Definition: The Tannenbaum Schmidt Leadership Continuum is a continuum that runs through extreme ends. At one end, the leaders command their employees that what is to be done and how, while, on the other end, there are entirely hands-off leaders.
Various leadership styles are exercised by organizations to ensure the well-functioning of their company. These styles also aid in maintaining a healthy environment. Depending on the leadership style, the growth of the brand is determined. Either it can production-oriented or relationship-oriented. The right to choose remains solely with the organization.
One such model is the Tannenbaum Schmidt Leadership Continuum model.
The model showcases the relationship between the level of authority; leader, and the liberty this leader provides to his team.
The contingency approach debates that a leadership style must be based on the type of circumstance encountered and not on personal fondness.
As the continuum processes from one end to the other, the level of freedom and liberty given to the team (employees) keeps on rising. Similarly, the level of authority decreases significantly. Most of the leaders and managers find their position in the middle of these two extreme ends.
Levels of Leadership Style in Tannenbaum Schmidt Leadership Continuum
Contingency theorists Robert Tannenbaum and Warren Schmidt recognized and mentioned seven different leadership styles. They are indulged in a continuum, from the rigid and stern authority at one end through to full liberty and freedom for the team at the other.
The freedom of the team worker decreases the authority of the leader. It can be seen as a positive way for the development of both the manager and employees.
Tannenbaum and Schmidt’s model emphasizes on delegating liberty to a team, the principle of being able to operate these different levels of freedom suggested by them closely relates to the level of delegation.
Here is an analysis on each style put forward by them in the continuum:
1. Composing a decision and commanding it
A leader who is in charge of allocating work to his employees makes the decisions and subsequently expects them to be on the same wavelength and give a heads up. This methodology is useful when there are plenty of new starters to be managed. But, prolonged usage of this style can result in frustration, especially among team members who are highly experienced. It’s rightly said excess of everything is terrible. So, one must use it only when it is essential.
2. The manager decides and sells that decision to the team
A manager of sales makes the decisions here. A coordinator of marketing suggests rational methods. Even though the decisions are taken aren’t changed, yet the team members feel that their needs are being carefully considered.
3. The leader presents the decision and invites questions
As we progress through the continuum, the next stage is where a leader states the dynamics of a decision, includes logic. The manager consults the team members as well if they have any doubts.
This style of leadership results in building trust between the manager and employees, as they have had a say in the decision and full participation.
4. The manager puts forth the interim decision and summons for suggestions
Consulting before proposing a decision is the necessary foundation of this leadership style. Since a leader asks his employees first, different inputs are evaluated, followed by discussions. This way, even the team influences the final result.
The style encourages members of the team to voice their ideas and appreciates them as valuable insights.
5. Suggestion – The manager proposes the problems, gets suggestions and decides
It is so-called as the leader along with the employees, resolves a problem. He presents the issue in front of his subordinates and asks the team for suggestions about how to resolve the issue. This style is a collaborative process from a decision-making perspective. As the group is involved appreciably, they feel valued, worthy, and trusted.
6. Delegation – Leader delegates the situation
A leader who empowers streamlines the setback and permits the employees to look out for solutions. Here, the team is responsible for making the final decision. However, the manager remains liable for that decision.
This works entirely on the relationship built over trust between the manager and his subordinates.
Lastly, a leader who abdicates asks his employees to identify a problem, define it, and hence, find a solution for it. The whole process lies in the hands of the team members. Nevertheless, the leader is held responsible for it, be it a success or a failure.
Abdication is the complete opposite telling team members what and how to do using a brutal style. This style of leadership requires trust at another level.
All these distinct leadership styles correspond to a team’s level of growth and development. One moves along the continuum from the end of command and order to liberty and freedom. As this progress, levels of trust and competency can be seen to grow and rise drastically.
Advantages and Disadvantages
Tannenbaum and Schmidt Continuum model has certain advantages and disadvantages as well.
The advantages are as follows:
- It provides a variety of ways in which a leader can indulge and interact with his team.
- It helps in understanding how one can improve their methods and techniques of approach as the situation demands.
- Experimentation is facilitated in this model. A leader, as per convenience can experiment with different styles of leadership. With a wide range of styles, it becomes easy to adapt to various situations.
- The oscillation from no freedom to full liberty often aids in increasing or reducing the team’s involvement in making decisions.
While these were the advantages of the Tannenbaum Schmidt Leadership Continuum model, the disadvantages are:
- It only focuses on assigning tasks to members of the team and not how they are implemented.
- It often neglects sensitive factors such as cultural norms and office politics.
- What approach to teaching from the continuum is entirely up to the leader. It doesn’t prompt of which one is right and suitable.
Delegation and Team Development in Tannenbaum Schmidt Leadership Continuum
The authority seen by the manager and the level of freedom he provides to the team; this relationship is known by Tannenbaum and Schmidt Continuum. This is inversely dependent on each other. As the level of freedom given to the members, the authority of the manager comes down. Indeed, this is a better way for the development of both the workers and management.
The manager’s responsibility is to develop her/his team. And ask them to make their own decisions as per their abilities. This will raise the level of their freedom and help them to improve. Therefore, this requires a grown-up manager as the manager will be held responsible for the judgment of any situation. The manager takes a lot of responsibility and risks. Also, he is responsible to provide the members, level of freedom.
Here, we are mentioning some levels of delegated freedom. Look into this and understand the basics of Tannenbaum and Schmidt Continuum-
1. The manager presented the circumstances, gets an opinion, and decides
The manager provides a situation for the workers. Then the team is encouraged to take responsibility for giving opinions.
They provide some suggestions on how to tackle the problem or any other solution. Then the manager decides whether it will be beneficial it not. This is a high level and involvement of each individual.
This high involvement and encouragement to the employees boost up their capacity. Hey, feel inspired and motivated. And also the freedom of speech makes them feel involved and be productive.
2. The manager decoded and further announced the decision
The manager takes each opinion seriously and looks for the most relevant solutions.
When he is done checking on timescales, priorities, issues and other measures, he decides the action. The manager then informs the employees about the decision.
They are to react to the conclusion, yet there isn’t any active involvement of the employees in this situation.
3. The manager explained the situation, gives parameters to decide
The employees are to decide in this situation.
They are given a task or situation which they will be dealing with. Although this level puts a lot of pressure on the people, the manager is to control the level of risk.
4. The manager decides and sells the decision to the group
The manager takes the decision. Further explains the reason why it was to be made. Then it will explain why this will benefit the team. In this, the manager is authorized to recognize the importance of a team and to have concern for them.
Although a lot of leadership styles are available to choose from, the Tannenbaum Schmidt Leadership Continuum offers a variety of options. A leader can choose from these options as per the needs and demands of the situation.
For scenarios when commanding is essential, it can oscillate to the style where the leader has to decide and convey the decision to his employees. On the other hand, if there is a necessity to be creative and have different ideas, a leader can move to the abdication style where the members define and solve the problems themselves.
Both of these approaches and the rest can be used in certain circumstances. However, most of the leaders prefer operating somewhere between the extreme styles.
So, do you find the Tannenbaum Schmidt Leadership Continuum model the right leadership style for your business management and leadership requirements?
Do you have any confusion about the key concepts of the Tannenbaum Schmidt Leadership Continuum model and their applicability in your business? Update us with your views in the comments below.
Pinky is an MBA in Marketing from the University of Mumbai. She loves helping people out in learning Marketing and sharing latest ideas and tactics for growing businesses.