Blake and Mouton Leadership Grid

Blake and Mouton studied leadership behavior and described two extremes of leadership concern:

  • Concern for Production:
  • Concern for People:

The grid, shown below, that Blake and Mouton created from these two dimensions, can help you to understand your predominant style on the scale of concern for productivity and concern for people.

The scales run from 1-9 with, nine meaning a high amount of concern

Blake Mouton Grid

Before we get into the styles. Let's be clear.

Every style of leadership has its place. There are times when an 'Authoritative' style of leadership is appropriate. There are times when a 'Country Club' style of leadership has its uses. The trick is to understand when the style is appropriate. For example, when I worked at Colgate we had a fire in our facility that caused major damage ... luckily no-one was seriously injured ... but for the first day or two we were more concerned about how people felt and helping them move through the emotional impact the fire had had, than production.

And, if you want to create high-performance, then moving toward a 9,9 - Team Leader - style is where you should be aiming.

The Five Styles Explained

Here's a snapshot of the five different leadership styles resulting from the grid:

(1,1) 'Impoverished' The leader applies (and expects) minimal effort and has little concern for either staff satisfaction or work targets. This is a leader who is going through the motions is indifferent, non-committal, resigned and apathetic. S/he is doing just enough to keep their job.

Working for this type of leader is disheartening and demoralizing.

(1,9) 'Country Club' The leader is attentive to his/her people's needs and has developed satisfying relationships and work culture - but at the expense of achieving results. The leader is defined as agreeable, eager to help, non-confrontational, comforting and uncontroversial.

A leader who is in this quadrant may be well liked ... but they aren't particularly productive. Not only that, if you feel this is you, then think about this for a moment. When you are doing whatever you can to be 'well-liked' whose needs are you putting first?

Now this is important. If you are being 'nice' and not giving someone the feedback they need to shine ... how people focused are you truly? A 1,9 leader is more focused upon his or her need to be liked, than helping his/her team to grow.

I worked with a leader once who settled very comfortably in this role. Eventually, all of us in the facility (including his team members who loved him), got fed-up with his lack of results and the conflict that he created because he kept agreeing with everyone.

(5,5) 'Middle of the Road' (Politician)

This leader is a compromiser who wants to maintain the status quo and avoid any problems. S/he is aware of and wants a focus on productivity but not at the expense of the morale of his/her team.

Middle of the road leadership is just that ... middle of the road. It is 'blah' and you certainly won't get to lead a high-performing team if you find yourself sitting in this quadrant.

(9,1) 'Authoritarian' The leader concentrates almost exclusively on achieving results. People are viewed as a commodity to be used to get the job done. "I tell you what to do, and you execute precisely to my requirements."

Communication is de-emphasized and conflict is resolved by suppressing it (interestingly enough this principle holds true for the 1,9 leader as well).

Leadership is controlling, demanding and over-powering. This quadrant is all about the leader running on a fear of failure. If they rely on you to get the job done (in your own way), and you screw it up ... they're the ones that will look bad ... and they can't have that!

(9,9) 'Team' The leader achieves high work performance through 'leading' his/her people to being dedicated to the organizational goals. There is a high degree of participation and teamwork, which satisfies the basic need of people to be involved and committed to their work. The leader may be characterized as open-minded, flexible and one who inspires involvement.

Generally 9,9 where there is mutual regard and respect is where we should be trying to move toward ... it leads to better decisions even in crisis situations. When a leader has built trust and rapport the team members will feel comfortable to offer insights and opinions, even if they are 'bad news'.

It's all about getting the job done, while caring for your people

Now here's something you need to be aware of!

In the numerous Grid workshops that Blake & Mouton ran over the years, they found that most managers/leaders rated themselves in the 9,9 quadrant. Who wouldn't want to be there right?

They found that of the thousands of participants who, after reading their book and prior to attending their workshops 80% of them rated themselves as 9,9 leaders. Once they'd attended the workshops, gained some insight and feedback, that 80% turned to 20%! In effect 60% of people are self-deluded that they are 9,9 managers when in fact they fall elsewhere on the grid.

What does this mean for you?

Well you should spend some time reflecting upon your leadership style. The best time to do it is straight after a meeting. Take a few minutes and think about ...

  • Did I focus more on the task or on people?
  • Was I decisive when I needed to be, without being overly domineering?
  • Are we clear at the end of the meeting about "Who, Does What, By When"?
  • Even though we might have made some challenging decisions, are people walking away understanding the need for those decisions? (Sure, they may not be happy, but they understand)
  • Did we talk about our end-results and devise strategies to get us there?
  • Are people clear about where I stand and what I expect from them?
  • Were the four "Bs" taken care of? (Believing, Belonging, Behaving, Bottom-line)

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