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Tannenbaum & Schmidt’s Continuum of Leadership

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How should a leader behave in relation to their team?

Adapted from: Tannenbaum, R. & Schmidt, W. (1973). How to Choose a Leadership Pattern. Harvard Business Review, May-June, 1973, 162-180.

The problem of how modern managers can be “democratic” in their relations with subordinates and at the same time maintain the necessary authority and control in the organizations for which they are responsible has come into focus increasingly in recent years….

Research efforts of social scientists underscored the importance of employee involvement and participation in decision making…

…modern managers often find themselves in an uncomfortable state of mind.

Often they are not quite sure how to behave; there are times when they are torn between exerting “strong” leadership and “permissive” leadership. Sometimes new knowledge pushes them in one direction (“I should really get the group to help make this decision”), but at the same time their experience pushes them in another direction (“I really understand the problem better than the group and therefore I should make the decision”). They are not sure when a group decision is really appropriate or when holding a staff meeting serves merely as a device for avoiding their own decision-making responsibility.

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