From Snow White to Darth Vader: Identify Your Leadership Style Using the Managerial Grid

From Snow White to Darth Vader: Identify Your Leadership Style Using the Managerial Grid

The Blake Mouton Managerial Grid (also known as the leadership grid) is a classic model used by managers to assess their leadership style.

Proposed by two management theorists, Robert R. Blake and Jane Mouton, in their book The Managerial Grid: The Key to Leadership Excellence (1964), the model maps a leader’s behaviour by plotting coordinates along two axes:

Concern for Production (X axis): Concern for People (Y axis):

This results in five main types of leadership styles:

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Impoverished: Low concern for workers’ needs and low concern for organisational results; a laissez-faire or avoidance style. The leader tries to protect him or herself from getting involved in mistakes. May lead to employees learning to solve problems on their own over the short term; however, this style generally leads to chaos over the long term.

Country club: High concern for workers’ needs but low concern for results; an accommodating or yielding style. The leader tries to be friendly, empathetic, and provide emotional support without emphasising deadlines or job demands. May lead to employee satisfaction but not full engagement. Laziness and letting the quality of the work slide is a danger.

Middle-of-the-road: Moderate concern for workers’ needs and company results; a balancing or compromising style. People may feel that a certain amount of personal care or professional attention to the task is missing, leaving needs unmet. Leads to average performance.

Produce or perish: (Based on McGregor’s Theory X) High concern for results but low concern for workers’ needs; an autocratic or dictatorial style. The leader maximises output over the short run, though it generally leads to high staff turnover over the long run. This approach is rooted in fear and punishment.

Team leader: (Based on McGregor’s Theory Y) High concern for workers’ needs and high concern for results; a transformational or empowering style. Leads to high performance. This approach is rooted in mutual trust and accountability. White

Since first introduced in 1964, the Managerial Grid has gone through a series of updates by the authors, including changes to the names of the five leadership styles; however, the classic model (shown above) is still the most popular version in circulation.

Those familiar with the famed Situational Leadership model by Ken Blanchard and Paul Hersey — a 4-quadrant model that assigns leadership styles according to directive behaviour (X axis) and supportive behaviour (Y axis) — will notice a striking similarity. Much like the two authors of the Situational Leadership model, the two authors behind the Managerial Grid do not advocate a one-style-fits-all approach to leadership. To be effective, the authors agree that a leader must adjust their style to fit the demands of the environment.

Even though one style is not sensible in all situations at all times, the space between Middle-of-the-Road (5,5) and Team Leader (9,9) is considered to be the most desirable baseline, home, or "green zone," with the Team Leader style considered to be the best style overall.

The Managerial Grid is a great reminder that the two core elements of leadership — people and results — are not mutually exclusive. You don't have to be an asshole in order to get things done. Likewise, you don't have to be a pushover in order to be liked. The emotionally mature leader shoots high and leans right.

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TV / Movie Character Version For a bit of fun, we decided to re-imagine the Managerial Grid by adding famous TV/Movie characters to make it easier for people relate to each zone. We've tried to select only characters who hold — or who have, at some time, held — either formal or informal positions of leadership within their respective fictional worlds. (Warning: some selections are super geeky.)

LEADERSHIP GRID

As your eyes wonder the grid, you might like to reflect on a few questions:

Which character types have you worked for in the past? Which character types do you identify with? Are there character selections you disagree with? Why? Which characters would you add? Where would you place your colleagues? Where would your colleagues place you?

Whichever version of the managerial grid you may decide to use in your organisational training, it provides a simple yet powerful model for HR and L&D teams. The model can kick off a leadership training event or executive coaching program, giving managers a good starting point to identify their primary leadership style. This serves as a foundation for creating professional development plans that ultimately shape managers into transformational leaders who drive business results while keeping talent happy, engaged, and retained.

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Grid number reference:

1. Joffrey Baratheon, Game of Thrones 2. Pointy-haired Boss, Dilbert 3. Captain Jack Sparrow, Pirates of the Caribbean 4. Poison Ivy, Batman & Robin 5. Mr Burns, The Simpsons 6. The Red Queen, Alice in Wonderland 7. Darth Vader, Star Wars 8. Chief Wiggum, The Simpsons 9. Michael Scott, The Office 10. George Costanza, Seinfeld 11. Regina George, Mean Girls 12. Ed Rooney, Ferris Bueller's Day Off 13. Bill Lumbergh, Office Space 14. Miranda Priestly, The Devil Wears Prada 15. Longfellow Deeds, Mr Deeds 16. Sansa Stark, Game of Thrones 17. Edna Krabappel, The Simpsons 18. Tyrion Lannister, Game of Thrones 19. Willy Wonka, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory 20. M, Casino Royale 21. Claire Dearing, Jurassic World 22. Woody, Toy Story 23. Rachel Green, Friends 24. Captain B. McCrea, WALL-E 25. Principal Skinner, The Simpsons 26. Han Solo, Star Wars 27. Captain Turanga Leela, Futurama 28. Captain Malcolm Reynolds, Firefly/Serenity 29. Jar Jar Binks, Star Wars 30. Mr Incredible, The Incredibles 31. Mr Fantastic, The Fantastic 4 32. Jean Grey, X-Men 33. Captain Richard Phillips, Captain Phillips 34. Lara Croft, Tomb Raider 35. Khaleesi, Game of Thrones 36. Po, Kung Fu Panda 37. Princess Jasmine, Aladdin 38. Marge Simpson, The Simpson 39. Jon Snow, Game of Thrones 40. Buffy Summers, Buffy the Vampire Slayer 41. Xena, Xena: Warrior Princess 42. Princess Leia, Star Wars 43. Princess Snow White, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs 44. Patch Adams, Patch Adams 45. Frodo Baggins, Lord of the Rings 46. Professor Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter 47. Hercules, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys 48. Morpheus, The Matrix 49. Captain Jean-Luc Picard, Star Trek 50. Bubbles, The Powerpuff Girls 51. Buttercup, The Powerpuff Girls 52. Blossom, The Powerpuff Girls

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Any suggestions? Drop them in the comments.

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Comments

“Hi, what attracted me to that article was the heading and that I was looking for material about leadership style that I might be able to use for a client. The Blake Mouton Managerial Grid certainly is a useful tool, but I think that the authors have spent far too much time trying to fill in every box with figures so that the value of this approach has been relegated to the vaguely humorous. It is good to have some fun, and is a good try, but if you redo, just have a few pictures.

PS – even though it is published on your site, the lack of author accreditation means that readers will not know who created it and in my mind devalues it further.

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