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Blake and Mouton’s Managerial Grid Explained by a CEO, examples, pros/cons

Updated November 28, 2022 by Carl Lindberg

As a CEO fascinated by leadership theories, I have been curious about the Blake and Mouton Managerial grid for a long time. Even if the Grid theory is getting old, it is incredibly straightforward in showing how leadership styles depend on the leader’s behaviors. Look yourself in the mirror and assess yourself using Blake and Mouton’s Managerial Grid: Are you an Impoverished leader or a Team leader?

By reading this article, you will learn about the Blake and Mouton Managerial Grid, its five leadership styles, pros and cons, and how to use the grid in your job as a leader. Last but not least, I share my thoughts on the grid with examples from my career and whether the Managerial Grid is helpful in our modern days of business or not. But first, let us go through three quick questions to set our bearings.

What is Blake and Mouton’s Managerial Grid?

The Blake and Mouton Managerial Grid is a behavioral leadership model developed in the 1960s. The Managerial grid enables leaders to use a visual aid to quickly assess which leadership style they use, depending on their levels of concern for people versus production.

What are Blake and Mouton’s five styles of leadership and management?

The five management styles of Blake and Mouton’s Managerial Grid are Impoverished Management, Country Club Management, Authority-Compliance Management, Middle-of-the-Road Management, and Team Management.

What does the Blake and Mouton Managerial grid show?

The Blake and Mouton Managerial grid shows five management styles plotted on a graph where the y axis shows the leader’s level of Concern for People, and the x-axis shows the leader’s Concern for Production. The extreme cases are Team Management at 9,9 and Impoverished Management at 1,1 in the grid.

A 116 page E-book with articles on Great Man Theory, Trait Theory, Behavioral Theories (Lewin, Ohio, Michigan, Blake & Mouton), Contingency Theories (Fiedler, Path-Goal, Situational)

Keep reading to learn more or check out our overview of Leadership Styles to learn about other leadership models and theories. Consider getting our e-book called Leadership Origins, which covers Blake and Mouton and lots of other impactful leadership theories. You can also watch our Youtube video on Blake and Mouton’s Managerial Grid if you prefer.

Blake and Mouton’s Managerial Grid Explained

In the 1960s, Robert Blake and Jane Mouton built a graphical framework for different attitudes in leadership. This managerial grid involved five different styles of control built on two different types of leadership behaviors, namely concern for people and concern for production.

  • Concern for people involves the well-being, care, and importance given to employees and other human stakeholders.
  • Concern for production involves caring for output, results, and other non-human things.

In essence, we are talking about relationship orientation vs. task orientation, a division that is common in several leadership theories and studies. Refer to our articles on the Ohio State Leadership Studies, Fiedler’s Contingency Theory of Leadership, and the Situational Leadership Model for instance.

What are Blake and Mouton’s five styles of leadership and management?

The five Blake and Mouton leadership and management styles are:

  1. Impoverished Management
  2. Country Club Management
  3. Authority-Compliance Management
  4. Middle-of-the-Road Management
  5. Team Management

Blake and Mouton plotted each of the five management styles in a graph concerning the two different leadership behaviors, i.e., concern for people and concern for production. The y-axis displayed the level of concern for people, and the x-axis the concern for production.

Blake and Mouton's Managerial Grid
Blake and Mouton’s Managerial Grid

The Five Blake and Mouton Leadership Styles

Let’s dig a bit deeper into the five different “styles of control” or leadership styles included in the Blake and Mouton Managerial Grid. The five management or leadership styles are:

Impoverished Management

Impoverished Management means little concern for production and little concern for people. This type of manager displays little concern in general and only does the minimum required to avoid getting fired. Impoverished Management qualifies for the lowest position in the graph, which is 1,1.
Compare this to a bad case of Laissez-Faire leadership.

Country Club Management

The name of this style, Country Club Management, makes you associate with harmony and comfortable living. It is plotted at the top left in the Blake and Mouton Managerial Grid, i.e., high on the y-axis and low on the x-axis at position 1,9. Country Club Management means excellent concern for people but low concern for production, resulting in happy employees but meager output.

Compare this to an extreme case of Affiliative Leadership from the Six Leadership Styles by Goleman.

Authority-Compliance Management

Positioned in another extreme position in the managerial grid, the Authority-Compliance or Authority-Obedience style is high on production and low on concern for people. This leader gives orders and directs people to execute them without much care for emotions. Performance is what matters the most. This management style leads to high turnover, low engagement, and perhaps even to a toxic work climate.

This can be compared to the Autocratic Leadership style. Learn more about this style in our detailed article here: Authority-Obedience Management, or Produce-or-Perish Management as it is also called.

Middle-of-the-Road Management

Middle-of-the-road leadership, also known as organization management, has no extreme and is plotted at the dead center, resulting in a compromise of concern for people and production (5, 5). Hence, it got the very descriptive name of middle-of-the-road leadership. This leader tries to balance having good performance while still having consideration for the people. Leading with this style results in less than maximum output, but it also leads to a better situation for the people involved.

Team Management

The last style is plotted at the top right corner and shows a high concern for both people and production. This is the most effective leadership style of the Blake and Mouton Managerial Grid Theory, since the great concern for people results in a great team climate, with strong commitment, engagement, empowerment, and trust. This, in turn, leads to outstanding performance and production.

Team Management can be compared with optimum use of the Six Leadership Styles or Transformational Leadership.

If you are unsure of which type of leader you are, you can take our Leadership Styles Quiz, for the autocratic, democratic, and laissez-faire leadership styles. They compare well to Authority-Compliance, Team Management, and Impoverished Leadership rather well, so you can use that same quiz as an indication of how you manage.

Blake and Mouton’s Managerial Grid: Pros and Cons

The Blake and Mouton Managerial Grid has the following advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages of Blake and Mouton’s Managerial Grid

List of the advantages of the Blake and Mouton Managerial Grid:

  • The Managerial Grid provides a quick and concrete overview of leadership styles and behaviors thanks to its graphical approach
  • The leadership styles of the Grid theory are self-explanatory with obvious outcomes
  • It shows that a leader can display several types of behaviors at the same time, a novelty back in its inception days
  • A large number of management styles gives the theory a wider variation and more robust connection to reality

Disadvantages of Blake and Mouton’s Managerial Grid

List of the disadvantages of the Blake and Mouton Managerial Grid:

  • Blake and Mouton’s Managerial Grid is behavioral and does not include situational aspects
  • It does not suggest that leaders can and should switch between the different styles
  • Grid theory does not take team development into account, making different styles useful at various stages of team maturity

Examples of the Blake and Mouton Managerial Grid

Here are a few examples of the typical managers of Blake and Mouton’s Managerial grid based on my experience as a senior leader and a CEO. Although some details have been altered to avoid any real people being recognized, they are all based on true stories.

The Middle-of-the-Road Manager

I once worked with a typical Middle-of-the-Road Manager. This gentleman was well-liked by his team and always seemed to deliver enough performance to satisfy his superiors. He looked out for his team, took care of them to the extent possible, and avoided conflicts as well as any real pacesetting behaviors. People were free to shape their work, as long as they showed some traction, all be it not fantastic.

He left several underperformers alone to avoid conflicts and rocking the boat too much. Thanks to a few overperformers in the same team, the whole team managed to deliver adequate and acceptable results anyway, so why worry, right?

The consequence for this manager was that he kept treading water. He could not show the performance required for a promotion, but he showed enough performance not to get demoted. He kept his team happy enough that the overperformers accepted the underperformers, leading to harmony on the surface.

The consequence for the company is that this part of the business never truly blossomed. It grew ok but rarely faster than the market. The cost control was slipping, and many gaps and problems existed, as long as they weren’t big enough to cause real damage.

In the end, team engagement was average, and performance was average. This approach also meant that there was plenty of unutilized performance opportunities remaining.

A 116 page E-book with articles on Great Man Theory, Trait Theory, Behavioral Theories (Lewin, Ohio, Michigan, Blake & Mouton), Contingency Theories (Fiedler, Path-Goal, Situational)

The Impoverished Manager

Easily the worst of the five management profiles, the Impoverished Manager is someone you need to be on the lookout for. I sincerely hope you ensure you are not an Impoverished Manager. Still, the chances of an Impoverished Manager bothering enough to read this article are close to nil, so I’m assuming you belong to any of the other four styles.

I had a peer that was an Impoverished Manager some years ago. In fact, he was probably a bit senior to me back in those days. Did he end up leaving the company? You bet! It took way too long for that to happen if you ask me, though.

This guy could not care less about his job, and he let his subordinates know about it. He spent his days surfing the web openly, and he constantly told people not to rush and handle “that thing” next week rather than now. At least he was honest enough to explain some of his tricks, such as always walking around with a notepad to feign interest. He never took any notes of value, though, that’s for sure.

The consequence for his team and the company? Despite this manager, most team members performed anyway due to believing in the company, solid morals, and the urge to do the right thing. This leader kept his team members off promotion lists for years, knowing that he might have to work harder if they left. Despite this poor manager, the team stayed, but performance, cooperation, continuous improvement, and many other areas were severely hampered and underdeveloped for years.

The consequences for the Impoverished Manager? Eventually, the company did some restructuring, and once completed, he was no longer working for the company. How could he survive for this long, you might ask? Well, his direct supervisor was a Middle-of-the-Road manager, accepting average behaviors and lacking the ambition to improve things.

Learn more about Impoverished Management in our in-depth article here: Impoverished Management.

Summary of Blake and Mouton’s Managerial Grid

The Blake-Mouton managerial grid provides a good overview of the different trade-offs many leaders feel forced to make. It furthermore underlines that there can indeed be a correlation between production and the well-fare of the involved people. Too strong a focus on production can result in exploited people, unsafe conditions, illness, and high employee turnover. Every leader should be mindful that reaching high output with the wrong methods is likely to result in long-term challenges and a human toll.

Use Blake and Mouton’s Managerial Grid to gain additional perspectives and a quick overview of what task-orientation vs. relationship-orientation leads to. The straightforward names of the management styles can create a good team discussion around the topic. However, don’t develop the leadership of yourself of others by using this model. It’s much better to use a contingency theory that includes situational aspects, which is explained in-dept in our e-book called Leadership Origins, which contains in-depth information on ten impactful and well-renowned leadership theories. Great reference material for students, and an awesome learning experience for managers and aspiring leaders.

You can also read about the Six Leadership Styles by Goleman or the Situational Leadership Model, here at leadershipahoy. You will not perform well in modern-day leadership if you disregard situational elements; I am sure about that.

Learn more about the five different styles of the Managerial Grid in our in-depth articles here: Impoverished Management, Authority-Obedience Management, Country Club Management.

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