Motivation and satisfaction

How much control should you keep – the Tannenbaum and Shmidt management styles updated to the 21st century?

Тhe most fundamental leadership style theory to know about and understand is Tannenbaum and Schmidt’s management continuum. They were a couple of American guys who came up with this theory. And what they said is it’s all about control. It’s all about deciding how much control to have and how much to give away. And they said there’s a management continuum, a sliding scale of control.

Style 1: TELL
This is where you keep all the control. And you just tell people. Its simple, quick, easy, everyone knows where they are. Just tell. It’s not very nice if you’re on the receiving end, though.

Style 2: SELL
This is a kind of top-down style, but here, you tell others what you want and why as well. It’s still pretty quick, it takes a little bit longer, but you’ve still got total control, and it’s a little bit more motivational for the people on the receiving end.

Style 3: CONSULT
This is where you ask others about the plan.  It’s more motivational, and you should get a better quality job as well if you do that. But it takes a bit of time, and there is a risk, of course, that they’re going to argue with your plan, which you may not like. So that’s consult. The thing about consult is you, the leader, are still keeping control, ’cause you’re the one what the outcome will be. If others persuade you to change your decision it is still fine and if not they were just not so persuasive you have expected. Here you take the final decision, having consulted others.

Once you start sharing the decision, you no longer have complete control. As many members of a team you have the less your decision can impact the final result. If, let’s say there is a team of 4 people and you the weight of your decision is only  20% of the whole. But you know, you’ve still got a fair bit of control and everything’s great. Sharing is really motivational. You should get a great decision. The only trouble is it’s one of the most time-consuming management styles.

So instead of sharing, you say to them, guys, I want you to take the decision. Whatever you go with, I’m happy with that. If you’re going to delegate, you’ve got to go with whatever others choose. So delegate is where you have no control over what others choose. This style enables much quicker decisions for you and it’s much more motivational for others. And sometimes when you delegate to people, you actually get a better job than you would’ve done because they know more than you or they’re just really motivated to have been given the job. Delegating can give you better quality and can save you quite a bit of time. The one downside is you don’t have control.


The bottom of the management continuum presented from Tannenbaum and Shmidt introduces another category that is not so strongly presented as the others.  This other category is ABDICATE. There is much that differentiates delegation from abdication,  although both look the same at first. Abdicate sounds very like delegating in that you’re letting others do what they like, but the difference is that you don’t care, and that manifests itself in the fact that you don’t monitor and therefore you’re not available for support either. So if it does go wrong, you’re not going to be there to catch others when they fall. But what you need to understand is that when others fall,  and when you abdicate it is actually your fault, because you left them fall and didn’t try everything you can to support them.

With empowerment, you’re not monitoring, but you are still available for support. So you can see it’s one step beyond delegating where you’re monitoring, because we’re not going to monitor, we trust them totally now. You really don’t have control, but you are available for support. And that’s what makes it different to abdicate because abdicating bosses are not available for support. So empowerment can sometimes be mistaken for abdication because you’re not monitoring, but it’s very different. And if people are going to be empowered, they have to understand that if they need support they must come and ask for it, because you, the manager, will not know there’s a problem otherwise because you’re not monitoring.

With all those styles you will have the opportunity to manage the team performance, using different tools,  coming from different styles.  I personally use all of them, but my preferation goes to delegating and empowering.  My personal attitude is that you must delegate everything that is not creating a big impact from the view of your position and empower people you have delegated to complete it.  That will have a positive effect on you –  you will have more time to focus on really impactful work and will increase your team members engagement and motivation giving them the opportunity to contribute and see how, from their position,  they can change elements of the environment and see their impact on the global team and company results.

Now it is still up  to  you  to choose the best  combination you  can start  with,  but have in mind that  all styles have their positive elements,  but also  all of them have their dark sides


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s