Leadership Continuum

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Comparing autocratic vs. democratic leaders. Explanation of Leadership Continuum model of Tannenbaum and Schmidt. ('73)



What is the Leadership Continuum? Description

According to the Leadership Continuum model of R. Tannenbaum and W.H. Schmidt (1973) an autocratic leader will likely make his own decisions. He will not delegate to his subordinates. Whereas a more democratic leader (laissez-faire manager) gives subordinates a greater degree of delegation in decision-making.

In 1938, Lewin and Lippitt proposed classifications of leaders. These were based on how much involvement leaders placed onto task and relationship needs. These types of leadership behavior were expressed in 1973 along a continuum by Tannenbaum & Schmidt. The spectrum ranges from boss-centered (task) to subordinate-centered (relationship).

Forces to consider for Leaders

To choose the most appropriate style and use of authority, the leader should take into consideration:Leadership Continuum

  1. Forces in the manager: belief in team member participation and confidence in capabilities of members. Compare: Theory of Needs

  2. Forces in the subordinate person: subordinates who are independent, tolerant of ambiguity, competent, identify with organizational goals.

  3. Forces in the situation:

    • the team has requisite knowledge.
    • the team has organizational values and traditions.
    • the team works effectively.
  4. Time pressure: need for immediate decision under pressure. Mitigates against participation.

Advantages of the Leadership Continuum Model. Benefits

  • Gives managers a range of choices for involvement.

  • Presents criteria for involvement and delegation.

  • Focuses the decision maker on relevant criteria (e.g. forces & time).

  • Emphasizes employee development and empowerment.

  • Is heuristic. Encourages research to see how effective delegation may be under the model.

Limitations of the Leadership Continuum. Disadvantages

  • Involves only the initial step of assigning a task to someone, not the following processes that may determine the effectiveness of the outcome.

  • Assumes that the manager has sufficient information to determine the disposition to himself or to the team.

  • Assumes "neutral" environment without social bonds or politics.

  • Simplifies complex decisions towards a two-polar dimension; more simple than the reality is.

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Compare with Leadership Continuum: Path-Goal Theory  |  Managerial Grid  |  Leadership Styles  |  Level 5 Leadership  |  Situational Leadership  |  Charismatic Leadership  |  Servant-Leadership  |  Theory X Theory Y  |  Contingency Theory  |  Competing Values Framework  |  EPIC ADVISERS  | Levels of Culture  |  Culture Types  |  Expectancy Theory  |  Results-Based Leadership  |  Result Oriented Management  |  Hierarchy of NeedsTwo Factor Theory  |  Theory of Needs  |  Bases of Social Power  |  Seven Surprises  |  Seven Habits  |  SMART  |  PAEI  |  Changing Organization Cultures  |  Framing  |  Beyond Budgeting  |  Stages of Team Development

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