This article explains the Leadership Style Matrix in a practical way. After reading, you will understand the basics of this powerful model of organizational leadership.
What is the Leadership Style Matrix?
The Leadership Style Matrix was developed by Eric Flamholtz and Yvonne Randle. It is based on research on the type of leadership executed by entrepreneurs who led their companies to success. The matrix was proposed in their book “Growing Pains” in 2007, which helps leaders choose the most appropriate leadership style for the development phase of their companies.
Leaders can use different styles, but it is necessary to choose the appropriate one for each situation. To make this selection possible, Flamholtz and Randle studied the nature of organizational leadership and noted two relevant points in organizational leadership.
- Strategic leadership, focused on vision, culture and organizational development
- Operational leadership, aimed at managing the daily actions of companies and the people who produce services and products
A leadership style is the way in which people are motivated, provides direction, communication and how plans are implemented and decisions are made. These types of leadership define the type of leader one can be.
Although leadership is thought to be an attribute of personality, this has not been confirmed by research. The most relevant research, in fact, suggest that leadership constitutes a process, rather than a set of traits.
Types of leadership
The following types of leadership can be adopted in the different situations that the company faces.
Autocratic leadership type
This is an individualistic and managerial leadership style. Leaders perceive their authority to make decisions without consultation, without presenting arguments to the employees or reasons why they made those decisions. It is worth noting that this style excels in times of urgency in a company when it is of great importance to make decisions in a short time or when a process must be done in a specific way and the team depends on its leader and its feedback.
Benevolent autocratic leadership type
This style of leadership is similar to autocratic leadership style. However, in this type of leadership the approach is more participatory. Leaders who have this style do not only give instructions, but also give the reasons behind them and why they is best for the company.
Studies found that this style is used by many entrepreneurs in the initial phase of company development.
Consulting Leadership type
This is an interactive style. Employees are asked for their opinions, but the leader takes the final decision. The leader presents the information to his or her team and gives members the opportunity to submit questions and comments. However, it is still up to the leader to decide on the best course of action.
Participatory Leadership type
This style is similar to the consultative style as the leader still has the last word on decisions. The participative leadership style depends on the group to develop ideas instead of just receiving opinions and points of view, this means that the leader can raise a problem or situation and discuss it with everyone in the team so that he or she can be more certain of making higher quality decisions.
Consensus leadership type
This leadership style gives the working group the authority to make decisions. The team decides the direction of action regarding a topic, and the leader participates as a member of the group.
Laissez-Faire leadership type
Laissez-Faire leadership; this is the least directive style of leadership. The team is given responsibility for the completion of tasks. It is a facilitative style to be applied in concrete situations. An example of these situations is when there are highly motivated and qualified people in the group to do the work that is needed.
The leader delegates responsibility and follows up to make sure the team is working in the right way. This style should be used with caution. It is not a question of abandoning the group and having it work without any review of its progress.
The Leadership Style Matrix
The Leadership Style Matrix is divided into four quadrants. Each quadrant lists two leadership styles that are best suited to a specific situation, person or group. Two factors influence the choice of leadership style: the ability to schedule tasks and the ability of a team to work autonomously.
The axis that defines the programming of tasks:
A task is programmable to the extent that it contains the specific steps and instructions to be completed.
The axis that defines the capacity of a team to work in an autonomous way:
This capacity is related to the experience, ability and need for independence that people possess.
These two factors, according to Flamholtz and Randle, are 80-90% of what leaders should consider when selecting an appropriate style.
With both factors, the two axes are established. It is then up to the user to select the most appropriate leadership style from the the Leadership Style Matrix.
Next, look at the matrix.
Use and application of the Leadership Style Matrix model
In the Leadership Style Matrix, the vertical axis represents the degree of programmability of the task. On the other hand the horizontal axis presents the degree of autonomy with which the employee can operate on the basis of his experience, capacity and motivation.
On the horizontal axis, the style would move to the right according to the degree to which the person performing the task has motivation, capacity and desire to work independently.
Thus, if the task is to be executed in a specific way, it should be moved to the lower end of the vertical axis, according to its degree of programmability.
If the work can be done in different ways, the style of choice would be located at the top, depending on the degree of creativity that the task allows.
Look at each quadrant and the corresponding leadership styles in detail:
Quadrant 1: High Programmability / Low Job Autonomy
It leads to two leadership styles: Autocratic and Benevolent Autocratic. In some cases in this quadrant, the leader must be in charge of a task that needs to be done specifically; this must be completed in a team, which needs motivation, guidance, feedback and interaction. At this point, the focus should be on managerial leadership to make the process more effective.
Quadrant 2: High Programmability / High Autonomy at Work
This leads to a consultative and participatory leadership style. In the different circumstances that arise in the company, the participatory style resolves tasks and conflicts in teams using brainstorming. However, when taking the team’s opinions, the leader will always have the final decision.
Quadrant 3: Low Scheduling / Low Autonomy at Work
This quadrant includes a consultative and participatory leadership style. In this quadrant, team members do not have autonomy, so they need direction, input and interaction.
Quadrant 4: Low Programming / High Autonomy at Work leads towards consensus and laissez-faire styles
You are in this quadrant when a creative project is assigned when a person wants to work with freedom and independence. This would be a non-managerial approach.
Once you have determined which quadrant you are in, you can choose between the two leadership styles that are most appropriate for your situation.
- Tasks that can be described and performed in a scheduled manner can be done with less supervision.
- More confusing tasks need a more participatory style.
- If the person has little experience or is inexperienced in the type of activity to be performed, then a guide is required to perform it. The result determines the two leadership styles most likely to be successful.
The Leadership Style Matrix is an efficient and practical methodology for selecting the leadership style needed in each situation that arises, since leaders do not need to use the same style every time. Success in business processes can be achieved if there is the ability to adapt to the leadership style needed to accomplish the tasks.
Each of the styles are necessary for different situations in the organization such as a crisis, emergencies, creation of ideas, development of processes, etc. Following the matrix facilitates the leadership that must be exercised in such cases to obtain the results you want to achieve and thus not have complications within the team.
It is also important to recognize that in some situations there are people who, because of their experience or knowledge, should have autonomy to carry out their responsibilities. So it is important to know when it is time to give autonomy, freedom and confidence to employees who have the potential to work independently. It is necessary to trust and supervise at the end of the processes, for this the responsibilities can be described and organized in a programmed way to have less supervision by the leader.
Each of the types of leadership in the Leadership Style Matrix contributes positively to the company if it is known how to implement and exercise it in the appropriate way in the different situations that arise.
It’s your turn
What do you think? Is using different leadership styles from the Leadership Style Matrix important in the different work situations that a company encounters? Or do you think it is important to maintain only one leadership style in the different situations that are presented. Do you have tips or tricks, or would you like to add something else?
Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.
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- Shapira, Z. (1976). A facet analysis of leadership styles. Journal of Applied Psychology, 61(2), 136.
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