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The Leadership Grid and Situational Leadership

Though lacking in empirical research, leadership theories can teach managers how to become more flexible and efficient in a variety of situations. Popular leadership theories of the day include The Leadership grid by Blake and Mouton, and situational theories like Fiedler’s Contingency Model, the Path-Goal theory originated by Robert House, and Hersey and Blanchard’s Situational Leadership theory.

The Leadership Grid by Blake and Mouton uses a grid to show a range of management styles. The Leadership Grid provides a framework for understanding different types of leadership styles and consists of two behavioral dimensions; concern for production and concern for people. The grid identifies five different leadership styles according to a manager’s emphasis on the two differing dimensions. Blake and Mouton suggest that managers with a high concern for production and a high concern for people characterize the most effective leadership style. The theory of the grid takes leadership beyond mere trait analysis to examine behaviors of effective managers. The basic two-dimensional model, however, fails to account for the endless combinations of organizational settings, situations, and leadership orientations that managers will encounter throughout their career.

These two approaches, concern for production and concern for people, together show that there is no best style of leadership. In fact, situational theories tell us that effective leadership depends on the situation at hand. They require us to interact with our employees. They encourage us to listen, to involve, to coach, to develop, to enrich, to motivate, to risk, to credit, to care, and to express concern for those that we manage. Situational theories include the Contingency Model, the Path-Goal theory, and the Situational Leadership theory.

The Situational Leadership theory, created by Hersey and Blanchard, includes four situational leadership styles: telling, selling, participating, and delegating. According to Paul Hersey, a situational leader adapts “leadership behaviors to features of the situation and followers.” The “telling style” is appropriate when the members are new or inexperienced, and need a lot of help, direction, and encouragement to get the job done. The “selling style” is useful when group members are a little more responsible, experienced, and willing to do the task but do not have the necessary skills. The “participating style” is a supportive style used when groups have the ability to do the job but may be unwilling to start or complete the task. The “delegating style” is useful when group members are willing and able to take responsibility for directing their own behavior.

Fiedler’s Contingency Model is based on the assumption that mangers have one dominant leadership style that is resistant to change. Therefore, structural changes in the situation improve a manager’s chances of success. Three dimensions of situational control identified by Fiedler are Leader-Member relations, Task Structure, and Position Power.

Through Leader-Member relation’s, managers try to understand and alleviate problems, provide consultation and feedback, provide accurate information, and hold regular meetings to keep people informed and involved. To increase Task Structure managers provide more structured tasks or detailed instructions. To reduce Task Structure managers assign new or unusual problems, involve the group in problem solving and decision-making, and involve people with different viewpoints. To increase Position Power managers demonstrate authority by exercising their powers, quickly becoming an expert, and arranging for information to be channeled through them. To decrease Position Power managers become one of the gang, socialize, joke, self-disclose, play down trappings and rank, share decision making, give others access to their boss, delegate, and distribute power.

Trait Theory

This approach focused on certain personality traits as indications of leadership ability. In other words leaders are born and not made. However, Eugene Jennings performed several studies based on this assumption and found little basis for its accuracy.

Eugene Jennings, “The Anatomy of Leadership”,Management of Personnel Quarterly 1 (Autumn 1961).

2.) Likert Theory of Management

Likert classified management styles into four basic styles ranging from exploitative-authoritative, to benevolent-authoritative, to consultative, to participative

Rensis Likert, “New Patterns of Management” (New York : McGraw-Hill,1961).

3.)The Leadership Grid

Using a grid which shows a range of management styles, Blake and Mouton show leadership types that range from production oriented to people oriented, with inappropriate extremes at both ends.

Robert Blake and Jane Mouton, The Managerial Grid III (Houston,TX: Gulf, 1985).

Leadership: An Overview

Table of Contents

  •  The Idea of Leadership
  •  Why is the idea so elusive?
  • A Common Sense Approach
  •  Leadership and Management: Is good leadership and good management the same?
  •  What do we know about good leadership
  • The Charismatic Leader: Do You Believe in Magic?
  •  Transactional vs. Transformational Leadership
  • Leaders, Followers and Goals
  •  The Four Framework Approach: Bolman and Deal suggest the following model
  •  Conclusion

    Links to Other Readings on Leadership: Charismatic Leadership: Do You Believe in Magic

    Leader as Lone Genius

    Introduction

    While there is vast disagreement over what exactly leadership is, most of us agree that whatever it is, it seems to make a substantial difference to organizations. Leadership is typically offered as a solution for most of the problems we have. Our schools (or government, or companies, etc) would be better if only we had better leadership or so many of us think. Hollywood echoes this sense with an unending supply of movies featuring a sense of Heroic Leadership. The aura around leadership is as strong today as it was in the days the Odyssey was written. Common sense suggests that leadership is a very good thing and we need more of it. Yet, there is much less agreement on exactly what it is. Also, despite a wide call for more leadership, in truth we have an “approach-avoidance” approach to strong leadership. For good re

    ason we get nervous about strong leadership at the same time while calling for more. Unfortunately, we can see what happens when prophets we follow turn out to be false prophets. Leadership always carries the risk of dependence, disappointment, and possible disaster.

    The Idea of Leadership

    In virtually every culture, the earliest literature deals with accounts of heroes and the results of their leadership. Joseph Campbell in his work on various myths finds that in every culture “Essentially, ..there is but one archetypal mythic hero who is the founder of something-a new age, a new religion, a new city, a new way of life. In order to found something new, one has to leave the old and go in quest of a new thing, …It involves a journey-abandoning the old and searching for the new.

    Why is the idea so elusive?

    Leadership arises in response to a need. Ultimately it derives from the uncertainties and dangers built into the human condition (Bolman and Deal). It is difficult to generalize about leadership because the conditions that give rise to it vary from situation to situation, and from one historical time to another. Effective leadership in a battle situation is likely to be very different from leadership in a high-tech corporate situation. Leadership at the executive level of a firm may be vastly different than effective leadership at the floor level. Looking for an overarching model of leadership may be futile and counterproductive.

    Another reason the idea is elusive is that we may be looking in the wrong place for “leadership.” It isn’t a thing; it doesn’t reside in a person. It exists only in relationships and only in the imagination and perceptions of “followers.” No matter how “charismatic” someone may be, unless there is another person that is influenced to act by the “leader,” there is no leadership going on. Leadership is something that goes on among people; it isn’t something within a person.

    A Common Sense Approach

    Bolman and Deal suggest that when people are asked “what is leadership”, answers seem to fall into one of these categories:

    * ability to get others to do what you want (power)

    * leaders motivate people to get things done-mostly through persuasion

    * leaders provide a vision

    * leadership is facilitation; leaders empower people to do what they want

    There are problems with all of these but overall they convey the notion that we expect a leader to influence through noncoercive means, to produce some degree of cooeprative effort, and to pursue goals that transcend his or her own narrow self-interest.

    Leadership and Management: Are they the same?

    Intuitively we sense that a good leader may be a poor manager and a good manager need not be a leader. Bennis and Nanus suggested that “managers do things right and leaders do the right thing.” We should be careful in taking the difference too far or else we will end up thinking of leaders having to be like Patton and managers unimaginative clods. We do expect our managers to be leaders to some degree.

    A more realistic approach: the leader isn’t always a hero

    Certainly Hollywood creates a distorted and romanticized view of the leader as hero: Star Wars’ Luke Skywalker, Stallone’s Rocky, George C. Scott’s Patton are examples. It is important to recognize that leadership is situational and relational. Some simple generalizations are:

    * the myth of leader as hero focuses too much on the leader as a person, and too little on the context in which leadership plays itself out. The context influences both what leaders must do and what they can do. Given the vast range of situations leaders face, it is unwise to try to create one single formula for leadership

    * leadership as relationship: Popular myths also convey the notion that leadership is one way-leader to follower. In reality leaderhsip is a two way mutual influence process, to some degree dependent on followers. What a leader does is often as much a result of followers behaviors as a cause of behaviors

    * leaders and position: one can have power and authority without being a leader (eg. a meter maid). Conversely one can be a leader without position or formal authority. Effective organizations will encourage leadership from a broad range of people including those not directly in authority

    What do we know about good leadership

    Two of the most widely held notions about leaders are: good leaders need to have the “right stuff” good leadership is situational To some degree these commonly held notions are contradictory; the first suggests there is “one best way” to be a leader and the second one doesn’t. Perhaps both are correct to some degree. In the first approach, the one characteristic that seems to be most widely agreed on is “vision.” Others characteristics that appear in many accounts of good leaders include “ability to communcate a vision effectively to others.” In addition good leaders have the “ability to inspire trust and build relationships.” Other attributes that are cited but for which there still isn’t consensus is: risk taking, flexibility, self-confidence, interpersonal skills, task competence, intelligence, decisiveness, understanding of followers, and courage. The lack of research support a “trait” approach to leadership would suggest that the “contigency” approach may be a more fruitful way to understand leadership. Different levels of organization require different leadership; different kinds of organizations, different cultures. The most popular situational leadership approach was developed by Hersey and Blanchard. It is based on a two by two matrix. On one side is high and low task leadership; the other dimension is high and low on rellationship behavior. The result is four different possible styles:

    * telling (high task, low relationship)

    * selling (high task and high relationship

    * participating (low task, high relationship

    * delegating (low task, low relationship)

    The authors suggest that there are circumstances where each of these styles would be appropriate. While thousands have been through training in this model and many swear by it, there is very little empirical evidence to support the model.

    The Charismatic Leader: The Magical leader

    For a more detailed discussion of charismatic leadership see “The Charismatic Leader” Many organizations today find that they are in need of major transformations and to achieve that magnitude of change, feel that they will likely need charismatic leaders. Charismatic leadership is a vague term that has been used widely to describe a wide variety of leaders operationg very differently. In addition the term can be applied to leaders most of us would admire as well as leaders many of us would revile.

    A charismatic leader build’s one’s trust in self and senses unexplained opportunities, formulates, and communicates an idealized vision and support for the vision, and provides the means for achieving it.

    Keep in mind that leadership never takes place in a vacuum; it always takes place in a context. Someone viewed as charismatic in 1960 may have virtually no impact in 1996; similarly, someone viewed as charismatic in Germany may have no impact in France. It makes little sense to talk about charismatic leadership apart from the context within which it takes place. Consequently it probably makes more sense to talk about charismatic leadership than a charismatic leader.

    Transactional vs. Transformational Leadership

    James McGregor Burns compared these two types of leadership: Transactional Leaders use rewards to motivate and focus on routine performance that is agreed upon by manager and subordinate; management in this model is generally by expection (i.e., when people deviate from expectation). Contrast this to transformational leadership where leaders broaden and elevate the interests of their followers, generate awareness and acceptance of the purposes and mission of the group or stir followers to look beyond their own selfpinterest for the good of others. These leaders use charisma, vision, courage, inspiration, intellectual stimultion, and concern for individual. These leaders cope with comlexity, ambiguity and uncertainty

    Leaders, Followers and Goals

    What really differentiates one leader from another centers more on the nature of the followers and the goals, than the leader. How should one become a leader. By finding the right followers and the right goal. One of the two is no good without the other. And they must be right for you and for the historical moment. One may have the followers and the goal and still be unable to mobilize followers towards the goal. Not everyone is able to be a leader. Also the situation must be right. Circumstance is critical, if unpredictable. Many get their chance to lead by accident. Angelo Roncalli was chosen Pope late in his life, and not because great things were expected of him-quite the opposite. Without realizing it himself, he had prepared well for this unexpected office. Both Washington and Napoleon needed great revolutions to make them great leaders. What would Roosevelt have been without the Deparession and World War II. What about nongreat leaders. Most people will not lead a revolution, reform a church, or conquer an enemy nation. The basic tools of leadership are available in small arenas as well as large. To lead a PTA meeting well, one must still have a firm grasp of the goal and a sense of the parents’ and teachers’ needs and aspirations. The mystery of leadership and followership goes on all around us and within us. We are all in some measure leaders and followers-as most of us, alternatively are parents and children, employers and empoyees, teachers and taught.

    The Four Framework Approach: Bolman and Deal suggest the following model

    ______________________________________________________________________________

    Effective Human

    Leadership Structural Resources Political Symbolic

    ________________________________________________________________________

    Leader is: social architect catalyst,servant advocate prophet

    Leadership analysis, design support, advocate, coalition inspiration

    process empowerment building

    ________________________________________________________________________

    Ineffective

    Leadership

    _________________________________________________________________________

    Leader is: petty tyrant pushover hustler fanatic, fool

    Leadership details abdication manipulation, smoke and mirrors

    Process fraud

    _________________________________________________________________________

    This model suggests that leadership and leaders can be put into these four categories and there are times when each approach is appropriate and times when it wouldn’t be.

    * Structural Leaders focus on structure, strategy, environment; focus on implementation, experimentation, adapatation

    * Human Resource Leaders believe in people and communicate that belief; they are visible and

    *

    * accessible; they empower, increase participation, support, share information, and move decision making down into the organization

    * Political leaders clarify what they want and what they can get; they assess the distribution of power and interests; they build linkages to other stakeholders; use persuasion first, then negotiation and coercion only if necessary

    * Symbolic leaders view organizations as a stage or theater to play certain roles and give impressions; these leaders use symbols to capture attention; they try to frame experience by providing pplausible interpreations of experiences; finally they discover and communicate a vision

    Any one of these approaches alone would be inadequate. Similarly the literature and popular myths about leadership tend to focus on one. Today much attention is focused on the leader as visionary (here symbolic). This model suggests that we should be very conscious of all four approaches and not just rely on one. At a particular time a structural leader may be far more effective than a visionary leader. We also need to understand ourselves. Each of us tends to have a preferred approach. We need to be conscious of this and aware of the limitations of our favored approach.

    Conclusion

    Leadership theory has moved from trait approaches, to behavioral approaches, to contingency and situational models. It probably makes most sense to forget about finding universal “truths” about leadership. Leadership at the executive level is different from leadership at mid-management, which is different than first line leadership.