In today’s highly competitive business environment organizations need leaders rather than managers to gain competitive advantage. Effective leadership is critical for organizations to perform optimally. Sinking businesses have been turned around in a short span of time into profitable ones by great leadership. The best example is that of Chrysler Corporation under Lee Iacocca who converted an ailing auto manufacturer into a very competitive company in a very short span of time. Similarly fairly successful businesses have lost their favorable positions because of poor leadership. One of the most debated topics in management education today is whether leaders are born or made. The importance of leadership has resulted in a large number of studies conducted by prominent social scientists from different parts of the world. The leadership/ managerial grid developed by Robert Blake and Jane Mouton is a very important contribution to the study of leadership.
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Leadership is an important function of management and can be defined as the art or process of influencing people so that they will strive willingly and enthusiastically toward the achievement of group goals (Koontz & Weihrich, 2004). Successful companies train their managers continuously to develop their leadership skills. The leadership/managerial grid developed by Robert Blake and Jane Mouton has been used worldwide as a means of identifying various combinations of leadership styles and training managers in effective leadership. The leadership grid has two important dimensions: concern for production and concern for people. The concern for production is more focused towards the achievement of results and comprises of the attitude of managers towards quality of decisions, procedures and processes, creativeness of research, work efficiency, volume of output etc. Similarly the concern for people is more focused towards the well being of the subordinates or employees of the concerned organizations and comprises of the leader’s personal commitment towards goal achievement, maintenance of the self-esteem of subordinates, placement of responsibility on the basis of trust in the subordinates rather than obedience, provision of good working conditions and maintenance of satisfying interpersonal relations.
The horizontal axis of the managerial grid represents the concern for production and the vertical axis of the managerial grid represents the concern for people. The grid proposes four major leadership styles namely; authority-compliance, country club management, impoverished management, middle of the road management and team management. In the authority-compliance style also referred to as autocratic task style the leaders place great emphasis on the concern for production or task at hand and very little emphasis on he concern for people. This style is driven by results and employees are merely considered as tools to achieve those results. The strength of this style is that it clearly focuses on the objectives or the results to be achieved. The weakness is that the compliance by the followers is because of coercion and not self motivation. The subordinates will just carryout the instructions of the leader and not act on their own. This style of leadership is very effective in adverse conditions like extreme economic slowdown or when a company has collapsed because of the unethical practices of its management and the employees are left clueless as to what should be their course of action to face the crisis.
In the impoverished management style the leaders are neither concerned about the achievement of the goals nor are they concerned about the people. Such leaders have minimum involvement in their jobs and act just as messengers between superiors and subordinates. There is no apparent strength of this style and the weakness is that there is no focus on the objectives or the tasks to be achieved and the people in the organization will not be motivated at all. This type of leadership style is prevalent in business units that are in the decline with respect to market share and the growth of the industry in which the business unit is operating. Such a leadership style will be ineffective in any type of business situation.
In the middle of the road management style the leaders have medium concern for both production and people. This is a style that is benevolently autocratic. Leaders who adopt such a management style achieve moderate production output by paying moderately adequate attention to the needs of the subordinates. The major strength of this leadership style is that the interpersonal conflicts that are bound to arise in any organization are minimized. The weakness of such a leadership style is that the results to be achieved by the organization is based on arriving at a comprise between the employees. This may more often than not prevent the organization from achieving optimal results. This type of leadership style is effective in business organizations where the situations are temporarily volatile or when the organizations are going through a transition.
In the country club management style the leaders have a very low concern for the production, that is the results to be achieved but a very high concern for the well being of the people. They promote an environment in which employees are relaxed, friendly and happy and not too bothered about achieving the results. The strength of such a leadership style is that the managers will very easily earn the loyalty and goodwill of their subordinates. The turnover of employees in the organization where such a leadership style is prevalent will be very low. The weakness of this leadership style is that though it may motivate average workers, competent workers may be demotivated as all employees will be treated the same irrespective of their performance. This will lead to mediocre performance of the entire group. Though such a leadership style may benefit most of the employees all the other stakeholders of the organization such as the investors and the customers will not receive the best performance from the organization. This type of leadership style will be effective in situations where it is very critical for the organization to retain all its employees at any cost such as when the demand for employees out weighs the supply in a give time period. It may also be prevalent in business situations where the product or service is a monopoly and there is no apparent pressure on the organization to perform at optimum levels.
In the team management style the leaders mesh or balance the production needs of the business organization with the needs of the people by placing strong emphasis both on the concern for production or the results to be achieved and the concern for the people. The strength of this leadership style is that optimum results can be achieved through employee participation. There is a clear and determined focus on the results to be achieved which will ensure that there is optimum utilization of the input resources and at the same time the employees are supported and motivated to achieve those results by providing them the best of working conditions and by providing an environment in which they can give their best. Such a type of leadership style is very effective in situations where the employees can be self motivated and quick results are necessary to be achieved from employees that are highly skilled. The best example can be technology companies that are subjected to rapid change where there is a need for highly skilled employees to be highly motivated to give their best to enable the company to respond the rapidly changing market needs.
In conclusion it can be said that effective leadership is critical for organizations to gain competitive advantage in the rapidly changing business environment. The leadership/managerial grid developed by Robert Blake and Jane Mouton can be used as an effective tool in leadership training. It proposes different leadership styles based on two important parameters namely; ones concern for production and concern for people. No one leadership style is said to be the best in all the situations. The effectiveness of the styles of leadership is situational in nature and an effective leader will adopt a particular style depending on the situation that is prevalent at any given point of time.
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