No one leadership style works best for all situations. However, it’s helpful to understand your natural approach to leadership so that you can develop any missing skills. It’s also unwise to neglect either tasks or people. However, a compromise between the two approaches will likely only yield an average team performance. This is because neither method meets people’s needs, nor inspires excellent performance. In this post, we’ll explore the Blake Mouton Managerial Grid, which is a popular framework for thinking about a leader’s “task versus person” take on current situations.
Robert Blake and Jane Mouton developed the Blake Mouton Managerial Grid in the early 1960s. The grid plots a manager’s or leader’s degree of task-centeredness against their person-centeredness. The grid goes on to define five different combinations of the two and the leadership styles they produce.
Understanding the Blake Mouton Managerial Grid
The Blake Mouton Managerial Grid is based on two behavioral dimensions:
- Concern for People: the degree to which a leader considers team members’ needs, interests, and areas of personal development when deciding how best to accomplish a task.
- Concern for Results: the degree to which a leader emphasizes concrete objectives, organizational efficiency, and high productivity when deciding how best to accomplish a task.
Blake and Mouton define five leadership styles based on these two elements, and the diagram below highlights each of the five styles.
The 5 Types of Leadership According to the Blake and Mouton Grid
Let’s dive into the grid and take a look at each of the quadrants in greater detail.
Impoverished Management (low results & low people)
Impoverished, or “indifferent” managers are mostly ineffective. These leaders show little regard for creating effective systems. They also exhibit little interest in creating a satisfying or motivating team environment. The results are typically rich with disorganization, dissatisfaction, and disharmony.
Produce-or-Perish Management (high results & low people)
Many refer to managers in this quadrant as being “authoritarian.” Mangers in this category believe that their team members are nothing more than a means to an end. The team’s needs always take a backseat to productivity.
Managers in this quadrant of the Blake Mouton Managerial Grid are autocratic, have strict work rules, policies, and procedures. They also typically view punishment as an effective means of motivating their team. This approach can drive off-the-chart product results at first, but low morale and motivation ultimately impact performance. Furthermore, this style of leadership often struggles to retain high performers.
This style of leadership often follows the Theory X approach to motivation. Theory X assumes that employees are naturally unmotivated and dislike working. On the contrary, a manager who believes people are self-motivated and happy to work is said to follow Theory Y.
Middle-of-the-Road Management (medium results & medium people)
This quadrant of the Blake Mouton Managerial Grid is home to the “status quo” manager. These managers attempt to maintain a balance of results and people objectives. While tempting, this approach isn’t always as effective as it may sound. Due to continual compromise, this type of manager fails to inspire high performance and struggles to fully meet the needs of the people. The typical result is that the team delivers only mediocre results at best.
Country Club Management (high people & low results)
The Country Club or “accommodating” manager is focused on the needs and feelings of their team. They assume that as long as their team is happy and secure, they will work hard. This style of management typically produces a very relaxed and fun environment. However, productivity often suffers due to a lack of direction and control.
Team Management (high people & high results)
According to the Blake Mouton Managerial Grid, Team management is the most effective style of leadership. This approach reflects a leader who is passionate about their work and who always has the best interests of their team in mind.
Team or “sound” managers commit to their organization’s goals and mission, motivate their team, and work hard to get people to deliver their best possible work. However, at the same time, they inspire and look after their team. Team managers make their team feel respected and empowered. Most importantly, they’re dead set on achieving their goals.
Team managers prioritize both the organization’s production needs and their people’s needs. They accomplish this by ensuring that their team understands the organization’s purpose and by including them in determining production needs.
When people are fully committed to and have a stake in the organization’s success, their needs and the company’s production needs exist in tandem. This creates an environment built on trust and respect, which yields high satisfaction, motivation, and above-average results. Team managers typically adopt the Theory Y approach to motivation that we touched on earlier.
Addendum to the Blake Mouton Managerial Grid
Blake and his team added two additional leadership styles after Mouton’s death in 1987. Neither of the additional leadership styles is included on the grid for the following reasons.
A Paternalistic manager jumps between the Country Club and Produce-or-Perish styles. This style of leader can be supportive and encouraging, but will also guard their position. Paternalistic managers also don’t appreciate it when anyone questions their way of thinking.
This style of management doesn’t appear on the grid since this style can show up anywhere on it. Opportunistic managers place their personal needs first, shifting around the grid to adopt whichever style of management will benefit them most. They often manipulate and take advantage of others to accomplish their goals.
Applying the Blake Mouton Managerial Grid
It is vital to understand your management or leadership style so that you can then identify ways of reaching the target position of Team manager.
Step 1: Identify Your Current Managerial Style
- List 5-6 recent situations where you were the leader.
- For each situation, place yourself on the grid according to where you believe you fit best.
Step 2: Identify Areas Where You Can Improve and Develop Your Leadership Skills
- Look at your current approach. Are you settling for “Middle-of-the-Road” because it’s easier than reach for more? Think about whether your style suits your current situation.
- If you feel as if you are too task-oriented, then you can try to involve your team in creative problem solving, improving how you communicate, or working on your mentoring skills. If you tend to focus too much on people, it may mean that you need to become more clear about scheduling and monitoring the progress of your projects, or improving your decision-making.
- Continually monitor your performance and watch for situations where you slip back into old bad habits.
Step 3: Put the Grid in Context
The Team management style is often the most effective approach. However, there are situations that call for more attention to one area than the others. For instance, if your company is in the middle of a merger or some other major change, then it can be acceptable to place a higher emphasis on people than on production so that you can guide them and reassure them through a potentially hazardous time. Furthermore, when faced with an emergency, an economic hardship, or a physical risk, concerns about people may be put to one side, for the short term at least, to achieve good results and efficiency.
Note: Leadership theories have evolved since Blake and Mouton developed their model roughly 50 years ago. In particular, the context in which leadership occurs is perceived as an important influencer of leadership style. In many situations, the Team manager ideal has evolved into the Transformational Leader. You can use the Blake and Mouton Managerial Grid as a tool to idenitfy your basic leadership style, but don’t treat it as gospel.
- The Blake and Mouton Managerial Grid helps you assess your leadership style and the impact it has on your team’s productivity and motivation.
- By plotting “concern for results” against “concern for people,” the grid highlights how placing too much focus on one area at the expense of the other typically leads to less than stellar results. It also discourages a vague Middle-of-the-Road compromise.
- The model proposes that, when concern for both people and results are high, employee engagement and productivity will be excellent more often than not.
- While the grid doesn’t totally address the complex question of “which leadership style is best?” it most certainly provides a superb starting point for thinking about your own performance and for improving your general leadership skills.