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Situational Leadership

Situational Leadership
Situational Leadership
Situational Leadership

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.

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Victor Vroom: Motivation and Decision-making

Why do people make the choices they do at work, and how can managers and leaders make effective decisions? These are two essential questions for managers to understand. They were both tackled with characteristic clear-thinking and rigour by one man.

Victor Vroom

Short Biography

Victor Vroom was born in 1932 and grew up in the suburbs of Montreal. Initially, he was a bright child with little academic interest – unlike his two older brothers. Instead, his passion was big-band jazz music and, as a teenager, he dedicated up to 10 hours a day to practising Alto Sax and Clarinet.

Leaving school, but finding the move to the US as a professional musician was tricky, Vroom enrolled in college and learned, through psychometric testing, that the two areas of interest that would best suit him were music (no surprise) and psychology. Unfortunately, whilst he now enjoyed learning, his college did not teach psychology.

At the end of the year, he was able to transfer, with a full year’s credit, to McGill University, where he earned a BSc in 1953 and a Masters in Psychological Science (MPs Sc) in 1955. He then went to the US to study for his PhD at the University of Michigan. It was awarded to him in 1958.

His first research post was at the University of Michigan, from where he moved to the University of Pennsylvania in 1960 and then, in 1963, to Carnegie Mellon University. He remained there until receiving a second offer from Yale University – this time to act as Chairman of the Department of Administrative Sciences, and to set up a graduate school of organisation and management.

He has remained there for the rest of his career, as John G Searle Professor and, currently, as BearingPoint Professor Emeritus of Management & Professor of Psychology.

Vroom’s first book was Work and Motivation (1964) which introduced the first of his major contributions; his ‘Expectancy Theory’ of motivation. He also collaborated with Edward Deci to produce a review of workplace motivation, Management and Motivation, in 1970. They produced a revised edition in 1992.

His second major contribution was the ‘Vroom-Yetton model of leadership decision making’. Vroom and Philip Yetton published Leadership and Decision-Making in 1973. He later revised the model with Arthur Jago, and together, they published The New Leadership: Managing Participation in Organizations in 1988.

It is also worth mentioning that Vroom had a bruising experience while pursued through the courts by an organisation he had earlier collaborated with. They won their case for copyright infringement so I shall say no more. The judgement is available online. Vroom’s account of this, at the end of a long autobiographical essay, is an interesting read. It was written as part of his presidency of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology in 1980-81.

Vroom’s Expectancy Theory of Motivation

Pocketblog has covered Vroom’s expectancy theory in an earlier blog, and it is also described in detail in The Management Models Pocketbook. It is an excellent model that deserves to be far better known than it is. Possibly the reason is because Vroom chose to express his theory as an equation: bad move! Most people are scared of equations. That’s why we at Management Pocketbooks prefer to use the metaphor of a chain. Motivation breaks down if any of the links is compromised. Take a look at our short and easy to follow article.

The Vroom-Yetton-Jago Model of Leadership Decision-making

This one is  a bit of a handful. Vroom has expressed some surprise that it became a well-adopted tool and, more recently, noted that societies and therefore management styles have changed, rendering it less relevant now than it was in its time. That said, it is instructive to understand the basics.

Decision-making is a leadership role, and (what I shall call) the V-Y-J model is a situational leadership model for what style of decision-making a leader should select.

It sets out the different degrees to which a manager or leader can involve their team in decision-making, and also the situational characteristics that would lead to a choice of each style.

Five levels of Group Involvement in Decision-making

Level 1: Authoritative A1
The leader makes their decision alone.

Level 2: Authoritative A2
The leader invites information and then makes their decision alone.

Level 3: Consultative C1
The leader invites group members to offer opinions and suggestions, and then makes their decision alone.

Level 4: Consultative C2
The leader brings the group together to hear their discussion and suggestions, and then makes their decision alone.

Level 5: Group Consensus
The leader brings the group together to discuss the issue, and then facilitates a group decision.

Choosing a Decision-Making Approach

The V-Y-J model sets out a number of considerations and research indicates that, when a decision approach is chosen that follows these considerations, leaders self-report greater levels of success than when the model is not followed. The considerations are:

  1. How important is the quality of the decision?
  2. How much information and expertise does the leader have?
  3. How well structured is the problem or question?
  4. How important is group-member acceptance of the decision?
  5. How likely is group-member acceptance of the decision?
  6. How much do group members share the organisation’s goals (against pursuing their own agendas)?
  7. How likely is the group to be able to reach a consensus?

A Personal Reflection

I have found both of Vroom’s principal models enormously helpful, both as a project leader and as a management trainer. I find it somewhat sad that, in Vroom’s own words, ‘the wrenching changes at Yale and the … lawsuit have taken their emotional and intellectual toll.’ Two major events created a huge mental and emotional distraction for Vroom in the late 1980s. At a time when he should still have been at the peak of his intellectual powers, he was diverted from his research. I think this is sad and wonder what insights we may have lost as a result.


 

Pocketbooks you might Like

The Motivation Pocketbook – has a short introduction to Vroom’s Expectancy Theory, which it refers to as ‘Valence Theory. It also has a wealth of other ideas about motivation.

The Management Models Pocketbook – has a thorough discussion of Expectancy Theory, and also Motivational Needs Theory, alongside eight other management models.

 

 

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Kenneth Blanchard: Management Storyteller

It was tempting to describe Ken Blanchard as a simplifier, because that’s what he has done throughout his career; simplify the skills of management. But that is not the essence of what he does. He starts by telling a story and it is that process that both cuts away extraneous theory and also renders his ideas easy to access. Ken Blanchard has turned management theory into a successful training business to a degree that no one else has achieved.

Ken Blanchard

Short Biography

Kenneth Hartley Blanchard was born in New Jersey in 1931 and grew up in New York. He attended Cornell and Colgate Universities, gaining a BA in Government and Philosophy, an MA in Sociology and Counselling, and a PhD in Education Administration and Leadership, in 1967. From there, he went to Ohio University to become an Assistant Dean. Here, he met collaborator, Paul Hersey.

Hersey had been developing a strong model of leadership, based on his industrial experiences before entering academia in 1966, incorporating ideas from researchers like Fiedler, and Blake and Mouton. The pair worked together on a book, Management of Organisational Behaviour, that was published in 1967 and is now in its tenth edition (2012). This book included a model, then called ‘a lifecycle theory of leadership’ but now better known as Situational Leadership. It was not the first situational theory of leadership (see the earlier Pocketblog article: ‘Situational Leadership‘) but it rapidly became the best known.

In 1979, while a professor of organisational behaviour and leadership at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, he and Hersey agreed to split and Blanchard formed a company called Blanchard Training and Development – that was later (1998) renamed as The Ken Blanchard Companies and is today one of the most successful international businesses of its kind. In that year too, he published his own model of Situational Leadership: Situational Leadership II.

The following year, he was introduced to a psychologist called Spencer Johnson, with whom he rapidly collaborated to write a short book on management, in the form of a fable-like story. They self-published ‘The One Minute Manager‘ in 1980, and it was subsequently published by Morrow in 1982. It has become the kind of best-seller that truly justifies the title: the cover simply proclaims ‘multi-million’.

This became the start of an industry with subsequent collaborations with different authors – the first handful bearing the ‘One Minute Manger brand’ – appearing every few years. Most follow the format of a younger manager seeking the wisdom of an older, more experienced teacher.

Notable contributions (and personal favourites mixed in) include:

Putting the One Minute Manager to Work (1983)

Leadership and the One Minute Manager (1985)

The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey (1989)

The One Minute Manager Builds High Performing Teams (1990)

Raving Fans : A Revolutionary Approach to Customer Service (1993)

Gung Ho!: How To Motivate People In Any Organization (1998)

Blanchard’s Contribution

Blanchard’s contribution has been to systematise the skills of management and to explain them extremely clearly. Many British readers find the folksy fable style of his books not to their taste, but the fact is that they use simple language and compelling acronyms to make management techniques accessible and memorable.

The original One Minute Manager sets out just three simple tasks in management: one minute goal setting, to clarify what I expect of you, one minute praisings, to recognise progress and performance, and one minute reprimands, to show where you are going wrong.

Putting the One Minute Manager to Work extends this, looking at the management ABC of Activators (what a manager must do to set you up to succeed), Behaviours (your performance) and Consequences (how the manager responds to you with with support and feedback).

Leadership and the One Minute Manager introduces Blanchard’s own view of situational leadership  using the OMM format, which he later extended, in The One Minute Manager Builds High Performing Teams to leading teams. This book creates a neat merger of the situational leadership model with Bruce Tuckman’s model of group formation.

One of Blanchard’s most successful collaborations was with William Oncken Jr (and Hal Burrows), in The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey. This presents a simple metaphor (the Monkey) for the problems managers accept from their colleagues and team members. It is a powerful articulation of the processes of good delegation and effective management of workload.

In the 1990s, Blanchard wrote four books with Sheldon Bowles, of which my favourites are Gung Ho! and High Five! (2001 – now out of print – about team working). 2000’s Big Bucks! (also out of print) is about making money. The exclamation mark in the four titles is indicative of the amplified style of writing, but all were turned into successful training programmes (not all of which persist, I think).

In summary…

There are many other books as well, some still available. Blanchard is a prodigious collaborator and his company is hugely successful in training managers across the world. I don’t think he will ever be seen as a great and innovative thinker, but without a doubt, he has a talent for tapping into oher people’s ideas and making them highly accessible, from Paul Hersey down to more recent collaborations with Don Shula (Everyone’s a Coach), Colleen Barrett from Southwest Airlines (Lead with LUV), and Garry Ridge, president of WD-40 Company (Helping People Win at Work).

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The Leadership Challenge

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

This is part of an extended management course. You can dip into it, or follow the course from the start. If you do that, you may want a course notebook, for the exercises and any notes you want to make.


The Management Pocketblog is absolutely bristling with articles about leadership and leadership models. There is a roundup of some of the best at the end of this one and we wil make use of them in the exercises within this blog. So, for the Pocket Correspondence course, I want to look at a different model: sometimes called ‘The Leadership Challenge’ after the book that introduced it, and more properly known as ‘The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership’.

The authors, Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, researched thousands of personal case studies to extract five core behaviours which they believe represent leadership at its best. These five practices therefore represent a ‘behavioural model’ of leadership, rather than a style or traits based model. The behaviours fulfil five essential roles of a leader.

Along with the model, they have developed a wealth of evaluation and developmental tools that form one of the most coherent packages available to managers who want to develop as leaders.

The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership

The Leadership Challenge

I don’t want to say too much about this excellent model directly, because it would be wrong to infringe upon the authors’ copyright. Instead, I want to use this module for self study.

Exercise 1: Learn about The Leadership Challenge

If you aspire to lead, then this is essential reading and the authors have written a number of books and proprietary resources that are available from your favourite booksellers. But they also make a a wealth of valuable material available for you to look at on their website, at: http://www.leadershipchallenge.com.

Exercise 2: Compare and Contrast

Another well-known and valuable role-based model of leadership is John Adair’s Action Centred Leadership. Take a look at it in the earlier blog post: Team Leadership.  What features do they share, and what does each offer to complement the other?

Take a look too, at the four common abilities of a leader in Manager to Leader: Warren Bennis (Part 2). How does this model fit with your emerging understanding?

Exercise 3: Traits and Styles

Thinking about styles of leadership, take a look at the earlier blog in The Pocket Correspondence Course, Situational Leadership. And, whilst there are few formal models about the traits of leaders, the Pocketblog Aubrey and Maturin, Arthur and Merlin highlights the different traits of fictional pairings, both of whom show different styles of leadership: Aubrey and Maturin, Arthur and Merlin, Kirk and Spock, and Holmes and Watson.

Further Reading 

  1. The Leadership Pocketbook
  2. The Management Models Pocketbook
    Specifically covers the Leadership Continuum and Action Centred Leadership

The best Pocketblogs about Leadership

  1. Situational Leadership
  2. The Science of Leadership: Warren Bennis (Part 1)
  3. Manager to Leader: Warren Bennis (Part 2)
  4. The Apprentice and Five Levels of Leadership
    (Jim Collins’ ‘Good to Great’)
  5. Team Leadership
    (John Adair’s ‘Action Centred Leadership’)
  6. Aubrey and Maturin, Arthur and Merlin
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Situational Leadership

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

This is part of an extended management course. You can dip into it, or follow the course from the start. If you do that, you may want a course notebook, for the exercises and any notes you want to make.


Last week’s Pocketblog looked at the importance of balance in your management style. This is also true, of course, of leadership. One of the things I said was:

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:

  1. How skilled, experienced, and able the person is, to fulfil their task
  2. 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 tuning up or down the amount of:

  1. Technical support, guidance and direction to account for the level of expertise
  2. Emotional support, praise and reassurance to account for the level of enthusiasm

The simplest models are therefore based on four simple boxes.

Generic Situational Leadership Model

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.

Tannenbaum & Schmidt - Leadership Continuum

Further Reading 

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It’s Time to Get Enabling

Last week, I was speculating that empowerment may create a social power base, to join others defined by John French and Bertram Raven.  I created my own definition of the word, by reading dictionaries, looking on the web and drinking tea:

‘a socially endorsed management process that
grants people genuine control and authority
within the work place’

That was a bit of a mouthful, so I turned to Mike Applegarth and Keith Posner’s excellent Empowerment Pocketbook for their definition:

‘Authority, Power, Licence.’

Far snappier than mine and the emphasis is theirs.  in fact, licence carries most of the burden of their definition.  They say that ‘to licence is to empower’.

The Empowerment Pocketbook

Another valuable point they make is that empowerment is a word managers use but rarely really explore.  My favourite definition comes from their introduction, not just because it makes the clear link with organisational culture, but because it tells us what empowerment really feels like, in the real world, and away from the book, journal or web page:

‘…the only culture where no one gets blamed,
is the one where it really empowers’

Some Nice Models

There are some nice adaptations of familiar models in the Empowerment Pocketbook.  They have adapted the Johari Window to team working and have a situational leadership model that places empowering as a leadership style that is high in two-way involvement and suitable for people high in responsibility and initiative.

I think the latter of the two is my favourite, so I will share it with you.

LeadershipStyles-Empowerment

Applegarth and Posner say:

‘Enabling the individual is an important step to achieving an empowered workforce, yet it is the one most often ignored.’

I think they are spot on with this.  Their toolkit for enabling the individual seems to me to be the heart of their Pocketbook and to provide some of the most practical content.

Too often empowerment is just a good word to bandy around.  if you are serious about it, though, it takes hard work and persistence.  The pay-off, however, can be huge.  Eventually, you will get better, more committed staff, who are able to work with less supervision, innovate beyond the means of their bosses, and delight your clients and customers.

It’s time to get enabling!

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Aubrey and Maturin, Arthur and Merlin

I have just finished a ten year endeavour – reading all twenty of Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey – Maturin novels, two a year.  These are set in the time of Napoleon, among characters of Britain’s Royal Navy.  Here, ‘Lucky’ Jack Aubrey is one of Nelson’s Band of Brothers – a fighting Captain sailing a fine frigate with a well-trained crew around the world, fighting for England.  Stephen Maturin is his friend, his ship’s surgeon, a skilled naturalist and an intelligence officer for the Admiralty.

Captain Jack Aubrey (left, played by Russell Crowe) and Dr Stephen Maturin (right, played by Paul Bettany) in the Twentieth Century Fox film ‘Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World ’.

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That’s enough of the ‘fan stuff’.  If you are a fan, you know all of this – if you aren’t, you either don’t care, or will one day pick up the first book in the series, ‘Master and Commander’, and become hopelessly hooked.

By the way, the movie ‘Master and Commander’ was subtitled ‘The Far Side Of The World’ because it was most closely based on the tenth novel of that name.

Back to Management…  and Leadership

There are too many models of leadership to name, but one of the commonest approaches is to consider how to combine and apply different leadership styles to a situation.  These are sometimes called ‘contingency models’ or ‘situational models’.  Whilst the best known are the trademarked and copyrighted models of situational leadership promoted by Paul Hersey and Kenneth Blanchard, they all track back to the earliest and possibly the best; that of Tannenbaum and Schmidt.

Attention to task and Attention to the person

All of these (and we could throw around names like Mouton & Blake, and Fiedler too) combine how much attention we give to getting the job done, focusing on facts and data; and how much we attend to the people concerned and our relationship with them.  My worry is that these do not account for the extraordinary leadership O’Brian’s two characters show throughout over 6,000 pages of historically detailed and compelling novels.

Did Patrick O’Brian get it wrong?

This is a fair question, but I think we have to conclude not.  Not only do the characters ring true to thousands (maybe millions) of readers, but Jack Aubrey at least is based closely on a real person, Lord Thomas Cochrane.  Maybe, then, these models of leadership are missing something.

Arthur and Merlin, Watson and Holmes, Kirk and Spock

Captain Kirk is a fearless warrior, prepared to take on any odds in fighting for what he believes in.  So are King Arthur, Dr Watson and Captain Aubrey.  They mobilise their resources and use whatever skills, knowledge and power they have to protect what they value.  Great leader are fighters, prepared to rally their followers and inspire them with their courage, persistence and, ultimately, sacrifice.

Sherlock Holmes, whilst equally fearless, stands for something creative, insightful and even mystical, in his mastery of the finest detail of his science.  So too with Merlin, Mr Spock and Dr Maturin.  People follow them, not because of their desire to fight, but because of the sacrifice they have made in mastering their science or their art.  They are visionary and knowledgeable to a degree that inspires others to follow them.

Where are the task focused and
people focused leaders in fiction?

They are there, in the background, getting the job done and looking after the walk-on characters.  Dr McCoy, Mrs Hudson, Guinevere, Killick, Pullings, Lancelot, Scotty, Lestrade.  Often they are important characters in bringing balance, but they are not the ones who compel our attention.  They are heroes in their own right, but are loved for their contribution to the whole story and their support of those who dominate.

So here’s the deal

Leadership has many dimensions: fighting for what you believe in, a passionate commitment to a body of knowledge or skills, a deep concern for people, a resolute determination to see a job through, and many more.  Your model of leadership must focus on the style of leader you choose to be.  Don’t accept someone else’s model uncritically – it may not work for you.

But also know that to really lead, you need a supporting cast of other heroes to support you or, from another point of view, you can lead without being a star, in a supporting role that brings balance and wholeness.

… and, if you haven’t already done so, go order a copy of ‘Master and Commander’, read it, become hopelessly hooked, and learn new ways to think about management and leadership.

Management Pocketbooks you might enjoy

The Leadership Pocketbook
– looks at a range of leadership styles

The Management Models Pocketbook
– describes Tannenbaum and Schmidt’s Leadership Continuum, and also John Adair’s Action Centred Leadership

The Motivation Pocketbook
– lots of ways a leader can motivate their followers

The Teambuilding Activities Pocketbook
– activities like sailing a 28 gun frigate into battle, exploring space in a starship, solving a brutal murder, and questing for the holy grail
… are strangely missing from an otherwise excellent selection!

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