The Grid Theory of Leadership

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Identifying management style can lead to improved performance.
Identifying management style can lead to improved performance. (Image: male leadership image by Daniel Wiedemann from Fotolia.com)

The grid model of leadership was developed in the 1960s by Robert Blake and Jane Moulton. It provides a means of evaluating management behavior by looking at different leadership styles, and then applying these to particular situations.

Grid Theory

Blake and Moulton’s theory is regarded as one of the first attempts to describe appropriate leadership behavior. It is based on the work of behavioral scientists, and the identification of two basic drivers, concern for people doing the work and concern for completing the task. A grid was developed showing nine degrees of “concern for people” and “concern for production” with "1" indicating a low level, and "9" a high level of concern. Within the 81-square grid, there are five management behavior styles. By charting an individual’s position on the grid, it is possible to indicate which leadership style is being shown, and assess its appropriateness to a particular situation.

Management Styles

There are five styles of management behavior identified by Blake and Moulton. These are "Impoverished Management," "Task Management," "Middle of the Road Management," "Country Club Management" and "Team Management." The leadership grid allows managers to analyze their own management style, and plot it within the grid. They then can assess whether their style could be improved. Different situations might call for changes in management style. Grid results are expressed numerically, for example (5,5) for "Middle of the Road Management."

Impoverished Management

Leaders show little interest in meeting work deadlines and concern for employee satisfaction, and are often more concerned with simply maintaining their own seniority. This leadership style tends to be very ineffective, leading to a disorganized workplace with low levels of motivation and job satisfaction. It is plotted at 1,1 on the grid.

Task Management

This is also termed dictatorial, or a perish style of leadership. Managers are more concerned about production and less about people, who are considered merely a means to an end. With the aim to maximize production at the expense of people, output can be increased in the short run, but often at the expense of high labor turnover. This is plotted at 9,1 on the grid.

Middle of the Road

A Middle of the Road style of leadership is one which attempts to balance the goals of the organization with the needs of people. Compromise is required, and as boundaries are not pushed it tends to result in average performance where neither goals nor needs are fully met. Workers end up only moderately motivated and performance is seen only to be moderately effective. This is plotted at 5,5 on the grid.

Country Club

Here the manager is people-centered, ensuring that a comfortable and friendly working environment is provided. The manager feels that treating people in this way will lead to self-motivation and greater individual productivity. The emphasis on people and neglect of tasks actually can hamper production because of a lack of direct control and supervision. This is plotted at 1,9 on the grid.

Team Management

This is characterized by a high task and people focus, and according to Blake and Moulton is the most effective management style. Key elements are empowerment, trust, commitment and motivation. These can create a team environment resulting in high levels of employee satisfaction, good team spirit and increased productivity. It is plotted at 9,9 on the grid.

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