Blake and Mouton's Managerial Grid
Robert Blake and Jane Mouton created their 'Managerial Grid' model in 1964, in their book, The Managerial Grid: The Key to Leadership Excellence.
In this they used the diagram you see below.
Blake and Mouton depicted their model as a grid with two axes:
Concern for People.
Concern for Production.
Note: 'Concern for Production' might be replaced with 'Concern for Task'.
The Blake and Mouton Managerial Grid identified five kinds of leadership behaviour.
They suggested that the Team Style (below) is the ideal leadership behaviour.
The diagram geometrics are very slightly adapted for improved presentation.
Blake and Mouton's original graph-based layout comprised four equal quadrants with the Middle-of-the-Road Style overlaying the central intersection:
Blake and Mouton's Managerial Grid - diagram
(adapted for improved presentation)
the-Road Style Produce
low - - - - - Concern for Production - - - - high
Blake and Mouton grid
Country Club Style - High People:Low Task - Here the leader has a high concern for and usually involvement with people, but a low concern for the task. There is usually an overly friendly relationship between the leader and the led group. So although leaders like this appear to care about their people and want to create a comfortable and friendly environment, this style is often not good for creating producing results. People feel good and happy, but the task lacks priority. Ironically the group suffers ultimately because they fail to achieve. The style is common among leaders who are afraid of upsetting people, and/or who fear rejection and being disliked.
Impoverished Style - Low People:Low Task - Here the leader has both a low concern for people and a low concern for the task. You may ask who would adopt this approach because it is obviously doomed to fail. The answer typically is 'leaders' who care mainly about themselves and are afraid of making mistakes. Not surprisingly, Blake and Mouton said this is the least effective approach to leadership.
Middle-of-the-Road Style - Mid People:Mid Task. This is essentially ineffectual compromise. There is some concern for the task and, equally, some concern for people, but we might also say there is not enough of either. Leaders adopting this behavioural approach try to address the needs of the task and their followers to some extent, but do so without conviction, skill or insight and therefore reduce their effectiveness. Leadership generally requires a good degree of natural authority and decisiveness, so a style which lacks these aspects has much room for improvement.
Produce or Perish Style - Low People:High Task. Here we see a high focus on the task with little or no concern for people. This style is often referred to as autocratic. Leaders using this style seek to control and dominate others. A leader like will commonly take the view that staff should be grateful to be employed and paid a salary. Motivation is often attempted through a threat of punishment, such as being sacked. This is a dictatorial style. In extreme cases it would be rightly regarded as ruthless. Sadly it can be effective in the short term, and interestingly, where a group is failing to react suitably to a serious crisis then it may actually be a viable style for a short period, but the approach is not sustainable, especially where followers have the option to walk away.
Team Style - High People:High Task. This style combines a high concern for and involvement in the group with a strong well-organized and communicated focus on achieving the task. Blake and Mouton saw this as the ideal behavioural approach. Leaders who behave like this manage to blend concern for both people and organizational aims by using a collaborative teamwork approach, and plenty of consultation enabling the development of a shared (not imposed) motivation to achieving the organization's goals. This style normally requires that followers/the group are suitably mature and skilled for a high level of involvement. The style is difficult to use, and may be inadvisable, when leading inexperienced people to produce challenging and vital results in a new or strange area.
Blake and Mouton's grid theory and suggested ideal 'Team Style' behaviour are very reasonable in an 'ideal world'.
However, as James Scouller and others have noted, the model does not naturally or fully address two particularly important dimensions of leadership:
the need to adapt behaviour/style/methods according to different situations, and
the psychological make-up of the leader.
In more detail, to paraphrase Scouller:
Adopting the Team Style of leadership will not always be appropriate - for example at times of major crisis when the task is necessarily more important than people's/worker's interests, or when leading very inexperienced people towards a tough aim and tight deadline, who under such circumstances normally require very direct and firm instruction.
Also, concerning the leader's own personality make-up, not every leader can or will adopt the ideal Team Style, even after training, because of inner psychological blocks or basic personality. Some leaders are simply much more skilful in 'non-people' areas, such as strategy, visioning, building systems and structures, innovating, etc., than they are when relating to others. It is not sensible to imply that such leaders, many of whom can very effectively delegate the people/team aspects of leading, are not good leaders.
Scouller addresses these points in more detail within his Three Levels of Leadership model below.
All that said, Blake and Mouton's work is highly significant.
Their thinking warrants a section in its own right within this leadership models sub-group - and it remains a very important advance in leadership theory.
Situational/Contingency leadership models
This sub-group of leadership models - which might be called 'situational' or 'contingency' leadership models - are based on an important assumption, that:
There is not one single ideal approach to leading because circumstances vary.
So, situational leadership theory says, effective leaders must change their behaviour according to the situation.
These particular 'situational' or 'contingency' models offer a framework or guide for being flexible and adaptable when leading.
There are several models in this sub-group, so it is helpful to list them again:
Kurt Lewin's Three Styles model
Tannenbaum and Schmidt's Leadership Behaviour Continuum model
The Fiedler Contingency model
Hersey & Blanchard's Situational Leadership model(s)
Bolman & Deal's Four-Frame model
N.B. When we use the word 'situational' in the sense of referring to this sub-group of models it is with a lower case 's'. This is because the Situational Leadership model(s) of Hersey and Blanchard are proprietary brands, properly shown with the registered trademark identifier, i.e., Situational Leadership®.
Kurt Lewin's Three Styles Model
This is the oldest of the situational models. Kurt Lewin, a psychologist, led a research team in 1939 and identified what he called three 'styles' of leadership behaviour in a 1939 article in the Journal of Social Psychology.
Given that Lewin's model is based on three styles of leading, it might arguably also/instead appear in the Leadership Styles section.
We include it here because it can definitely be used as a model; i.e., Lewin's Three Styles theory offers a flexibility so that it can be adapted and applied, like using a toolkit. Refer again to the definitions of models, styles and philosophies above for clarification.
Lewin's three styles were Authoritarian, Participative and Delegative.
Authoritarian - sometimes called the Autocratic style. It is where leaders spell out the goals, deadlines and methods while making decisions on their own without any or much consultation with others. Here, the leader doesn't usually get involved in the group's work. Not surprisingly, researchers have found that you are less likely to see creative decisions under this style of leadership. However, it is a decisive way of leading and can suit high-risk, short-timescale decisions; the kind that surgical teams and fire crews have to take. Lewin noted that leaders who adopt this style can go too far and be seen by others as over-controlling and dictatorial. He also noticed that they often find it hard to move to a Participative style - in other words, they get stuck in one mode of behaviour.
Participative - sometimes called the Democratic style. It is where the leader expresses his or her priorities and values in setting goals and making decisions, but also takes part in the group's work and accepts advice and suggestions from colleagues. However, the leader makes the final decision. This style can produce more creative problem solving and innovation than the Authoritarian approach so it makes sense to adopt it in competitive, non-emergency situations.
Delegative - sometimes called the Laissez-Faire style. Lewin classes this as a leadership style, but some may feel it is non-leadership. The Delegative style means the leader hands over responsibility for results to the group. He or she lets them set goals, decide on work methods, define individuals' roles and set their own pace of work. It is very much a hands-off approach. It can work well provided the group shares the same overall intent and direction as the leader and if he or she trusts all members of the group. However, there is always a risk that individuals may become dissatisfied with their roles or the group's goals and lose motivation.
In summary, Lewin outlined three distinct modes of behaviour for leaders. If they were merely descriptive, they wouldn't help leaders wanting to become better at what they do. But if you bear in mind the strengths and weaknesses of each approach, you can match them to your circumstances - provided, of course, you can flex your behaviour. This is when the Three Styles model becomes a guide to more effective leadership.
Tannenbaum and Schmidt's Leadership Behaviour/Behavior Continuum
Tannenbaum and Schmidt's Continuum has featured separately for many years on this website, because it is a highly significant body of work in the field of management and leadership.
The material below offers a different perspective to the earlier narrative. It explores the model in the context of other leadership theories.
The earlier separate Tannenbaum and Schmidt article explains the model more in terms of its progressive ideals, especially relating to personal development and management succession. Read both summaries if you can.
Robert Tannenbaum and Warren Schmidt first presented their Leadership Behaviour Continuum in a 1958 article in the Harvard Business Review, titled 'How to Choose a Leadership Pattern'.
Tannenbaum and Schmidt explained the choices that leaders have in decision-making, and the pressures arising from these options.
They suggested that a leader has seven decision-making options when leading a group, which the diagram below shows:
Tannenbaum and Schmidt behavioural continuum - diagram
single leader <---------------------------------------------------> shared leadership
Leader makes decision and announces it. 2
Leader decides and 'sells' benefits of decision. 3
Leader decides but presents thinking, inviting exploration. 4
Leader presents tentative decision, prepared to change. 5
Leader presents problem, gets suggestions, makes decision. 6
Leader defines problem, asks group to make the decision. 7
Leader allows group to define problem and make decision.
Boss-Centred Leadership <-------------------> Subordinate-Centred Leadership
(original Tannenbaum and Schmidt terminology)
The diagram and terminology are adapted from Tannenbaum and Schmidt's original, for improved presentation purposes.
'Use of authority by manager' = 'Area of Power retained by the leader' (T&S terminology)
'Area of freedom for subordinates' = 'Amount of power held by the whole group (including the leader)' (T&S terminology)
From a group development standpoint, moving from left to right along the continuum, the leader gives up his or her power in making solo decisions so that he/she progressively involves the group, until the group effectively becomes self-managing.
At the far left, the leader sets goals, makes decisions and then tells the others what they are going to do. At the opposite end of the continuum, the leader permits (perhaps encourages) the group to define the issues they are facing and share the decision-making.
Tannenbaum and Schmidt's model is oriented notably towards decision-making, and ignores other aspects of leadership.
Nevertheless the model is powerful and insightful. It's a wonderfully concise and easily applicable tool, showing leaders the many choices they have.
The Tannenbaum and Schmidt Continuum model also reminds us that all (seven) options are available to leaders depending on the situation. The 'situation' is most commonly a combination of:
the capability of the group (in various respects - skills, experience, workload, etc), and
the nature of the task or project (again in various respects - complexity, difficulty, risk, value, timescale, relevance to group capability, etc).
the leader of an inexperienced army platoon under enemy fire will tend to be more effective at stage 1 on the Continuum, whereas,
the head of a product innovation team, under no great pressure, leading an experienced and capable group, will tend to be more effective acting at stage 7 on the Continuum.
Tannenbaum and Schmidt further explained that when leaders choose decision-making options they should consider especially three sets of pressures:
Inner psychological pressures.
Pressures coming from subordinates.
In more detail:
1. Situational pressures
The complexity of the problem.
The importance of the decision.
The time pressure.
2. The leader's inner pressures
The leader's preferences around decision-making (his values, beliefs, behavioural habits).
The leader's confidence in his or her team colleagues' knowledge and experience.
How important or risky the decision is to him/her or her personally.
3. Pressures coming from subordinates
The leader's colleagues' (the group-members') desire to 'have a say' in the decision.
The group's willingness to take responsibility for the outcomes.
The group's ability to reach decisions together.
The group's readiness and ability to accept and follow orders.
Tannenbaum and Schmidt's model demonstrates and provides seven ways of approaching group leadership decisions.
It also defines and predicts typical related internal and external pressures that leaders must consider when choosing a decision-making position.
The underlying teaching is that the leader must have necessary self-awareness, presence of mind, and wisdom, to consider the three sets of pressures (and the ten component forces) before choosing the most effective behaviour.
As with Kurt Lewin's Three Styles model, The Tannenbaum and Schmidt Continuum offers and advocates a flexible approach to leadership; that the effective leader varies his/her behaviour at will, according to circumstances.
N.B. As with other summaries on this page, and indeed this entire website, the words he and his generally equate to he/she and his/her. Also, the US-English spelling of behavior is different to UK-English, behaviour. Please adapt the spellings to suit your audience.
Fiedler's Contingency Model
Fred Fiedler's Contingency Model was the third notable situational model of leadership to emerge. This model appeared first in Fiedler's 1967 book, A Theory of Leadership Effectiveness.
The essence of Fiedler's theory is that a leader's effectiveness depends on a combination of two forces:
the leader's leadership style, and
(US-English spelling, favorableness)
Fiedler called this combination (of leadership style and 'situational favourableness'): Situational Contingency.
Here are Fiedler's two forces explained in more detail:
Two Forces of Fiedler's Situational Contingency idea
Leadership Style Situational Favourableness
Fiedler described two basic leadership styles - task-orientated and relationship-orientated:
Task-orientated leaders have a strong bias towards getting the job done without worrying about their rapport or bond with their followers. They can of course run the risk of failing to deliver if they do not engage enough with the people around them.
Relationship-orientated leaders care much more about emotional engagement with the people they work with, but sometimes to the detriment of the task and results.
Fiedler said neither style is inherently superior. However, he asserted that certain leadership challenges suit one style or the other better. The diagram below illustrates this point.
Fiedler defined three factors determining the favourableness of the situation:
How much trust, respect and confidence exists between leader and followers.
How precisely the task is defined and how much creative freedom the leader gives to the followers.
How much the followers accept the leader's power.
Fiedler believed the situation is favourable when:
There is high mutual trust, respect and confidence between leader and followers.
The task is clear and controllable.
The followers accept the leader's power.
The situation is unfavourable if the opposite is true on all three points.
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