Robert Blake and Jane Mouton created their 'Managerial Grid' model in 1964, in their book, The Managerial Grid: The Key to Leadership Excellence.
In this they used the diagram you see below.
Blake and Mouton depicted their model as a grid with two axes:
1. Concern for People.
2. Concern for Production.
Note: 'Concern for Production' might be replaced with 'Concern for Task/Results'.
The Blake and Mouton Managerial Grid identified five kinds of leadership behaviour.
They suggested that the Team Style (below) is the ideal leadership behaviour.
The diagram geometrics are very slightly adapted for improved presentation.
Blake and Mouton's original graph-based layout comprised four equal quadrants with the Middle-of-the-Road Style overlaying the central intersection:
Blake and Mouton's Managerial Grid - diagram
- Country Club Style - High People:Low Task - Here the leader has a high concern for and usually involvement with people, but a low concern for the task. There is usually an overly friendly relationship between the leader and the led group. So although leaders like this appear to care about their people and want to create a comfortable and friendly environment, this style is often not good for creating producing results. People feel good and happy, but the task lacks priority. Ironically the group suffers ultimately because they fail to achieve. The style is common among leaders who are afraid of upsetting people, and/or who fear rejection and being disliked.
- Impoverished Style - Low People:Low Task - Here the leader has both a low concern for people and a low concern for the task. You may ask who would adopt this approach because it is obviously doomed to fail. The answer typically is 'leaders' who care mainly about themselves and are afraid of making mistakes. Not surprisingly, Blake and Mouton said this is the least effective approach to leadership.
- Middle-of-the-Road Style - Mid People:Mid Task. This is essentially ineffectual compromise. There is some concern for the task and, equally, some concern for people, but we might also say there is not enough of either. Leaders adopting this behavioural approach try to address the needs of the task and their followers to some extent, but do so without conviction, skill or insight and therefore reduce their effectiveness. Leadership generally requires a good degree of natural authority and decisiveness, so a style which lacks these aspects has much room for improvement.
- Produce or Perish Style - Low People:High Task. Here we see a high focus on the task with little or no concern for people. This style is often referred to as autocratic. Leaders using this style seek to control and dominate others. A leader like this will commonly take the view that staff should be grateful to be employed and paid a salary. Motivation is often attempted through a threat of punishment, such as being sacked. This is a dictatorial style. In extreme cases it would be rightly regarded as ruthless. Sadly it can be effective in the short term, and interestingly, where a group is failing to react suitably to a serious crisis then it may actually be a viable style for a short period, but the approach is not sustainable, especially where followers have the option to walk away.
- Team Style - High People:High Task. This style combines a high concern for and involvement in the group with a strong well-organized and communicated focus on achieving the task. Blake and Mouton saw this as the ideal behavioural approach. Leaders who behave like this manage to blend concern for both people and organizational aims by using a collaborative teamwork approach, and plenty of consultation enabling the development of a shared (not imposed) motivation to achieving the organization's goals. This style normally requires that followers/the group are suitably mature and skilled for a high level of involvement. The style is difficult to use, and may be inadvisable, when leading inexperienced people to produce challenging and vital results in a new or strange area.
Blake and Mouton suggested that 'Team Style' behaviour is very reasonable in an 'ideal world'.
However, as James Scouller and others have noted, the model does not naturally or fully address two particularly important dimensions of leadership:
- The need to adapt behaviour/style/methods according to different situations, and
- The psychological make-up of the leader.
In more detail, to paraphrase Scouller:
Adopting the Team Style of leadership will not always be appropriate - for example at times of major crisis when the task is necessarily more important than people's/worker's interests, or when leading very inexperienced people towards a tough aim and tight deadline, who under such circumstances normally require very direct and firm instruction.
Also, concerning the leader's own personality make-up, not every leader can or will adopt the ideal Team Style, even after training, because of inner psychological blocks or basic personality. Some leaders are simply much more skilful in 'non-people' areas, such as strategy, visioning, building systems and structures, innovating, etc., than they are when relating to others. It is not sensible to imply that such leaders, many of whom can very effectively delegate the people/team aspects of leading, are not good leaders.
Scouller addresses these points in more detail within his Three Levels of Leadership model.
All that said, Blake and Mouton's work is highly significant.
Their thinking warrants a section in its own right within this leadership models sub-group - and it remains a very important advance in leadership theory.