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What is Reddin's 3D Leadership Model?

Reddin's 3D Leadership Model is a simple framework for utilising managerial styles in various situations in order to maximise effectiveness.

Reddin Background Information

Bill Reddin was a British professor and management behaviouralist, who - during his time at MIT, the University of New Brunswick, and as an independent consultant - developed some key theories relating to situational leadership styles and the managerial impact on organisational effectiveness. 

The culmination of his action-oriented work was his 3D Model of Leadership, first outlined in his 1983 thesis Managerial Effectiveness and Style: Individual or Situation, which identified several different leadership styles and their effectiveness in any number of typical situations. The most important concept within his work was that there is no single most effective leadership style, considering the numerous and varied situations a leader will find themselves in. 

The 3D Leadership Model

The four basic leadership styles as identified by Reddin were:

  1. Related - A related leader enjoys team-based, cooperative working. They do not focus on directing or dictating orders to staff and allow much more freedom and responsibility.
  2. Integrated - An integrated manager retains the cooperative nature of the group and encourages two-way communication. They emphasise the effectiveness of this communication and building a strong team capable of completing tasks to the best of their potential. 
  3. Dedicated - A dedicated manager is only truly concerned with the end result of the task and focuses on improving the production process. They retain power and responsibility with themselves, allowing them to dictate roles and requirements to others.
  4. Separated - A separated manager focuses on correcting deviations from the norm. They formulate policies and rules and impose them on others but do not take a direct, commanding role on themselves.

Each of these leadership styles is separated by its position along two major axes: 

  1. Task Orientation
  2. Relationship Orientation. 
This refers to the proportion of concern that the leader in question has for either the results of the task or for the needs and development of the individuals involved. 

The central matrix in the diagram below represents Reddin's initial model, showing the four major leadership styles and their positions along the Task-Relationship axis. 

Reddin's 3D Model

Reddin later expanded on his initial theory, adding in the third dimension of Effectiveness. This effectiveness was defined by the appropriateness of the particular leadership style in any given situation and he argued that this should be the main focus of any manager's efforts.

  • As you can see in the diagram, the appropriate versions of the initial styles can be seen in the upper right (DeveloperExecutiveBenevolent AutocratBureaucrat) and the inappropriate styles (MissionaryCompromiserAutocratDeserter) in the bottom left. These are not new styles in themselves, only the primary styles when applied to appropriate or inappropriate situations.

"Any managerial style has a situation appropriate to it, and many situations inappropriate to it…" - William Reddin

The true strength of a leader or manager is to know when to utilise each of the basic leadership styles, and how to apply them to appropriate situations. Also discussed were two other key concepts:

  1.  Flexibility
  2.  Rigidity 
These refer to how malleable the individual's style was in various scenarios. 

The primary styles are fairly broad and all-encompassing, and also highlighted that leadership style could not necessarily be identified purely by examining the effectiveness of the situation.

Choosing the Most Appropriate Leadership Style

The most difficult part of applying Reddin's theory is for managers to understand when to employ each of the different styles

  • In general, this is something which can only be understood through experience, and close examination of the situation. 
A manager with a strong awareness of the requirements of tasks and demands of a situation will be capable of interpreting the necessity of greater task orientation or greater people orientation:

  1. Task-orientated approaches generally are most effective in scenarios when the group is constrained by resources or time, when there is disorganisation which needs to be brought back into order or when the leader is working with inexperienced or low-skilled team members. 
  2. People-oriented approaches are often more effective in more open, creative tasks, when the leader sees the opportunity to develop their staff's leadership and skills over the long term or to motivate them through new experiences and greater responsibility. The leader may also see fit to work on a more people-centric basis in times when they have a highly experienced, skilled and competent team. 

Leaders, as people, will likely have a natural predisposition towards certain approaches to the task. However, it is still possible to understand that sometimes it is beneficial to be more flexible in their approach, allowing them to maximise the rewards of the situation at hand.