There is no ‘right’ style of management. We each need to find the right balance, that works for us. We also need to adapt that balance to each individual and to changing circumstances.
The concept of adapting our style is at the core of models of situational leadership. There are many variants – lots of which are commercially protected. Each offers a process for two things.
Process 1: Evaluate the performance of the person you want to lead or manage
Most models focus on the person, in the context of the situation, looking principally at:
How skilled, experienced, and able the person is, to fulfil their task
How keen, motivated and confident the person is, to fulfil their task
From these they place the person on a continuum, or into one of a number of boxes (most often four)
Process 2: Apply the right style of leadership or management to situation
The second process is to select a style of leadership or management that fits the ability and motivation of the person. You can do this easily by turning up or down the amount of:
Technical support, guidance and direction to account for the level of expertise
Emotional support, praise and reassurance to account for the level of enthusiasm
The simplest models are therefore based on four simple boxes.
The Grand-daddy of situational leadership models, however, is not commercially protected and is described fully in The Management Models Pocketbook. It was developed by Robert Tannenbaum and Warren Schmidt and published in a 1958 Harvard Business Review article. Their ‘Leadership Continuum’ has seven, rather than four, levels and a wider range of factors, like your own personal style, organisational culture, time pressures and risk.
Authenticity has been a recurring theme in philosophy for a long as there have been philosophers. So, it was inevitable that leadership thinkers would pick up on the idea, to give us Authentic Leadership.
What’s perhaps more surprising is that it took until 2003 for this Big Idea to emerge. But, emerge it did, from US business-person and later academic, Bill George.
Can there be some big ideas that underpin the emergence of others? That’s a question that James McGregor Burns tackled in much of his writing. And the answer he gives us is ‘yes’. That big idea is Transformational Leadership.
It’s not surprising that leadership is a common topic for us, here at the Management Pocketblog. There must be a dozen different models to choose from among our articles. But Transformational Leadership is one we have returned to a number of times.
We do so, because it repays careful study. It is an idea that changed my thinking and has huge value for any manager or leader in business or public or community service.
There are more models of leadership than you can shake a stick at. So how should you know which is the best? That’s the question that is answered by Situational Leadership.
The principle of Situational Leadership is simple. There is no one best approach to leadership. To lead well, you must adapt your approach to the situation.
Situational Leadership has deep roots. And let’s start by setting aside our certainty that people have been managing and leading by adapting their approach to the people in front of them, for centuries. The academic study of this approach goes back to the 1950s.
These two strikingly simple and obvious questions have been answered rather well, by two British management thinkers, Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones.
Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones
Rob Goffee is Professor of Organisational Behaviour at the London Business School and is a long term academic. Gareth Jones, on the other hand, has alternated between academic and corporate roles, teaching at LBS too, and also the University of East Anglia, Henley, INSEAD, and currently, IE Business School, in Madrid. But he has also held senior HR roles at Polygram and the BBC.
Their first collaboration was a relatively unremarked book, called The Character of a Corporation. But it introduced ideas that they were to return to in their second, breakthrough book, and then again in their recent fourth book.
Their second book was called Why Should Anyone be Led by You? It introduced a mass business audience to the concept of Authentic Leadership. This was emphatically not their creation, tracking back to classical Greek thinking, and the Delphic injunction to first know yourself.
But their articulation struck a chord. It came at the right time and was delivered compellingly. Goffee and Jones argued that companies are led in far too much of a technocratic way, by people acting as managers and bureaucrats. They lack sufficient human connection with their people, and self awareness about their shortcomings.
Real leaders, they argued, are confident in who they are and what they stand for. They are not afraid to put that on show and constantly act with integrity in the way that they live the values they espouse. They are able to communicate well, and remain true to themselves, whilst still coping with and adapting to rapidly changing events. Consequently, they can inspire people to extraordinary levels of commitment.
Leading Clever People
The next book Goffee and Jones wrote addressed the challenges of leading an organisation or team made of smart, creative people. This is a typical challenge for many of today’s start-up businesses. It is also important for established businesses that want to bring together innovation teams, and for professional service businesses that want to create a great culture. The book is called Clever: Leading Your Smartest, Most Creative People.
A summary of the do’s and don’ts might look like this:
Explain and persuade
Give people space and resources
Tell them what
Give people time
Provide boundaries (simple rules)
Protect them from the rain
Give real world challenges with constraints
Create a galaxy
Conduct and connect
Tell people what to do
Allow them to burn out
Tell them how
Give frequent feedback
Expose them to politics
Use bullsh*t or deceive
Build an ivory tower
Recruit a star
Take the credit as a leader
Creating an Authentic Organisation
Goffee and Jones’ latest book is Why Should Anyone Work Here? It applies many of their earlier ideas to making a great organisation. At its heart is a simple mnemonic that spells out the six ingredients they argue are needed for a ‘dynamic and future-fit’ workplace: DREAMS.
Diversity increases creativity, which decreases with uniformity. Don’t do diversity because legislation compels you to. Do it because it has a positive impact on the bottom line: more creativity, better decisions, happier workforce.
(I know – a bit of a fix)
The more open and transparent you are, the happier people will feel. And if being open is likely to expose unfairness that will anger people, radical honesty will compel you to fix the problem, rather than hide it beneath dissembling..
“You need to tell someone the truth before someone else does,” said Jones. “Think of BP’s failure to control information after the [Deepwater Horizon] oil spill. Reputational capital is much more important and much more fragile than we ever thought.”
(This acronym-building is tough!)
This is not just about improving the business; it’s about adding value to the people within your business… as a means of improving your business.
There it is… Their earlier work popularised the concept, so its front and centre here too.
But, reflecting on how the ideas have settled in over the years, Goffee and Jones note that in the US, authenticity is too often read as ‘be yourself… find your true north.’ But their view is that an effective leader needs to be ‘yourself more skilfully.’
This is about ensuring everyone in the business understands the real purpose behind the tasks they do.
(one last shoe-horn!)
Businesses need systems. But this too easily leads to over-bureaucratisation. Rules need to work for the business and enable staff to do what’s right, not just prevent every single possibility of doing wrong.
This question has been asked time and again through the centuries. And it has been an enduring staple of managerial and business school education through the twentieth and early twenty first centuries.
So is it a surprise when a simple model, articulately expressed, leads to a 2 million-copy best-seller?
Perhaps not. But what makes James Kouzes’ and Barry Posner’s Leadership Challenge remarkable, is its longevity. In the light of the constant flow of new leadership ideas, a model that sells as well after thirty years, must have something valuable to offer.
James (Jim) Kouzes was born. We know that. But there’s little biographical detail available to the casual researcher. He attended John F Kennedy’s inauguration as part of an Eagle Scout honour guard and was inspired by Kennedy’s ‘ask not what your country can do for you…’ sentiment.
So, following his graduation in 1967, with a BA in Political Science from Michigan State University, Kouzes joined the Peace Corps. He served for two years. On his return, he started a career in training and development, giving seminars for Community Action Agency staff and volunteers.
In 1972, Kouzes founded the Joint Center for Human Services Development at San Jose State University. He served there and at the School of Social Work, University of Texas, until 1980.
In 1981, he became Director of the Executive Development Centre at Santa Clara University, where he met Barry Posner. In 1988, he left, to become a Director at TPG/Learning Systems for 10 years, moving to become CEO and Chairman of the Tom Peters Company from 1998 to 2000.
Barry Posner was born in 1949, and graduated with a BA in Political Science from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1970. He gained an MA in public Administration in 1972, from Ohio State University, and a PhD in Organisational Behaviour and Administrative Theory from The university of Massachusetts, Amherst in 1976.
From there, Posner joined the faculty of Santa Clara University, where he remains today, as Accolti Endowed Professor of Leadership, at the Leavey School of Business.
The Leadership Challenge
Working together to develop a talk on leadership, Kouzes and Posner developed their first surveys in 1983. These asked leaders what they were doing when they were at their best. In documenting the practices of exemplary leadership, they have to date surveyed over 75,000 respondents.
The burden of their work is the Leadership Challenges model, which articulates five practices. This has been documented in books, articles, and development tools like card-sets and 360-degree feedback surveys.
Model the Way Leaders establish and work to a set of principles for how people should be treated. They create standards for how to do things, and set an example for others to follow. They recognise how bureaucracy can impede action, and so act to reduce unnecessary impediments to meaningful progress. They show people what they expect of them, and create opportunities for success.
Inspire a Shared Vision
Leaders are confident in their capacity to make a difference. They create a vision for the future of their organisation, which they use to inspire their followers. At their best, they influence through charisma, gravitas, and quiet persuasion. But they also are aware of the need for practical efforts and so incite action too.
Challenge the Process
Leaders are never satisfied with the status quo. They look out for new ways to improve their organisation. This means experimentation and risk-taking. And because leaders know the nature of risk-taking, they are tolerant of failures and mistakes, treating them as learning opportunities.
Enable Others to Act
Leaders actively involve others to encourage collaboration and build effective teams. They know that mutual respect is crucial if they are to foster extraordinary efforts. So they build an atmosphere of trust and confidence. They empower and develop their team members, to make each person feel capable and trusted.
Encourage the Heart
The kind of changes extraordinary leaders try to make, are hard to accomplish and often risky. They therefore deploy high levels of emotional intelligence to keep motivation going and maintain resilience and determination. They recognise effort and celebrate achievements.
Among many types of model of leadership is one that is particularly useful to practical day-to-day managers: situational leadership. And by far the best version of this idea was developed by two UCLA professors, Robert Tannenbaum and Warren Schmidt. Their 1958 article (reprinted in 1973) is one of the most reprinted from Harvard Business Review.
Robert Tannenbaum was born in 1916, in Colorado. He studied at The University of Chicago, gaining an AB in Business Administration in 1937, and his MBA in 1938. The following year, he started his PhD in Industrial Relations also at Chicago, but his studies were interrupted by the war.
After serving as a Lieutenant in the US Navy, he returned to his PhD, which he defended in 1948. From there, he went to teach at the UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, where he remained until his retirement in 1977.
Warren H Schmidt
Warren Schmidt was born in 1920, in Detroit, and took a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism at Wayne State University. He then became ordained as a Lutheran minister.
He changed direction again, and after gaining his PhD in Psychology at Washington University, he went to teach at the University of Southern California and UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, where he met Tannenbaum.
By the by, Schmidt is the first of our Management Thinkers and Doers who has won an Oscar. In 1969, he wrote an Op Ed piece for the LA times, titled ‘Is it Always Right to be Right’. This was well received and turned into a short animated movie, narrated by Orson Welles. It won the Academy Award for Best Short Animated Film in 1970.
The Leadership Behaviours Continuum
In what is regarded as a classic 1958 Harvard Business Review article, ‘How to Choose a Leadership Pattern‘, Robert Tannenbaum and Warren H Schmidt set out a range of leadership behaviours. They set out seven distinct stages on a continuum, which vary from telling team members their decision, through selling their idea and consulting on the problem, to handing over decision-making.
Equally valuable is their assessment of how a manager can decide how to lead and choose which of the styles will work best. They argue you must consider three forces:
Forces in the manager Your values and style, and your assessment of the risk
Forces in the team-members Your assessment of their readiness and enthusiasm to assume responsibility
Forces in the situation Time pressure, the group’s effectiveness, organisational culture
This article is a foundation for what is now known as ‘Situational Leadership’, and the two trademarked models developed by Paul Hersey and Kenneth Blanchard.
The Seven Leadership Behaviours
1. Manager makes the decision and announces it
This is a purely authoritarian style of leadership, with no consideration given to other points of view. Most appropriate in a crisis, the manager sets clear instructions and expectations.
2. Manager ‘sells’ their decision
The manager takes the role of decision-maker but advocates their decision, appealing to benefits to the group. Valuable when you need the group’s support.
3. Manager presents their decision and invites questions
The manager is still in control, but allows the group to explore the ideas to better understand the decision. The manager answers to their team, without committing to honour their opinions.
4. Manager presents a tentative decision, subject to change
Now the group’s opinions can count. The manager identifies and resolves the problem, but consults their team before making their own decision.
5. Manager presents the problem, gets suggestions and then makes a decision
Still the manager retains ultimate decision-making authority. But now, they share responsibility for finding the solution with the group, who can influence the final decision.
6. Manager defines the limits within which the group makes the decision
Now decision-making sits with the team. The manager defines the problem and sets boundaries within which the group can operate, which may constrain the final decision.
7. Manager allows group to make decision, subject to organisational constraints
The group has as much freedom as the manager is able to grant them. The manager may help the group and again, commits to respect the decision the group arrives at.