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The 9,9 Leader: Myth or Real?

The Managerial Grid theory of leadership pioneered by Blake and Mouton postulates that the best style of leadership that is most effective over the long run is the 9,9 leader—‘All for one and One for All’. All other leadership styles based on the Managerial Grid emphasize one factor over the other—production (results) or people, leading to various degrees of success. Implied within the other styles of leadership is the unstated assumption that there is an inherent contradiction between organization purpose and the needs of people to be productive.

9,9 decision-making

There is an assumption that the 9,9 leadership style is impractical since it involves consensus decision-making which is difficult and therefore this is an inefficient style. This is an erroneous understanding of the Managerial Grid. Team leadership does not mandate involving all team members in all decision making. Only those who are involved in the decision and can contribute to it through their unique knowledge and skill-set are involved in the process—whenever possible. Also, this style does not imply an agreement on all decisions. It simply underlines the importance of involving relevant people who have special knowledge of the process in the decision-making thereby improving the quality of decision-making. All decisions involve information constraints and a certain degree of judgment is involved. In such situations of information paucity, involving those who may have different perspectives on solving the problem can only result in a qualitatively better decision. This is not an admission of one’s inability but rather a reflection of the maturity and magnanimity of an individual that no matter how highly-placed he may be in the managerial/organizational hierarchy he nevertheless consults the people concerned before deciding. But the final decision is his and the resultant responsibility is his and his alone. This not only ensures a higher rate of success of decisions but also obtains greater acceptance of the decision by others and in addition has the beneficial spin-off, of improving team work and team spirit which is an important intangible in organizational effectiveness.

Leadership Model 

Blake and Mouton describe leadership through the process that involves the three R’s-

  • Resources 
  • Relationships 
  • Results 

As depicted in the diagram below:

R-1 R-2 R-3

Resources are the attributes of people—knowledge, ability, skill that they use in utilizing other physical resources –equipment, technical and financial.

Relationships are the interactions between people while working with one another in organizations. This is the domain of organizational culture—it defines “how people do things.”

Results are self-explanatory. They are the end product of team interaction and problem solving.

The focus of leadership is in enhancing the Relationships part of the process. It s here that organizational culture and effective leadership plays an important role in ensuring that the potential that people have is converted into effective use resulting in better results. In no other style of leadership is it possible to get people to put in their best efforts and operate at the limits of their potential as in the 9,9 leadership style as this is the only style that facilitates team work and team effort wherein all people are motivated and enthused into putting in their best efforts and even consistently going beyond their job responsibilities.

A 9,1 style with a strong focus on results will obtain results consistently too but it will not encourage team spirit and morale will not be high. Consequently people will put in the minimum required under fear of punitive action to escape penal action. This will increase efficiency but will not result in optimum effectiveness as people are forced into performing and are not willingly giving off their best. In the 9,9 style people are consistently motivated into giving their best and going beyond the confines of their jobs thereby increasing synergy which results in best possible results.

Team work, synergy and morale will be significantly higher in a 9,9 leader-led team or organization.

Decision-making in the 9,9 style 
It is erroneously assumed that the 9,9 style of decision-making is too time consuming and impractical. This is due to an improper understanding of the theory. It is not imperative to involve everyone all the time. The authors provide very practical guidelines for decision-making, 9,9 style.

There are a series of questions that need to be answered before involving others:

1. Who owns the problem?

2. Do I have time to involve others?

3. Do I have the competency to take the decision alone?

4. Is synergy possible?

5. What is the impact on the rest of the team?

6. Do I need involvement and commitment of others?

7. Is there development potential for others?

Interdependence is key to 9,9 team interaction.

Conflict solving :

It is imperative to have a common understanding of conflicts before proceeding further as this is a vital part of the 9,9 strategy.

Conflicts are different points of view, two or more ideas about how to do the same thing.

The 9,9 leader understands that conflicts are inevitable and are the result of the fact that strong-minded people have convictions about what is right. The 9,9 leader does not avoid conflict rather he faces up to it and confronts these differences with view towards arriving at a common understanding. The focus is never on “who is right?” but rather on “what is right.”

The 9,9 leadership style obviates conflict by involving all people concerned in the decision-making process during which all differences are ironed out and a common understanding arrived at which results in high morale and commitment to the goal.

Conclusion : 

The Managerial Grid —out dated or still relevant?

It is perhaps natural to assume that the managerial grid is now out dated in light of the many new developments and research on leadership. However this is a fallacy. A comparison with one of the latest leadership theories to emerge based on empirical research —the Level 5 leadership, will suffice to demolish this argument.

If one closely examines the Level-5 Leadership principles, as enunciated by Jim Collins, and compare them with the 9,9 Leader, one will find an overwhelming similarity.

The Level -5 Leader embodies a paradoxical combination of personal humility and professional will.

This statement could very well describe the 9,9 Leader as he has the humility to accept the views of others, notably his subordinates. Unless one has personal humility he will never invite the opinions of others and instead will rely on his self-decision.

Charisma is as much a liability as an asset as people tend to filter brutal facts from you(Jim Collins)

In other words, if one is a charismatic leader, he will never get honest feedback and opinions of others, especially his own team and subordinates. Thus, real facts are suppressed until it is too late.

But with the 9,9 Leader this never happens as he is constantly open to critique, feedback and suggestions of his team members and therefore is always confronted by the unadulterated facts— just like the Level-5 leader.

Further, Jim Collins states that a level -5 leader

  • leads with questions, not answers 
  • engages in dialogue a
    nd debate, not coercion 
  • conducts autopsies without blame 

This is precisely what a 9,9 Leader does while engaging in critique.

Don’t manage the people, manage the system. (Jim Collins)

The 9,9 Leader does exactly the same. He gives his team full freedom and delegates work and authority but yet retains responsibility. He does not micro-manage his team but instead relies on the art of delegation.

Jim Collins could so easily have been writing about the 9,9 Leader.

The Managerial Grid is not outdated and is still relevant. As seen above, new research has only corroborated the efficacy of the 9,9 Team leadership style.

The Managerial Grid is extensively used in many organizations in India such as :

  • The Anand Group,
  • Bajaj Auto Ltd, 
  • Hindustan Motors Ltd
  • FAG Bearings India Ltd,
  • Godfrey Philips India Ltd. 

“Godfrey Philips India Limited as a company had embarked upon the Managerial Grid to all in the year 1994. The result of this learning was so good that it was decided that the same should be extended to the middle and lower level managers as well as to the key staff members of the organization. The benefits of the programme have been tremendous. The main impact has been in term of each manager understanding his own style and working towards the ideal 9,9 leadership style.
This has also helped in improving the team culture in the organization which in turn has improved the working climate and resulted in improved performance of the people as well as key performance parameters,” P.A.M., Director, Godfrey Philips India Limited.

The Vice President at Hindustan Motors, Hosur unit during the period 1998-2004 was the epitome of the 9,9 leader as he was humble to the point of being self-effacing, a person of high integrity who valued all subordinates as assets, was always approachable, never imposed his decisions on others without explaining the rationale behind them and even allowed himself to be questioned by his subordinates and never shirked responsibility. He presented a stark contrast to his immediate predecessor who was a dictator and a bully—a typical 9,1 leader. It was such a refreshing change to work with this individual who personified the 9,9 style of leadership.

Unfortunately very little research has been conducted to assess the effect of training programmes on organizational performance as an outcome (Collins, 2001: Sogunro, 1997).

So long as the focus of discipline of Organizational Behaviour is on the second R—Relationships, the Managerial Grid will always be relevant.


Blake & McCanse, Leadership Dilemmas-Grid Solutions, Gulf Publishing Co.,(1997).

Collins, Jim, Good to Great (2001).