Lifecycle Leadership

In the opinion of the author, Hersey and Blanchard developed the best model for analyzing leadership in a project management environment.10 The model, which has been expanded by Paul Hersey and is shown in Figure 5-9, is the life-cycle theory of leadership. The model contends that leadership styles must change according to the readiness of the

10. Paul Hersey and Kenneth Blanchard, Management of Organizational Behavior (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1979), p. 165.

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FIGURE 5-9. Expanded Situational Leadership Model. Adapted from Paul Hersey, Situational Selling (Escondido, California: Center for Leadership Studies, 1985), p. 35. Reproduced by permission of the Center for Leadership Studies.

employees, with readiness defined as job-related experience, willingness to accept job responsibility, and desire to achieve. This definition of readiness is somewhat different from other behavioral management definitions, which define readiness (and maturity) as age or emotional stability.

As shown in Figure 5-9, the subordinates enter the organization in quadrant S1, which is high task and low relationship behavior. In this quadrant, the leadership style is almost pure task-oriented behavior and is an autocratic approach, where the leader's main concern is the accomplishment of the objective, often with very little concern for the employees or their feelings. The leader is very forceful and relies heavily on his own abilities and judgment. Other people's opinions may be of no concern. In the initial stage, there is anxiety, tension, and confusion among new employees, so that relationship behavior is inappropriate.

In quadrant S2, employees begin to understand their tasks and the leader tries to develop strong behavioral relationships. The development of trust and understanding between the leader and subordinates becomes a driving force for the strong behavioral relationships. However, although the leader begins utilizing behavioral relationships, there still exists a strong need for high task behavior as well, since employees may not have achieved the level of competency to assume full responsibility.

Quadrant S3 is often regarded as pure relationship behavior, where the leader is perhaps more interested in gaining the respect of the employees than in achieving the objectives. Referent power becomes extremely important. This behavior can be characterized by delegation of authority and responsibility (often excessive), participative management, and group decision-making. In this phase, employees no longer need directives and are knowledgeable enough about the job and self-motivated to the extent that they are willing to assume more responsibility for the task. Therefore, the leader can try to strengthen his relationships with subordinates.

In quadrant S4, employees are experienced in the job, confident about their own abilities, and trusted to handle the work themselves. The leader demonstrates low task and low relationship behavior as the employees "mature" into a high degree of readiness.

This type of life-cycle approach to leadership is extremely important to project managers, because it implies that effective leadership must be dynamic and flexible rather than static and rigid (see Figure 5-10). Effective leaders are neither pure task or relationship be-havioralists, but maintain a balance between them. However, in time of crisis, a leader may be required to demonstrate a pure behavioral style or a pure task style.

FIGURE 5-10. Personality and situational factors that influence effective leadership. Source: James A. F. Stoner, Management, 2nd ed. (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall Inc., 1982) Used by permission.

In pure project management, the situation is even more complex. Line managers have sufficient time to develop a meaningful relationship with subordinates to the point that they get to know each other quite well. The line manager can then "train" his subordinates to adapt to the line manager's leadership style.

Project managers, on the other hand, are under a severe time constraint and may have to develop a different leadership style for each team member. To illustrate this graphically, the quadrants in Figure 5-9 should be three-dimensional, with the third axis being the life-cycle phase of the project. In other words, the leadership style is dependent not only on the situation, but on the life-cycle phase of the project.

Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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