The Trials of Leadership Styles
by Andrew Cooke, Growth & Profit Solutions
Adapting your leadership style for effective results – balancing task- and people-oriented leadership.
When organizing a company meeting what do you, or the individual you have delegated to, do first? Do you develop the timeline and associated task, or do you consider who would prefer to do what and then try to develop an approach and schedule around their needs? And how do you respond if you fall behind schedule – do you focus on the tasks or the people?
How you answer the above can reveal your preferred personal leadership style, these can be:
- Task-oriented – you focus on getting things done, you are more production or task-focused;
- People-oriented – you want to people to be happy, you are more people-focused;
- A blend of both.
Neither preference is right or wrong, just as no one type of leadership style is best for all situations. However, it’s useful to understand what your natural leadership tendencies are, so that you can then begin working on developing skills that you or your reports may be missing.
Understanding the Leadership Grid
The Leadership Grid is based on two behavioural dimensions:
- Concern for People – 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 – this is the degree to which a leader emphasizes concrete objectives, organizational efficiency and high productivity when deciding how best to accomplish a task.
In the Leadership Grip below there are five leadership styles.
The Leadership Grid highlights how placing too much emphasis in one area at the expense of the other leads to low overall productivity. However, when both people and production concerns are high, employee engagement and productivity increases accordingly.
The Five Leadership Styles
Impoverished Leadership – Low Production/Low People (A)
This leader is mostly 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. Often typified by a delegate-and-disappear management style, the leader of manger shows a low concern for both people and production. He (or she) avoids getting into trouble. His main concern is not to be held responsible for any mistakes. Managers use this style to preserve job and job seniority, protecting themselves by avoiding getting into trouble. The result is a place of disorganization, dissatisfaction and disharmony.
Produce or Perish Leadership – High Production/Low People (B)
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. There is little or no allowance for cooperation or collaboration. 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. Although results may be achieved in the short-term it is not sustainable in the long-term as employees become disengaged and employee turnover increases.
Middle-of-the-Road Leadership – Medium Production/Medium People (C)
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: 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.
Country Club Leadership – High People/Low Production (D)
This style of leader is most concerned about the needs and feelings of members of his/her team. These people operate under the assumption that as long as team members are happy and secure then they will work hard. The leader or manager is almost incapable of employing the more punitive, coercive and legitimate powers fearing that using such powers could jeopardize relationships with the other team members. The organization will end up with a friendly atmosphere, but not necessarily very productive due to a lack of direction and control.
Team Leadership – High Production/High People (E)
This is the pinnacle of leadership style. 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.
Applying the Leadership Grid
1. Identify the Current Leadership Style
What is your current leadership style? Review past and current situations where you have been the leader. For each situation mark your position on the matrix. What themes or trends can you identify? Why have you put yourself there? What was the outcome for using that style? Use the template below to assess yourself.
2. Identify areas of improvement and develop your leadership skills?
Are you more task-focused or people-focused? How effective are the leadership styles you are using? Are you in the middle-of-the-road? If so, do you need to operate outside your comfort zone? Are you too task-focused? If so, what people skills do you need to develop? Are you too people-focused? If so, what do you need to do develop task-related skills?
3. Monitor, Review and Solicit Feedback
Get others to assist you in this and to share their perspective and reasoning in a constructive manner. This is an on-going process, not a one-off event.
Being aware of the various approaches is the first step in understanding and improving how well you or your reports perform as a leader or manager. It can also help you to anticipate how you lead can impact the level of employee engagement either positively or negatively.
At different times and for different situations you will find that you will adapt your leadership style – there is no one style that can be universally applied to produce the results and the people that you want to develop and achieve. However, the Leadership Grid provides you with a tool by which to assess the alternative styles that are available to you.
Don’t treat the Leadership Grid as the “ultimate truth” – it is only there to provide input for you to consider when trying to determine and understand what is the most effective leadership style for you to use given your situation, the context of the situation (including its seriousness, urgency and whether it will become more acute if left unaddressed), your current skills and capabilities, your experience and your people.
Finally, don’t forget to use this tool with your own reports – a great leader develops his or her people.
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