There are many leadership styles and at times you’ll need to adapt how you lead your team depending on the project and the people involved in delivering it.
The Leadership Style Matrix is a helpful tool for working out the best approach for each project you run.
Who created the Leadership Style Matrix?
It was developed by Eric Flamholtz and Yvonne Randle, who published their ideas in a book called Growing Pains (2007).
What are the four quadrants of the Leadership Style Matrix?
The Leadership Style Matrix comprises four quadrants, each of which features two leadership styles. These are matched with the situations and person or group that they will be best suited to (see below).
Y-axis – this shows the “programmability” of the task. If a task is programmable, it has particular steps or instructions to follow in order to complete it. Non-programmable tasks tend to be more creative and those carrying out the project can be left to work out the best way to achieve its goals.
X-axis – this looks at the capability and preference for autonomy of the person carrying out the task. This will depend on their levels of education and skills, as well as their motivation and how much they require feedback, interaction or interdependence while working on a project. A new recruit with few skills and lacking in motivation will require more feedback and interaction than an experienced worker educated to a high level and used to working autonomously.
How to use the model
First work out if the task has specific steps or is looser and more creative, then choose the point on the Y-axis to match this. Then look at how much or how little interaction and support those working on the project will need and map this on the X-axis.
This will take you to one of the four quadrants and you can then choose from the two leadership styles listed there, as these will be best suited to your project.
What are the key features of the leadership styles?
Each quadrant features different leadership styles for different situations as follows:
QUADRANT 1 – High Programmability/Low Job Autonomy
Autocratic – handing out instructions without explanation, to be followed without question, but with constructive criticism. Useful for a team that depends on leadership, and in emergency or risky situations.
Benevolent Autocratic – handing out instructions but explaining the reasons behind them and standing by to help out by answering queries and giving feedback.
QUADRANT 2 – High Programmability/High Job Autonomy
Consultative – your team is asked for ideas and input, but you make the final decisions. This requires you to build trust so your team members will speak out and answer honestly, and to keep an open mind and take on board their suggestions.
Participative – in this style your team will develop their own ideas, problem solve and brainstorm, guided by you and your knowledge of the project goals. You’ll need to ensure all team members feel comfortable in speaking out and that they understand that you make the final decision.
QUADRANT 3 – Low Programmability/Low Job Autonomy
This project will be creative, but your team will need direction and guidance rather than autonomy. The leadership styles for this Quadrant are the same as for Quadrant 2: Consultative and Participative.
QUADRANT 4 – Low Programmability/High Job Autonomy
Consensus – in this leadership style, your team members have the authority to make decisions and you take more of a back seat. For this to work, you will need to communicate the goals and ensure your team understand the extent of their responsibilities.
Laissez-faire – you allow your team to decide how the project is carried out; you only step in if they need help or resources. Best suited to situations when your team members have the skills, experience, intelligence and motivation to carry out the project.
The Leadership Style Matrix is a simple but effective tool when planning a project. By choosing the best leadership style for the task in hand and the people involved in delivering it, you are more likely to carry out your project successfully.