At one end of the continuum are managers who simply tell their employees what to do. At the other end of the continuum are managers who are completely hands off. As you move from one end of the continuum to the other, the level of freedom you give your team will increase and your use of authority will decrease. Most managers and leaders will lie somewhere in the middle between these two extremes.

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Some leaders like to tell their teams exactly what to do. Others are much more "hands off. Contingency theorists Robert Tannenbaum and Warren Schmidt identified seven leadership styles. They run in a continuum, from rigid authority at one end through to full freedom for your team at the other. The leader that Tells makes the decision and expects the team to follow. This can be useful if you have a lot of new starters to manage. But continued use of this style can soon become frustrating, especially to team members that are highly experienced.

So, be sure to use it only when absolutely necessary. The leader that Sells makes the decision, but provides a rationale for it. The leader that Suggests outlines the decision, includes a rationale, and asks if team members have any questions.

The leader that Consults proposes a decision and then invites input and discussion, which allows the team to influence the final outcome.

This style acknowledges that the team has valuable insight to offer. The leader that Joins presents the problem and asks the team for suggestions about how to resolve it. Decision making is a collaborative process, and the team feels valued and trusted. The leader that Delegates outlines the problem and allows the team to find solutions. The team makes a final decision, but the leader remains accountable for the outcome. Finally, the leader that Abdicates asks the team to define the problem for itself, and decide how to solve it.

The team makes the final decision, but the leader is still responsible for its outcome, be it a success or a failure. As trust and competency grow, so does the amount of freedom that the team members want, and that leaders feel comfortable providing. To learn more about The Tannenbaum-Schmidt Leadership Continuum and how to choose the leadership style that best suits you, read the article that accompanies this video. Schmidt, May


The Tannenbaum-Schmidt Leadership Continuum Video

In this climate of change Higher Education institutions have been required to consider how to develop their leaders and what might be appropriate leadership behaviour to enable adaptation to these new circumstances. When the various paradigms of leadership encountered in the Higher Education sector are compared with established leadership theory and practice it is possible to identify further intricacies in the development of Higher Education leaders. Further consideration of practicalities within Higher Education identifies whether competence frameworks might assist in leadership development. An examination of a recently-developed comprehensive framework of leadership capabilities applied in an alternative sector leads to an evaluation as to whether the same constructs apply to the demands placed upon leaders in Higher Education. Analysis demonstrates that, with minor changes in terminology, the constructs remain appropriate and valid.


Tannenbaum-Schmidt Leadership Continuum

Tannenbaum and Mr. Schmidt succeeded in capturing in a few succinct pages the main ideas involved in the question of how managers should lead their organizations. For this publication, the authors have written a commentary, in which they look at their article from a year perspective. Someone has to call the shots around here, and I think it should be me. Such contradictions point up the dilemma in which modern managers frequently find themselves. Earlier in the century this problem was not so acutely felt.


How to Choose a Leadership Pattern


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