This article explains the concept of the Managerial Grid and the various styles of leadership as enunciated by the authors Blake and Mouton. This is a very effective and practical model to study leadership and many Organization Development programs are modeled on this theory. The article covers the concept of the Grid and explains each style of leadership.
The Managerial Grid is one of the most enduring Behavioral theories of Leadership that was first propounded in 1965 and is still being used in Leadership and team building training. It is simple to understand and apply and very flexible. The model is an excellent way to map out different leadership styles, and to study the leadership style of leaders and managers. The model is based on a grid on which the concern for production is located on the X-axis and the concern for people is located on the Y-axis. Based on the emphasis on production or people 5 distinct leadership styles are identified. Later, the authors Blake & Mouton identified two other leadership styles adding to a total of 7 distinct leadership styles.
As leadership is a very complicated process, Blake and Mouton broke down the process of leadership into 6 distinct elements on which the various leadership styles are assessed. These 6 elements of leadership are:
- Conflict solving,
- Decision Making and
Country club leadership (1,9), High concern for people and low concern for production—“Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”
A leader with a high concern for people and low concern for production focuses totally on maintaining harmonious working relationship in his team and does not allow any conflicts to develop; rather, he avoids conflicts, as these have the potential to derail his careful attempts at building a harmonious team with excellent inter-personal relations. Such a boss is bound to be immensely liked but he is not likely to gain the respect of others. Although this style leads to a friendly and pleasant atmosphere, but it is not likely to translate into high results for the organization due to the poor focus on obtaining results as building and maintaining good relations becomes the end in itself rather than a means to an end—namely high production.
Produce or Perish Leadership (9,1)—High Concern for Production/Low Concern for People; “Nice Guys finish Last.”
The 9,1 leader provides strong leadership that usually produces good results. It is a very effective style for short-term results even though it usually fails to enthuse the other team members and does not win their willing cooperation. It works well only when the boss is right as it has the rather unfortunate side- effect of shutting off valuable inputs from subordinates who may be better informed on crucial matters than the leader himself. The reason why individuals adopt this style is because they assume that the two concerns—concern for production and concern for people, are contradictory in nature and are mutually exclusive. Therefore, a 9,1 leader approaches leadership as a black/white dilemma, in which to achieve one(production),the other(people) must necessarily be sacrificed. This is the most common style of leadership exhibited in organizations.
Middle of the Road Leadership (5,5)—Medium Concern for Production/Medium Concern for People; “I Can Live with That.”
A 5,5 leader is essentially a compromise artist; he seeks a delicate equilibrium between the needs for production and the needs of people. He believes in conformity and is guided by official protocol and rules and regulations. This leads to a stultifying bureaucracy with all its attendant consequences: decisions are based on majority rather than on what is correct so along as the majority are in its favour, promotions are based on seniority rather than merit, creativity is at its nadir since being innovative or creative or indulging in out-of-box thinking is different, it is discouraged. Conflict is resolved through compromise.
Impoverished Leadership (1,1)— Low Concern for Production/ Low Concern for People;” Sorry, But It’s Not My Problem.”
This is an ineffective leader. This type of leader has a very low concern for people ad an equally low concern for production; in other words he is not interested in doing anything proactive and merely goes about the motions and lacks any real commitment. His main intention is to be “visible” but mentally he is absent. This leader is always present and on time; he doesn’t abuse organization rules and doesn’t intentionally inconvenience others. He is probably a nice person and not disliked by others and is also reasonably capable but is just not mentally present and does the bare minimum. However, sooner or later, this type of leader will get into trouble as the organization will eventually notice that his presence or absence makes little difference.
Team Leadership(9,9)—High Concern for Production/High Concern for People: “All for One and One for All.”
As the title suggests, this is the best style of leadership according to the Grid model where high concern for production is balanced by an equally high concern of people; it is a style which emphasizes achieving of results through and by people, i.e. through the active involvement of people. This leader recognizes the limitations that any single individual has, in terms of competency and knowledge, to take decisions on all matters and intrinsically acknowledges the potential that other individuals, even those working under him, have of being able to help in decision making through the application of collective wisdom. The result is that people working under such leaders are highly motivated and energized and willingly give their best towards achieving targets and consequently the team achieves synergy through such collective efforts. Whereas, in the case of the assertive and forceful leader, as exemplified by the 9,1 leadership style, the efforts of the team are focused towards achieving the targets by following the methods outlined by the leader with very little scope for creativity and innovation and therefore morale is low although results are still achieved despite the poor morale; but in the process this type of leadership style destroys team spirit.
Additional styles of leadership:
Later, the authors realized the above 5 styles do not capture all the styles of leadership and introduced two other styles of leadership as given below. Although these two styles of leadership cannot be plotted on the Grid but they are based on the concepts of the Grid, i.e. the concern for people and the concern for production.
The Opportunist- “What’s In It For me?”
As the eponymous title suggests, the Opportunist is just that— an opportunist and does not have any fixed grid style which can be plotted on the Grid. Instead, he operates according to the grid style of the other party. It all depends on what is deemed to be the most effective style in getting what you want when operating with others. This type of leader is motivated solely by self-interest and will follow any style of leadership as long as it gets him results. The only difference is that he focuses on the results that will suit him personally; if the organization benefits, it is merely a by-product and not the main intention. Organization goals are considered only when they are congruent with his self-interest. Otherwise the goals of the organization are of little importance to the opportunist.
The Paternalist (9+9) “Getting People to worship the Ground You walk on.”
The Paternalist is very often confused with the Team leadership(9,9) style but there is a vital difference—with the Paternalist, although there is equal concern for people and for production, yet it is based on getting people to look up to you as the father figure, somewhat like a “Godfather” or Guru. In this style of leadership people are rewarded only if they willingly follow his every wish and advice and look up to him and almost indulge in hero-worship. If team members display this type of behavior they are rewarded in a paternalistic way and they are kept happy and satisfied and are thus motivated to put in greater efforts so long as they are aimed at boosting the public stature of their leader. As a spin off, organization goals are achieved efficiently but they are achieved not ‘for the organization’ but ‘for the leader’. There is thus, a misleading sense of team morale and espirit-de-corps but it is all for the leader and not for the organization; the moment such a leader is removed from the spot the people feel lost and the team disintegrates.
The authors have recommended that the ideal style of leadership in the Grid model is the (9,9) ‘Team Leadership’ model as this is the most effective style over a long term period although other styles may be effective in the short run. This has also been established through research. However, the most often adopted style of leadership in Indian organizations (manufacturing sector) is the (9,1) ‘Produce or Perish’ style which I have personally researched and established.
Leadership Dilemmas-Grid solutions-Blake & Mouton,(1991), Gulf Publishing Company, Houston, Texas.