In The Art of Strategy we learned the importance of fully understanding a situation before even considering action. And we briefly introduced the Hersey and Blanchard model of Situational Leadership, which is about adapting leadership style according to situation.
So, the next part of our rough guide to leadership models will cover leadership styles.
We start with Hersey-Blanchard Situational Leadership Theory, but later will take a brief look at the other leadership styles frameworks including transformational leadership and Daniel Goleman’s Golf Clubs.
The Four Leadership Styles
A picture may be worth a thousand words, but I regret to say we can neither adapt nor reproduce an image of the Hersey-Blanchard Situational Leadership Theory model.
When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves.
Viktor E. Frankl
Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard created their popular leadership model from the observation and premise that leadership is made up of two kinds of behaviour:
- directive, and
They say directive behaviour includes telling people what to do, how to do it, where to do it, when to do it, and so on. What’s more, such behaviour is characterised by the close supervision of performance. Some may say this is micromanagement.
However, as you will see soon … this isn’t always the case.
In contrast, supportive behaviour involves listening, providing positive support and encouraging people to get things done by themselves. Supportive behaviour is characterised by the leader involving people in problem solving and decision making.
And, by combining these two behaviours on a low to high scale, Hersey and Blanchard derived four leadership styles:
- Telling – This style is characterised by one-way communication where the manager defines roles and provides instruction. Directing people is great in a crisis but not so good when building a high performance team. Telling disempowers and, as sure as eggs is eggs, leads to a loss of trust.
- Coaching – The leader continues to direct the team but provides greater support and encouragement using open questions. For example, What do you think? or Can you think of another way? Coaching encourages people to think for themselves.
- Participating – As the team matures, the leader moves into a supporting roles and focuses on team behaviours and relationships. The team recognises it has a stake in its own destiny and performance, and starts to solve problems and improve processes by themselves.
- Delegating – Finally, the team leader passes responsibility for many tasks to the team. While the leader does retain an interest in the task and those decisions that need to be made, the team takes responsibility to get things done. This is a hallmark of the high performing team.
What Does This Model of Leadership Tell Us?
In the past a leader was a boss. Today’s leaders must be partners with their people … they no longer can lead solely based on positional power. – Ken Blanchard
Well, two important things.
First, the choice of leadership style is wholly dependent on the maturity of both leader and team.
And second, the competence and commitment of the team determines the leadership styles adopted. This point will become clearer when we explore Bruce Tuckman’s Model of Group Development later in this series.
What does this mean for you? Well, I think the best way to express this is to use illustration …
Some years ago I inherited a large team following restructure. On the whole, they were very capable … but also unwilling to change.
In contrast, I was beginning my leadership journey. Much of my earlier experience was in project teams: Self-starting cross-functional groups that usually got on with the task.
So, I soon recognised my preference towards the delegating and participating styles of leadership.
And, I had to change my model of the world because the new team did not respond.
I needed to be direct. I needed to coach the team and build trust. And sometimes, I needed to tell them what to do.
Life isn’t always clear cut, but this model of leadership helps us to reflect on our conduct and the attitudes and behaviours of the team.
What would you change?
Think about your situation.
What style of leadership do you employ with your team? Is the best approach? If not, why not?
Now, think about you. Do you have a preferred leadership style? Do you rarely use some? Or, do you consciously use each of the four styles?
Finally, think about the team … or organisation. What’s the most usual style employed? Are there any implications for this?
Creative Commons image courtesy Lawrence Harman.