Issue Date: March/April 2012, Posted On: 4/10/2012
What Kind of Leader are You?
How do we transform diverse individuals into powerful, high-performing teams? One useful tool is to learn and put into practice the Leadership (aka Managerial) Grid model.
What is the Leadership (Managerial) Grid Model?
The Leadership Grid model is a behavioral leadership model developed by Robert Blake and Jane Mouton years ago, and validated by researchers and leaders today. This model identifies five different leadership styles based on the concern for people (relationships) and the concern for production (results). The optimal leadership style in this model is based on Theory Y, which I wrote about in my last column.
The Leadership Grid is a practical and useful framework that helps you think about your leadership style. By plotting ‘concern for production’ against ‘concern for people,’ the grid highlights how placing too much emphasis in one area at the expense of the other leads to low overall productivity.
The model proposes that when both people and production concerns are high, employee engagement and productivity increases accordingly. This is often true, and it follows the ideas of Theory Y and other participative management theories.
The Leadership Grid is based on two behavioral dimensions:
· Concern for People (Relationships) – This is the degree to which a leader considers the needs of team members, their interests, and areas of personal development when deciding how best to accomplish a task.
· Concern for Production (Results) – This is the degree to which a leader emphasizes concrete objectives, organizational efficiency and high productivity when deciding how best to accomplish a task. Using the axis to plot leadership ‘concerns for production’ versus ‘concerns for people’, Blake and Mouton defined the following five leadership styles:
The Leadership Styles of the Model
The model is represented as a grid with concern for production as the x-axis and concern for people as the y-axis; each axis ranges from 1 (Low) to 9 (High). The resulting leadership styles are as follows:
Country Club Leadership – High People/Low Production (1,9)
This style of leader is most concerned about the needs and feelings of members of his/her team. These leaders operate under the assumption that as long as team members are happy and secure then they will work hard. What tends to result is a work environment that is very relaxed and fun but where production suffers due to lack of direction and control.
Produce or Perish Leadership – High Production/Low People (9,1)
Also known as Authoritarian or Compliance leaders, people in this category believe that employees are simply a means to an end. Employee needs are always secondary to the need for efficient and productive workplaces. This type of leader is very autocratic, has strict work rules, policies, and procedures, and views punishment as the most effective means to motivate employees. This dictatorial style lines up with McGregor’s Theory X.
Impoverished Leadership – Low Production/Low People (1,1)
This leader is very ineffective. He/she has neither a high regard for creating systems for getting the job done, nor for creating a work environment that is satisfying and motivating. The result is a place of disorganization, dissatisfaction and disharmony.
Managers use this style to preserve job and job seniority, protecting themselves by avoiding getting into trouble. The main concern for the manager is not to be held responsible for any mistakes, which results in less innovative decisions.
Middle-of-the-Road Leadership – Medium Production/Medium People (5,5)
This style seems to be a balance of the two competing concerns. It may at first appear to be an ideal compromise. Therein lies the problem, though: when you compromise, you necessarily give away a bit of each concern so that neither production nor people needs are fully met. Leaders who use this style settle for average performance and often believe that this is the most anyone can expect.
Team Leadership – High Production/High People (9,9)
Also now known as “Transformational Leader”. According to the model, this is the pinnacle of managerial style and lines up with the Theory Y approach. These leaders stress production needs and the needs of the people equally highly. The premise here is that employees are involved in understanding organizational purpose and determining production needs. When employees are committed to, and have a stake in the organization’s success, their needs and production needs coincide. This creates a team environment based on trust and respect, which leads to high satisfaction and motivation and, as a result, high production.
The "Transformational Leader" according to leadership researcher Bernard Bass:
· Is a model of integrity and fairness.
· Sets clear goals; has high expectations.
· Encourages; provides support and recognition.
· Stirs people's positive emotions.
· Gets people to look beyond their self-interest.
· Inspires people to reach for the improbable.
Applying the Leadership Grid
Being aware of the various approaches is the first step in understanding and improving how well you perform as a manager. It is important to understand how you currently operate, so that you can then identify ways of becoming competent in both realms.
Step One: Identify your leadership style
· Think of some recent situations where you were the leader.
· For each of these situations, place yourself in the grid according to where you believe you fit. You can also solicit input from people who have worked with you.
Step Two: Identify areas of improvement and develop your leadership skills
· Look at your current leadership method and critically analyze its effectiveness.
· Look at ways you can improve. Are you settling for ‘middle of the road’ because it is easier than reaching for more?
· Identify ways to get the skills you need to reach the Team (Transformational) Leadership position. These may include involving others in problem solving or improving how you communicate with them, if you feel you are too task-oriented. Or it may mean becoming clearer about scheduling or monitoring project progress if you tend to focus too much on people.
· Continually monitor your performance and watch for situations when you slip back into bad old habits.
Step Three: Put the Grid in Context
It is important to recognize that although the Team Leadership style is generally the most effective leadership approach, there are times that call for more attention in one area than another. If your team is in the midst of a merger or some other significant change, it is often acceptable to place a higher emphasis on people than on production. Likewise, when faced with an economic hardship or physical risk, people concerns may be placed on the back burner, for the short-term at least, to achieve high productivity and efficiency.
I like this quote from Tony Dungy “The secret to success is good leadership, and good leadership is about making the lives of your team members better.” Good luck to you as make the lives of your team members better by showing a high concern for them as people AND the results they achieve!
Wes Friesen, MBA, CMDSM, EMCM, MQC, ICP, CCM,CMA, CM, CFM, APP, PHR is the Manager of Revenue Collection & Community Offices for Portland General Electric, a utility in Portland, Oregon that serves over 820,000 customers. Wes teaches university classes and is a featured speaker at national Conferences like National Postal Forum, MailCom, FUSION and others. He manages the bill presentment and payment processing teams with the able assistance of supervisors Eric Houger, Tom Laszlo, Gil Rodriguez and Rick VanBeek. Wes can be contacted at Wes.Friesen@pgn.com. Check out his personal website for free information (www.wesfriesen.com).