as bound by the consent decree. The issue then became why some plants could successfully design and implement the requirements of the quality system, while others could not and still cannot.

While the plants are similar in many ways, they differ in terms of leadership, as each plant has its own CEO. The CEO, as the leader of his or her plant, has the responsibility of ensuring the successful implementation of a quality system. The plants also differ in their organizational members, those who are to be led by the CEO. The relationship between the leader and the organizational members is critical to a plant’s ability to implement an effective quality system, with effectiveness being a measure of how successfully a plant can comply with FDA regulations and internal quality standards.

THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
The Hersey-Blanchard Situational Leadership Model provides a framework to describe the relationship between the leader and the organizational members. When a leader is flexible and aware of critical situational factors, such as the ability and willingness of members to change, he or she will adopt a leadership style to accommodate this ability and willingness. This leadership approach can be described as situational leadership, in that the leader demonstrates flexibility in determining and using a leadership style that complements the situation to achieve desired outcomes (Hersey, Blanchard, and Johnson 1996).

Blanchard and Hersey (1969) note that, traditionally, research in management has conceptualized two pervasive dimensions of leader behavior. These dimensions have been called by various but equivalent names, including “autocratic” and “democratic,” “authoritarian” and “equalitarian,” and “task-oriented” and “people-oriented” (p. 26). Blanchard and Hersey suggest that these differences are more semantic than real.

Blanchard and Hersey (1969) add that also prevalent in research was the belief that leader behavior was one or the other. For example, one could not be equally people-oriented and task-oriented. These dimensions were viewed as existing on a continuum, moving from extremes of autocratic behavior to extremes of democratic behavior. In 1945, the Bureau of Business Research at The Ohio State University studied the validity of such a continuum (Hersey, Blanchard, and Johnson 1996, 105). To describe how a leader carries out his or her activities, the Ohio State researchers identified “initiating structure” and “consideration” as the two most important dimensions of a leader. The analysis of their data revealed that leadership styles vary from leader to leader. Some leaders are one or the other, while some leaders exhibit both dimensions. “No dominant style appears. Instead, various combinations are evident. Thus, task and relationships are not either/or leadership styles as an authoritarian/democratic continuum suggests” (Hersey, Blanchard, and Johnson 1996, 26). Thus, current thinking has moved from a continuum to four quadrants to conceptualize leadership style in terms of initiating structure and consideration.

When a leader is flexible and aware of critical situational factors, such as the ability and willingness of members to change, he or she will adopt a leadership style to accommodate this ability and willingness.

SITUATIONAL LEADERSHIP MODEL
Hersey, Blanchard, and Johnson (1996) further developed previous leadership theory into the situational leadership model. They note that situational leadership is based on a relationship among: “(1) the amount of guidance and direction (task behavior) a leader gives; (2) the amount of socioemotional support (relationship behavior) a leader provides; and (3) the readiness level that followers exhibit in performing a specific task, function, or objective” (p. 189). The situational leadership model provides an understanding of the relationship between an effective style of leadership and the level of readiness of followers. The emphasis of the model is on leader behavior in relation to followers. “Followers in any situations are vital, not only because individually they accept or reject the leader, but because as a group they actually determine whatever personal power the leader may have” (p. 190).

To understand the model, leadership style and follower readiness need to be defined. Hersey, Blanchard, and Johnson (1996) define leadership style as “behavior by the leader as perceived by the followers” (p. 190). There are essentially two ways by which leader behaviors are classified: task behavior and relationship behavior. Task behavior is defined “as the extent to which the leader engages in spelling out the duties and responsibilities of an individual or group” (p. 191). Task behavior is implemented to help followers achieve their goals through clear direction. Relationship behavior is defined “as the extent to which the leader engages in two-way or multi-way communication. The behaviors include listening, facilitating, and supportive behaviors” (p. 191). This style is appropriate when
followers need encouragement. Plotting task behavior from low to high on the horizontal axis and relationship behavior from low to high on the vertical axis allows one to describe the four styles of a leader’s behavior in a curvilinear fashion. These styles are denoted as Style 1 (S1), Style 2 (S2), Style 3 (S3), and Style 4 (S4) and are described as follows:

  • Style 1 (S1) is characterized by above average amounts of task behavior and below average amounts of relationship behavior and is termed “telling” behavior.
  • Style 2 (S2) is characterized by above average amounts of both task and relationship behavior and is termed “selling” behavior.
  • Style 3 (S3) is characterized by above average amounts of relationship behavior and below average amounts of task behavior and is termed “participating” behavior.
  • Style 4 (S4) is characterized by below average amounts of both relationship behavior and task behavior and is termed “delegating” behavior.

In looking at the readiness of the followers or group, it must be understood that followers are only one condition of the situation determining leadership style. However, “the relationship between leaders and followers is the crucial variable in the leadership situation” (Hersey, Blanchard, and Johnson 1996, 193). Thus, the readiness of the followers is crucial. Readiness is defined as the extent to which a follower demonstrates the ability and willingness to accomplish a specific task. Followers may be at differing levels of readiness, depending on the task with which they are charged. Readiness is concerned with specific situations, not with any total sense of readiness.

Followers in any situations are vital, not only because individually they accept or reject the leader, but because as a group they actually determine whatever personal power the leader may have.
—Hersey, Blanchard, and Johnson (p. 190)

The two major components of readiness are ability and willingness. Ability is the knowledge, experience, and skill that an individual or group brings to a particular task or activity. Willingness is the extent to which an individual or group has the confidence, commitment, and motivation to accomplish a specific task. The concept of (un)willingness does not necessarily mean that followers are exhibiting stubborn behaviors; indeed, they could be insecure or afraid to attempt a task. Together, ability and willingness interact to form readiness, and each of these concepts influences the other. For example, the extent of willingness will influence the amount of ability that will be applied to a particular task. Hersey, Blanchard, and Johnson (1996) present a continuum of follower readiness.

  • Readiness Level 1 (R1) indicates unable and unwilling. The follower is unable and lacks commitment and motivation. Conversely, the follower is unable and insecure, or the follower is unable and lacks confidence.
  • Readiness Level 2 (R2) indicates unable but willing. The follower lacks ability, but is motivated and making an effort. Conversely, the follower is unable but confident, or the follower lacks ability but is confident as long as the leader provides guidance.
  • Readiness Level 3 (R3) indicates able but unwilling. The follower has the ability to perform the task, but is not willing to use that ability. Conversely, the follower is able but insecure, or the follower has the ability to perform the task, but is insecure about doing it alone.
  • Readiness Level 4 (R4) is able and willing. The follower has the ability to perform and is committed. Conversely, the follower is able and confident, or the follower has the ability to perform and is confident about doing it.

These readiness levels can be “mapped” to the defined leadership styles (Figure 1). R1 maps to S1; R2 maps to S2; R3 maps to S3; and R4 maps to S4. When leader behavior is used appropriately, with the corresponding level of readiness, a “high-probability match” is achieved. Hersey, Blanchard, and Johnson (1996) also indicate the probability of success of other style configurations if a leader is unable to use the desired style. For example, a readiness of R1 mapped to the leadership style S1 has the highest probability of success, but S2 also has a high probability of success. However, the styles of S3 or S4 have a low probability of success. A readiness of R2 in conjunction with either the styles S2 or S1 provides a high probability of success, while R2 coupled with either the styles S3 or S4 has a low probability of success. A readiness of R3 is best led by a style of S3 or S2, while S4 or S1 will probably not succeed. A readiness of R4 led by either the style of S4 or S3 provides a basis for success, but the use of style S2 or S1 will probably not result in successfully influencing behaviors.

Thus, according to the situational leadership model, a leader must first diagnose the level of readiness, adapt to this readiness by selecting the appropriate leadership style, and communicate this style effectively to influence behavior. Once the leader intervenes to accomplish a task, the results of the intervention must be assessed to determine if expectations were met. This assessment will allow the leader to continually diagnose readiness and to adjust leadership styles as the dynamic environment of an organization develops (Hersey, Blanchard, and Johnson 1996). This is particularly important given the systemic nature of organizations, in which leadership style has an opportunity not only to be influenced by readiness, but also to influence worker readiness. Managers may need to intervene when their followers behave less willingly than they have in the past (Hersey, Blanchard, and Johnson 1996, 279). For example, a worker on the job may be at a high level of readiness (R4), and the supervisor for this individual may be leading with the appropriate leadership style (S4). Perhaps, however, an undesirable event or circumstance in the worker’s family manifests itself as a decrease in the worker’s effectiveness on the job. The worker is still technically competent, but less motivated. “To maximize the worker’s performance, the manager has to respond by altering his or her leadership style from an S4 to an S3, offering an increase in socioemotional support and relationship behaviors” (Hersey, Blanchard, and Johnson 1996, 280).

According to the situational leadership model, a leader must first diagnose the level of readiness, adapt to this readiness by selecting the appropriate leadership style, and communicate this style effectively to influence behavior.

By the manager offering relationship behaviors that are more attuned to the worker’s behavior, the worker’s motivation is bolstered, allowing a readiness shift back to R4. This, in turn, necessitates the leader to reassess and alter his or her leadership style and shift back to an S4. “If the worker continued to decline, however, the situation clearly would have become a problem to both the leader and the follower and would have demanded an eventual shift by the manager to a high task-high relationship style (S2)” (Hersey, Blanchard, and Johnson 1996, 281). In this situation, the worker would be regressing, even in terms of technical competency; thus, the leader must intervene to fortify both ability and willingness, influencing the worker to again achieve a higher level of readiness. If the intervention is successful, the leader must then again adjust his or her leadership style to the reestablished readiness. Thus, the leadership style-follower readiness influences are bidirectional in nature and should not be considered in a unilateral sense.

LEADERSHIP STRATEGIES FOR ORGANIZATIONAL TRANSFORMATION
Hersey, Blanchard, and Johnson (1996) state, “The whole world has become one business arena, forcing all of us into new and qualitatively different ways of thinking and doing. In such a dynamic environment, it is inevitable that organizations of all shapes, sizes, and types will also undergo major change and upheaval” (p. 519). Such change is transformational and has the potential to create an environment of great challenges and uncertainty, requiring leaders to respond in unprecedented ways.

Beckhard (as cited in Hersey, Blanchard, and Johnson 1996) defined the characteristics that identify transformational change. First, the change must be substantial and discontinuous, with respect to the shape, structure, and nature of the organization. Second, the change must be caused by forces external to the organization. Third, the change must be “deep and pervasive, rather than shallow and contained” (p. 520). Finally, transformational change requires that new behaviors and actions be demonstrated by the members of the organization.

Transformational leadership involves specific behaviors needed to bring about transformational change in the organization. Transformational leadership is defined as follows (Hersey, Blanchard, and Johnson 1996, 525):

A deliberate influence process on the part of an individual or group to bring about a discontinuous change in the current state and functioning of an organization as a whole. The change is driven by a vision based on a set of beliefs and values that require the members of the organization to urgently perceive and think differently and to perform new actions and organizational roles .

The situational leadership model indicates that the leader must be cognizant of the situational factors that affect the transformation. “The most important situational factor is the ‘fit’ between the leadership strategies and the organization in terms of the organization’s readiness for transformation” (Hersey, Blanchard, and Johnson 1996, 526–527).

Hersey, Blanchard, and Johnson (1996) state that organizational readiness for transformation is determined by the culture of the organization, with culture being the shared assumptions about how to cope with survival and adaptation. These shared assumptions are the premise for the organization’s members to process information, such as how to react to different situations. Basic assumptions serve as “coping mechanisms in that they determine what information and events the organization will pay attention to, how they will be interpreted, and how they will be acted on” (p. 527). Thus, basic assumptions are the ability factors (p. 527) that allow the organization to contend with events. They are also willingness factors (p. 528) because they will determine what the organization will attempt and how long any success in coping will be sustained.

Hersey, Blanchard, and Johnson (1996) suggest that the more the basic assumptions reflect a learning culture, the higher the readiness for transformation will be. There are two dimensions to the learning culture: flexibility with respect to the external environment and commitment to the organization. Hersey, Blanchard, and Johnson (1996) term this readiness level OR4. This is one of four levels of organizational readiness, which range from OR1 to OR4.

The contrasting culture to learning is one of stagnation, termed OR1, characterized by acceptance of the status quo with respect to the external environment, and a fragmented function of the organization. Two cultures exist between these extremes, one termed competing (OR3), the other termed conserving (OR2). The competing culture reflects flexibility to the external environment, but has a vested interest orientation, as opposed to an organizational commitment. This type of culture is able to deal with transformation, but is unwilling, as demonstrated by the divided way in which the organization functions. Here, the organization is not sure about the benefits of the transformation.

The conserving culture reflects rigidity in response to the external environment, but it does demonstrate organizational commitment. Here the organization is unable but willing to deal with any transformational change. The inability is manifested by the organization’s disregard for dealing with external demands, while the willingness is manifested by the evident cooperation within the organization for the benefit of the organization as a whole.

The situational leadership model arranges leadership styles into four quadrants in a curvilinear fashion and aligns the organizational readiness continuum below the quadrants (Figure 2). Once the readiness is identified, a perpendicular line can be extended until the line intersects with the curved line representing transformational leader behavior. “This point indicates the most appropriate amount of structuring behavior and inspiring behavior for that specific level of organizational readiness” (Hersey, Blanchard, and Johnson 1996, 532). The appropriate combinations are as follows: OR1/S1, OR2/S2, OR3/S3, and OR4/S4.

Hersey, Blanchard, and Johnson (1996) identified the different levels of readiness for quality. The quality culture (QR4) has basic assumptions that reflect a customer-driven focus and a well-developed cross-functional teamwork methodology; it is analogous to a learning culture. The individualistic culture (QR3) is one that is customer focused, yet is plagued by functional separation. The participative culture (QR2) is one that is unable to implement the quality program because it is inward looking; however, some cross-functional teamwork is present. The isolated culture (QR1) is one of inward-looking views, in an environment of functional separation. Each culture can replace the earlier described OR1, OR2, OR3, and OR4, respectively, and can be evaluated by the situational leadership model.

A STUDY OF SITUATIONAL LEADERSHIP AND QUALITY SYSTEM IMPLEMENTATION
A study was conducted by the author to determine whether the flexibility of a CEO to adapt his or her style to the followers’ ability and willingness to change have an effect on the success of implementing an effective quality system in terms of compliance to FDA regulations and internal quality standards. The study sought to answer the following questions.

  1. Did the CEO of Plant A demonstrate flexibility of leadership style, as described by the Hersey-Blanchard model, in response to existing organizational readiness to meet his or her desired quality objectives?
  2. Did the CEO of Plant B demonstrate flexibility of leadership style in response to existing organizational readiness to meet his or her desired quality
    objectives?
  3. How well did Plant A comply with FDA regulations and internal quality standards?
  4. How well did Plant B comply with FDA regulations and internal quality standards?
  5. Is there a relationship between CEO flexibility of leadership style and compliance with FDA regulations and internal quality standards?

Methodology
This study used the Hersey-Blanchard Situational Leadership for Transformation Model (Hersey, Blanchard, and Johnson 1996) to assess the use of situational leadership and its impact on implementing an effective quality system. Two production plants were selected based on their degree of compliance to FDA and internal quality system standards, with this
compliance determined by a review of historical documents detailing deviations from these standards. Plants demonstrating the majority of deviations were grouped, while plants demonstrating virtually no deviations were grouped. Senior managers of the organization’s headquarters individually and confidentially selected three plants from each of these groups, based on their perception of a plant’s ability or inability to comply with quality standards. Using this information, two plants were selected by the author, with each plant selected representing the most frequently cited plant by the senior managers from each group. The chief executive officer and his or her department directors of each selected plant were then asked to complete questionnaires designed to measure leadership style and organizational readiness for transformation. These questionnaires, along with their respective scoring directions, are found in appendix A and B, respectively. These surveys were designed to measure the respondents’ perceptions of leadership style and organizational readiness. The Lead-Other Survey was designed to measure the perception of style in terms of three aspects: (1) style, (2) style range, and (3) style adaptability. Because of their perceptual context and generic applicability, the survey scenarios were not derived specifically for the evaluated CEOs or their respective organizations.

To determine the degree of quality system effectiveness (QSE) existing at each selected plant, a Quality Report was calculated for each plant, based on the number of nonconformances to FDA and internal quality standards. The determination process for this value is provided as appendix C. This analysis required access to corporate documents, with such access granted to the author.

Data Analysis
To determine whether a relationship exists between situational leadership and quality system effectiveness, the extent of the situational leadership for transformation model in place at each plant was evaluated in terms of each configuration’s probability for success as indicated by Hersey, Blanchard, and Johnson (1996). This evaluation consisted of comparing each
configuration’s probability for success with regard to each organization’s Quality Report.

Results
The results are presented in terms of each of the five questions.

Question 1. Did the CEO of Plant A demonstrate flexibility of leadership style in response to existing organizational readiness to meet desired quality objectives?

The prevalent Hersey-Blanchard attributes in place at Plant A were an enabling leadership style (S2) in response to an organizational readiness of inability but willingness (OR2). The results are summarized in Table 1. The identified culture in this plant would be described by Hersey, Blanchard, and Johnson (1996) as conserving, reflecting a level of rigidity in response to the external environment, but demonstrating organizational commitment. The enabling strategy used by the plant’s leader was a combination of moderate to high amounts of structuring actions, with high to moderate amounts of inspiring actions.

The use of an enabling leadership style with the conserving culture has the highest probability of success, according to the Hersey-Blanchard model. Thus, it can be concluded that the CEO of Plant A did demonstrate flexibility in response to organizational readiness to meet desired objectives.

Question 2. Did the CEO of Plant B demonstrate flexibility of leadership style in response to existing organizational readiness to meet desired objectives?

The prevalent Hersey-Blanchard attributes in place at Plant B were an enlisting leadership style (S3) in response to an organizational readiness of inability but willingness (OR2). The results are summarized in Table 2. The identified culture of this plant would be described by Hersey, Blanchard, and Johnson (1996) as conserving, reflecting a level of rigidity in response to the external environment, but demonstrating organizational commitment. The enlisting strategy used by the plant’s leader was a combination of moderate to low amounts of structuring actions, with moderate to high amounts of inspiring actions.

The use of an enlisting leadership style with the conserving culture has a low probability of success, according to the Hersey-Blanchard model. An enlisting leadership strategy is most useful in organizations that are able but unwilling (OR3). The leader facilitates commitment and willingness by participating in decisions and implementation. An appropriate leadership style for the displayed organizational readiness is that of enabling, where the leader envisions and communicates the future and develops the actions and roles to achieve the goals. Thus, it can be concluded that the CEO of Plant B did not demonstrate flexibility in response to organizational readiness to meet desired objectives.

Question 3. How well did Plant A comply with FDA regulations and internal quality standards?

To answer this question, the researcher calculated a Quality Report for Plant A, derived from the frequency of FDA citations and internal assessment findings. The data presented are discussed in terms of quality system effectiveness, as it is directly proportional to the Quality Report.

The Quality Report for Plant A was 0 for fiscal year 1997 and +3 for fiscal year 1998. This represents an increase in the Plant A’s success in implementing an effective quality system. Indeed, a search of Plant A’s corporate documents for FDA citations for fiscal years 1996, 1997, and 1998 indicated that no citations were issued. Thus, Plant A exhibited positive movement toward achieving what the manufacturer intended the quality system to achieve—a mechanism to protect the organization from the FDA, by ensuring compliance with the quality system.

Question 4. How well did Plant B comply with FDA standards and internal quality standards?

To answer this question, the author calculated a Quality Report for Plant B, derived from the frequency of FDA citations and internal assessment findings. The Quality Report for Plant B was +2 for fiscal year 1997 and –4 for fiscal year 1998. This represents a decrease in Plant B’s success in implementing an effective quality system. Indeed, a search of Plant B’s corporate documents for FDA citations for fiscal years 1996, 1997, and 1998 showed FDA citations for fiscal years 1996 and 1997. Thus, Plant B exhibited negative movement toward achieving what the manufacturer intended the quality system to achieve—a mechanism to protect the organization from the FDA, by ensuring compliance with the stated quality system.

Question 5. Is there a relationship between CEO flexibility of leadership style as described by the Hersey-Blanchard model and compliance with FDA regulations and internal quality standards?

To answer this question, the data from the other research questions were evaluated with respect to each plant and compared. Plant A’s leader did demonstrate flexibility in leadership style in response to the existing organizational readiness to meet desired quality objectives. To reiterate, the leadership style employed with Plant A’s organizational culture has the highest probability for success, according to the Hersey-Blanchard model. The Quality Report derived for Plant A illustrated positive movement in terms of achieving quality objectives over time. Plant B’s leader did not demonstrate flexibility in leadership style in response to the existing organizational readiness to meet desired quality objectives. The Hersey-Blanchard model indicates that this leader, in fact, employed a style with a low probability for success in response to the given culture. Further, the Quality Report derived for Plant B illustrated negative movement in terms of achieving quality objectives over time.

Thus, Plant A had a favorable Hersey-Blanchard Situational Leadership Model configuration, coupled with a positive Quality Report; Plant B had an unfavorable configuration, coupled with a negative Quality Report. This observation suggests that a relationship may exist between leadership style flexibility and achieving quality outcomes. However, further data must be gathered to determine if a statistically sound correlation will support this case study’s initial findings.

DISCUSSION
From the results of the study, it was determined that Plant A’s CEO demonstrated flexibility in response to existing organizational readiness to meet desired objectives, such as implementing an effective quality system, as determined by the QSE index. In contrast, Plant B’s CEO did not demonstrate flexibility in response to existing organizational readiness to meet desired objectives. Indeed, the QSE index showed that Plant B did not have an effective quality system in place. That is, the implemented quality system did not protect Plant B from the FDA. Most important, the results indicate that a relationship may exist between using situational leadership and implementing an effective quality system. However, further study should take place to establish whether a statistically sound correlation between these two variables exists.

The two plants evaluated provide data consistent with the outcomes expected by the Hersey-Blanchard Situational Leadership model. The model indicates that the leader must be cognizant of the situational factors that effect transformational change. As noted, “the most important situational factor is the ‘fit’ between the leadership strategies and the organization in terms of the organization’s readiness for transformation” (Hersey, Blanchard, and Johnson 1996, 526–527). Indeed, both plants exhibited a readiness level of OR2, which represents an unable but willing culture. However, the CEO of Plant A accurately diagnosed her followers’ readiness to change and responded with an appropriate leadership style. In contrast, the CEO of Plant B did not appropriately diagnose his followers’ readiness and, hence, did not respond with an appropriate leadership style.

CONCLUSIONS
The need for a “fit” based on accurate diagnosis is evident when evaluating the data provided by the respective CEOs. The CEO of Plant A provided data in terms of organizational readiness, consistent with that of her followers; that is, she diagnosed her organization as unable but willing. Her perceived leadership style, specifically that of an enabling strategy, was the style with the highest probability of success, according to Hersey, Blanchard, and Johnson (1996). The CEO of Plant B provided data in terms of organizational readiness in contrast with the readiness of his followers. He believed his organization to be at a readiness of ability and willingness (OR4). In fact, his perceived leadership style, specifically that of an enlisting strategy, is one with a probability for success, according to Hersey, Blanchard, and Johnson (1996), when used in an organization of an OR4 readiness. Thus, although the CEO of Plant B displayed the ability to adopt a leadership style in response to his perceived organizational readiness, or diagnosis, the diagnosis was not consistent with the followers’ perceptions of readiness. It thus becomes critical that an appropriate diagnosis be made to adopt a successful leadership style. In keeping with the systemic nature of organizations, the diagnosis process must be dynamic—as the adopted leadership style influences readiness as much as readiness influences a leader’s style.

IMPLICATIONS
The results of this study demonstrate that, when a CEO exhibits flexibility in response to existing organizational readiness, certain quality objectives, such as the implementation of a quality system, can be met. Further, there may be a correlation between this demonstrated flexibility, specifically situational leadership, and the ability to implement a transformational strategy, such as an effective quality system. The leader’s role is to understand the environment in terms of readiness and move his or her followers through the spectrum of readiness to the quality culture, with each movement compelling the organization toward increasingly greater quality rewards.

Of course, the real-world implications of situational leadership are those that really matter. “We all know that disparate strategies work in different situations. Unfortunately, when we admit to the possibility of situational factors, things become very complicated” (Duncan 1989, 195). As a result of this complication, it becomes easier for management recruitment and placement to revert to the simple solution of identifying a person who wants to be a manager, appears to be trainable, and in possession of certain desired traits. If this selected leader is fortunate enough to be charged with followers at a readiness level already congruent with the new leader’s style, then a period of success will result. The problem is, of course, that this effectiveness will diminish as changes in followers’ readiness occur or if the followers stagnate at their current level of readiness. Alternatively, a new manager may fail right from the beginning if in possession of a leadership style that is initially incongruent with the established readiness of the followers he or she is charged to lead. Not only will this manager be ineffective, but given the idea of systemic organizations, the followers’ readiness may also regress as a result of being ineffectually led. Thus, to maximize an organization’s ability to achieve strategic goals, such as quality system implementation, today’s leaders must become cognizant of and proficient in situational leadership.

References
Blanchard, K., and P. Hersey. 1969. Life cycle theory of leadership. Training and Development (May): 26–34.

Duncan, W. J. (1989). Great ideas in management. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Hersey, P., K. Blanchard, and D. Johnson. 1996. Management of organizational behavior: Utilizing human resources. 7th edition. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall.

Biography
Lisa M. Walters
has worked with the American Red Cross Biomedical Unit in various capacities since 1988. With the Red Cross, her quality responsibilities have included quality audit and process analysis. She is currently the quality systems support consultant for the American Red Cross National Histocompatibility Laboratory, as well as the owner of Healthy Solutions Quality Consulting, LLC, a quality consulting firm dedicated to various aspects of the medical industry. She is also adjunct instructor for the State University of New York–Fredonia and Penn State University, the Behrend College.

Walters is a certified medical technologist and a specialist in blood banking. She is also a certified lead ISO auditor. She is a member of the American Society for Quality and the American Association of Blood Banks, where she participates on the assessor training subcommittee, and is often a guest speaker.

Walters holds a bachelor of science degree in medical technology, an MBA in management, and a Ph.D. in management from California Coast University. Her dissertation was on the effect of situational leadership in implementing a quality system. Her research interests include quality management and its impact on various organizational attributes, such as employee motivation and leader-roles. Walters may be contacted at 814-897-1011.

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