The treatment of task orientation and people orientation as two independent dimensions was a major step in leadership studies. Many of the leadership studies conducted in the 1950s at the University of Michigan and the Ohio State University focused on these two dimensions.
Building on the work of the researchers at these Universities, Robert Blake and Jane Mouton (1960s) proposed a graphic portrayal of leadership styles through a managerial grid (sometimes called leadership grid). The grid depicted two dimensions of leader behavior, concern for people (accommodating people’s needs and giving them priority) on y-axis and concern for production (keeping tight schedules) on x-axis, with each dimension ranging from low (1) to high (9), thus creating 81 different positions in which the leader’s style may fall. (See figure 1).
The five resulting leadership styles are as follows:
- Impoverished Management (1, 1): Managers with this approach are low on both the dimensions and exercise minimum effort to get the work done from subordinates. The leader has low concern for employee satisfaction and work deadlines and as a result disharmony and disorganization prevail within the organization. The leaders are termed ineffective wherein their action is merely aimed at preserving job and seniority.
- Task management (9, 1): Also called dictatorial or perish style. Here leaders are more concerned about production and have less concern for people. The style is based on theory X of McGregor. The employees’ needs are not taken care of and they are simply a means to an end. The leader believes that efficiency can result only through proper organization of work systems and through elimination of people wherever possible. Such a style can definitely increase the output of organization in short run but due to the strict policies and procedures, high labour turnover is inevitable.
- Middle-of-the-Road (5, 5): This is basically a compromising style wherein the leader tries to maintain a balance between goals of company and the needs of people. The leader does not push the boundaries of achievement resulting in average performance for organization. Here neither employee nor production needs are fully met.
- Country Club (1, 9): This is a collegial style characterized by low task and high people orientation where the leader gives thoughtful attention to the needs of people thus providing them with a friendly and comfortable environment. The leader feels that such a treatment with employees will lead to self-motivation and will find people working hard on their own. However, a low focus on tasks can hamper production and lead to questionable results.
- Team Management (9, 9): Characterized by high people and task focus, the style is based on the theory Y of McGregor and has been termed as most effective style according to Blake and Mouton. The leader feels that empowerment, commitment, trust, and respect are the key elements in creating a team atmosphere which will automatically result in high employee satisfaction and production.
Advantages of Blake and Mouton’s Managerial Grid
The Managerial or Leadership Grid is used to help managers analyze their own leadership styles through a technique known as grid training. This is done by administering a questionnaire that helps managers identify how they stand with respect to their concern for production and people. The training is aimed at basically helping leaders reach to the ideal state of 9, 9.
Limitations of Blake and Mouton’s Managerial Grid
The model ignores the importance of internal and external limits, matter and scenario. Also, there are some more aspects of leadership that can be covered but are not.