with its focus on members of the group rather than New need: The net result of the research findings
solely on the leader. Research efforts of social scien- and of the human relations training based upon them
tists underscored the importance of employee has been to call into question the stereotype of an effec-
involvement and participation in decision making. tive leader. Consequently, modern managers often find
Evidence began to challenge the efficiency of highly themselves in an uncomfortable state of mind.
directive leadership, and increasing attention was Often they are not quite sure how to behave; there
paid to problems of motivation and human relations. are times when they are torn between exerting
Through training laboratories in group develop- “strong” leadership and “permissive” leadership.
ment that sprang up across the country, many of the Sometimes new knowledge pushes them in one direc-
newer notions of leadership began to exert an tion (“I should really get the group to help make this
impact. These training laboratories were carefully decision”), but at the same time their experience
designed to give people a firsthand experience in full pushes them in another direction (“I really under-
participation and decision making. The designated stand the problem better than the group and therefore
“leaders” deliberately attempted to reduce their I should make the decision”). They are not sure when
own power and to make group members as responsi- a group decision is really appropriate or when holding
ble as possible for setting their own goals and meth- a staff meeting serves merely as a device for avoiding
ods within the laboratory experience. their own decision-making responsibility.
It was perhaps inevitable that some of the people The purpose of our article is to suggest a framework
who attended the training laboratories regarded this which managers may find useful in grappling with
kind of leadership as being truly “democratic” and this dilemma. First, we shall look at the different pat-
went home with the determination to build fully par- terns of leadership behavior that managers can choose
ticipative decison making into their own organiza- from in relating to their subordinates. Then, we shall
tions. Whenever their bosses made a decision without turn to some of the questions suggested by this range
convening a staff meeting, they tended to perceive this of patterns. For instance, how important is it for man-
as authoritarian behavior. The true symbol of democ- agers’ subordinates to know what type of leadership
ratic leadership to some was the meeting—and the they are using in a situation? What factors should
less directed from the top, the more democratic it was. they consider in deciding on a leadership pattern?
Some of the more enthusiastic alumni of these What difference do their long-run objectives make as
training laboratories began to get the habit of cate- compared to their immediate objectives?
gorizing leader behavior as “democratic” or “author-
itarian.” Bosses who made too many decisions
themselves were thought of as authoritarian, and
Range of Behavior
their directive behavior was often attributed solely Exhibit I presents the continuum or range of pos-
to their personalities. sible leadership behavior available to managers.
EXHIBIT I Continuum of Leadership Behavior
4 HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW May–June 1973
Each type of action is related to the degree of author- point the boss has come before the group with a
ity used by the boss and to the amount of freedom solution of his or her own. Not so in this case. The
available to subordinates in reaching decisions. The subordinates now get the first chance to suggest
actions seen on the extreme left characterize man- solutions. The manager’s initial role involves iden-
agers who maintain a high degree of control while tifying the problem. He or she might, for example,
those seen on the extreme right characterize man- say something of this sort: “We are faced with a
agers who release a high degree of control. Neither number of complaints from newspapers and the
extreme is absolute; authority and freedom are never general public on our service policy. What is wrong
without their limitations. here? What ideas do you have for coming to grips
Now let us look more closely at each of the behav- with this problem?”
ior points occurring along this continuum. The function of the group becomes one of increas-
The manager makes the decision and announces ing the manager’s repertory of possible solutions to
it. In this case the boss identifies a problem, consid- the problem. The purpose is to capitalize on the
ers alternative solutions, chooses one of them, and knowledge and experience of those who are on the
then reports this decision to the subordinates for “firing line.” From the expanded list of alternatives
implementation. The boss may or may not give con- developed by the manager and the subordinates, the
sideration to what he or she believes the subordi- manager then selects the solution that he or she
nates will think or feel about the decision; in any regards as most promising.1
case, no opportunity is provided for them to partici- The manager defines the limits and requests the
pate directly in the decision-making process. group to make a decision. At this point the man-
Coercion may or may not be used or implied. ager passes to the group (possibly taking part as a
The manager “sells” the decision. Here the man- member) the right to make decisions. Before doing
ager, as before, takes responsibility for identifying so, however, he or she defines the problem to be
the problem and arriving at a decision. However, solved and the boundaries within which the deci-
rather than simply announcing it, he or she takes sion must be made.
the additional step of persuading the subordinates to An example might be the handling of a parking
accept it. In doing so, the boss recognizes the possi- problem at a plant. The boss decides that this is
bility of some resistance among those who will be something that should be worked on by the people
faced with the decision, and seeks to reduce this involved, so they are called together. Pointing up the
resistance by indicating, for example, what the existence of the problem, the boss tells them:
employees have to gain from the decision. “There is the open field just north of the main
The manager presents ideas, invites questions. Here plant which has been designated for additional
the boss who has arrived at a decision and who employee parking. We can build underground or sur-
seeks acceptance of his or her ideas provides an face multilevel facilities as long as the cost does not
opportunity for subordinates to get a fuller explana- exceed $100,000. Within these limits we are free to
tion of his or her thinking and intentions. After pre- work out whatever solution makes sense to us. After
senting the ideas, the manager invites questions so we decide on a specific plan, the company will spend
that the associates can better understand what he or the available money in whatever way we indicate.”
she is trying to accomplish. This “give and take” The manager permits the group to make decisions
also enables the manager and the subordinates to within prescribed limits. This represents an extreme
explore more fully the implications of the decision. degree of group freedom only occasionally encoun-
The manager presents a tentative decision sub- tered in formal organizations, as, for instance, in many
ject to change. This kind of behavior permits the research groups. Here the team of managers or engi-
subordinates to exert some influence on the deci- neers undertakes the identification and diagnosis of
sion. The initiative for identifying and diagnosing the problem, develops alternative procedures for solv-
the problem remains with the boss. Before meeting ing it, and decides on one or more of these alternative
with the staff, the manager has thought the problem solutions. The only limits directly imposed on the
through and arrived at a decision—but only a tenta- group by the organization are those specified by the
tive one. Before finalizing it, he or she presents the superior of the team’s boss. If the boss participates in
proposed solution for the reaction of those who will the decision-making process, deciding in advance to
be affected by it. He or she says in effect, “I’d like to assist in implementing whatever decision the group
hear what you have to say about this plan that I have makes, he or she attempts to do so with no more
developed. I’ll appreciate your frank reactions but authority than any other member of the group.
will reserve for myself the final decision.”
The manager presents the problem, gets sugges- 1. For a fuller explanation of this approach, see Leo Moore, “Too Much
tions, and then makes the decision. Up to this Management, Too Little Change,” HBR January–February 1956, p. 41.
HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW May–June 1973 5
Key Questions to “make them think it was their idea in the first
As the continuum in Exhibit I demonstrates, there place” is a risky one. We believe that it is highly
are a number of alternative ways in which managers important for managers to be honest and clear in
can relate themselves to the group or individuals describing what authority they are keeping and what
they are supervising. At the extreme left of the role they are asking their subordinates to assume in
range, the emphasis is on the manager—on what he solving a particular problem.
or she is interested in, how he or she sees things, Can you tell how “democratic” a manager is by the
how he or she feels about them. As we move toward number of decisions the subordinates make? The
the subordinate-centered end of the continuum, sheer number of decisions is not an accurate index
however, the focus is increasingly on the subordi- of the amount of freedom that a subordinate group
nates—on what they are interested in, how they enjoys. More important is the significance of the deci-
look at things, how they feel about them. sions which the boss entrusts to subordinates.
When business leadership is regarded in this way, Obviously a decision on how to arrange desks is of an
a number of questions arise. Let us take four of espe- entirely different order from a decision involving the
cial importance: introduction of new electronic data-processing equip-
Can bosses ever relinquish their responsibility by ment. Even though the widest possible limits are
delegating it to others? Our view is that managers given in dealing with the first issue, the group will
must expect to be held responsible by their superiors sense no particular degree of responsibility. For a boss
for the quality of the decisions made, even though to permit the group to decide equipment policy, even
operationally these decisions may have been made within rather narrow limits, would reflect a greater
on a group basis. They should, therefore, be ready to degree of confidence in them on his or her part.
accept whatever risk is involved whenever they del-
egate decision-making power to subordinates.
Delegation is not a way of “passing the buck.” Also, Deciding How to Lead
it should be emphasized that the amount of freedom Now let us turn from the types of leadership which
bosses give to subordinates cannot be greater than are possible in a company situation to the question of
the freedom which they themselves have been given what types are practical and desirable. What factors
by their own superiors. or forces should a manager consider in deciding how
Should the manager participate with subordi- to manage? Three are of particular importance:
nates once he or she has delegated responsibility to
them? Managers should carefully think over this □ Forces in the manager.
question and decide on their role prior to involving □ Forces in the subordinates.
the subordinate group. They should ask if their pres- □ Forces in the situation.
ence will inhibit or facilitate the problem-solving
process. There may be some instances when they We should like briefly to describe these elements
should leave the group to let it solve the problem for and indicate how they might influence a manager’s
itself. Typically, however, the boss has useful ideas action in a decision-making situation.2 The strength
to contribute and should function as an additional of each of them will, of course, vary from instance to
member of the group. In the latter instance, it is instance, but managers who are sensitive to them
important that he or she indicate clearly to the can better assess the problems which face them and
group that he or she is in a member role rather than determine which mode of leadership behavior is
an authority role. most appropriate for them.
How important is it for the group to recognize Forces in the manager: The manager’s behavior
what kind of leadership behavior the boss is in any given instance will be influenced greatly by
using? It makes a great deal of difference. Many the many forces operating within his or her own per-
relationship problems between bosses and subordi- sonality. Managers will, of course, perceive their
nates occur because the bosses fail to make clear leadership problems in a unique way on the basis of
how they plan to use their authority. If, for example, their background, knowledge, and experience.
the boss actually intends to make a certain decision, Among the important internal forces affecting them
but the subordinate group gets the impression that will be the following:
he or she has delegated this authority, considerable 1. Their value system. How strongly do they feel
confusion and resentment are likely to follow. that individuals should have a share in making the
Problems may also occur when the boss uses a
“democratic” facade to conceal the fact that he or
2. See also Robert Tannenbaum and Fred Massarik, “Participation by
she has already made a decision which he or she Subordinates in the Managerial Decision-Making Process,” Canadian
hopes the group will accept as its own. The attempt Journal of Economics and Political Science, August 1950, p. 413.
6 HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW May–June 1973
decisions which affect them? Or, how convinced are agers understand these factors, the more accurately
they that the official who is paid to assume respon- they can determine what kind of behavior on their
sibility should personally carry the burden of deci- part will enable subordinates to act most effectively.
sion making? The strength of their convictions on Generally speaking, managers can permit subordi-
questions like these will tend to move managers to nates greater freedom if the following essential con-
one end or the other of the continuum shown in ditions exist:
Exhibit I. Their behavior will also be influenced by
the relative importance that they attach to organiza- □ If the subordinates have relatively high needs for
tional efficiency, personal growth of subordinates, independence. (As we all know, people differ greatly
and company profits.3 in the amount of direction that they desire.)
2. Their confidence in subordinates. Managers If the subordinates have a readiness to assume
differ greatly in the amount of trust they have in other responsibility for decision making. (Some see addi-
people generally, and this carries over to the particu- tional responsibility as a tribute to their ability; oth-
lar employees they supervise at a given time. In view- ers see it as “passing the buck.”)
ing his or her particular group of subordinates, the □ If they have a relatively high tolerance for ambi-
manager is likely to consider their knowledge and guity. (Some employees prefer to have clear-cut
competence with respect to the problem. A central directives given to them; others prefer a wider area
question managers might ask themselves is: “Who is of freedom.)
best qualified to deal with this problem?” Often they □ If they are interested in the problem and feel that
may, justifiably or not, have more confidence in their it is important.
own capabilities than in those of subordinates. □ If they understand and identify with the goals of
3. Their own leadership inclinations. There are the organization.
some managers who seem to function more comfort- □ If they have the necessary knowledge and experi-
ably and naturally as highly directive leaders. ence to deal with the problem.
Resolving problems and issuing orders come easily to □ If they have learned to expect to share in decision
them. Other managers seem to operate more comfort- making. (Persons who have come to expect strong
ably in a team role, where they are continually sharing leadership and are then suddenly confronted with
many of their functions with their subordinates. the request to share more fully in decision making
4. Their feelings of security in an uncertain situa- are often upset by this new experience. On the other
tion. Managers who release control over the decision- hand, persons who have enjoyed a considerable
making process thereby reduce the predict- amount of freedom resent bosses who begin to make
ability of the outcome. Some managers have a greater all the decisions themselves.)
need than others for predictability and stability in their
environment. This “tolerance for ambiguity” is being Managers will probably tend to make fuller use of
viewed increasingly by psychologists as a key variable their own authority if the above conditions do not
in a person’s manner of dealing with problems. exist; at times there may be no realistic alternative
Managers bring these and other highly personal to running a “one-man show.”
variables to each situation they face. If they can see The restrictive effect of many of the forces will, of
them as forces which, consciously or unconsciously, course, be greatly modified by the general feeling of
influence their behavior, they can better understand confidence which subordinates have in the boss.
what makes them prefer to act in a given way. And Where they have learned to respect and trust the
understanding this, they can often make themselves boss, he or she is free to vary his or her own behav-
more effective. ior. The boss will feel certain that he or she will not
Forces in the subordinate: Before deciding how to be perceived as an authoritarian boss on those occa-
lead a certain group, managers will also want to con- sions when he or she makes decisions alone.
sider a number of forces affecting their subordinates’ Similarly, the boss will not be seen as using staff
behavior. They will want to remember that each meetings to avoid decision-making responsibility. In
employee, like themselves, is influenced by many per- a climate of mutual confidence and respect, people
sonality variables. In addition, each subordinate has a tend to feel less threatened by deviations from nor-
set of expectations about how the boss should act in mal practice, which in turn makes possible a higher
relation to him or her (the phrase “expected behavior” degree of flexibility in the whole relationship.
is one we hear more and more often these days at dis- Forces in the situation: In addition to the forces
cussions of leadership and teaching). The better man- which exist in managers themselves and in the sub-
ordinates, certain characteristics of the general situa-
3. See Chris Argyris, “Top Management Dilemma: Company Needs vs.
tion will also affect managers’ behavior. Among the
Individual Development,” Personnel, September 1955, pp. 123–134. more critical environmental pressures that surround
HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW May–June 1973 7
them are those which stem from the organization, powerful influence on the group’s functioning.
the work group, the nature of the problem, and the The problem itself—The nature of the problem
pressures of time. Let us look briefly at each of these: may determine what degree of authority should be
Type of organization—Like individuals, organiza- delegated by managers to their subordinates.
tions have values and traditions which inevitably Obviously, managers will ask themselves whether
influence the behavior of the people who work in subordinates have the kind of knowledge which is
them. Managers who are newcomers to a company needed. It is possible to do them a real disservice by
quickly discover that certain kinds of behavior are assigning a problem that their experience does not
approved while others are not. They also discover equip them to handle.
that to deviate radically from what is generally Since the problems faced in large or growing
accepted is likely to create problems for them. industries increasingly require knowledge of special-
These values and traditions are communicated in ists from many different fields, it might be inferred
numerous ways—through job descriptions, policy pro- that the more complex a problem, the more anxious
nouncements, and public statements by top execu- a manager will be to get some assistance in solving
tives. Some organizations, for example, hold to the it. However, this is not always the case. There will
notion that the desirable executive is one who is be times when the very complexity of the problem
dynamic, imaginative, decisive, and persuasive. Other calls for one person to work it out. For example, if
organizations put more emphasis upon the importance the manager has most of the background and factual
of the executive’s ability to work effectively with peo- data relevant to a given issue, it may be easier for
ple—human relations skills. The fact that the person’s him or her to think it through than to take the time
superiors have a defined concept of what the good exec- to fill in the staff on all the pertinent background
utive should be will very likely push the manager information.
toward one end or the other of the behavioral range. The key question to ask, of course, is: “Have I
In addition to the above, the amount of employee heard the ideas of everyone who has the necessary
participation is influenced by such variables as the knowledge to make a significant contribution to the
size of the working units, their geographical dis- solution of this problem?”
tribution, and the degree of inter- and intra-organi- The pressure of time—This is perhaps the most
zational security required to attain company goals. clearly felt pressure on managers (in spite of the fact
For example, the wide geographical dispersion of an that it may sometimes be imagined). The more that
organization may preclude a practical system of par- they feel the need for an immediate decision, the
ticipative decision making, even though this would more difficult it is to involve other people. In orga-
otherwise be desirable. Similarly, the size of the nizations which are in a constant state of “crisis”
working units or the need for keeping plans confi- and “crash programming” one is likely to find man-
dential may make it necessary for the boss to exer- agers personally using a high degree of authority
cise more control than would otherwise be the case. with relatively little delegation to subordinates.
Factors like these may limit considerably the man- When the time pressure is less intense, however, it
ager’s ability to function flexibly on the continuum. becomes much more possible to bring subordinates
Group effectiveness—Before turning decision- in on the decision-making process.
making responsibility over to a subordinate group,
the boss should consider how effectively its mem- These, then, are the principal forces that impinge
bers work together as a unit. on managers in any given instance and that tend to
One of the relevant factors here is the experience determine their tactical behavior in relation to sub-
the group has had in working together. It can gener- ordinates. In each case their behavior ideally will be
ally be expected that a group which has functioned that which makes possible the most effective
for some time will have developed habits of coopera- attainment of their immediate goals within the lim-
tion and thus be able to tackle a problem more effec- its facing them.
tively than a new group. It can also be expected that
a group of people with similar backgrounds and Long-Run Strategy
interests will work more quickly and easily than peo- As managers work with their organizations on the
ple with dissimilar backgrounds, because the com- problems that come up day to day, their choice of a
munication problems are likely to be less complex. leadership pattern is usually limited. They must
The degree of confidence that the members have take account of the forces just described and, within
in their ability to solve problems as a group is also a the restrictions those factors impose on them, do the
key consideration. Finally, such group variables as best that they can. But as they look ahead months or
cohesiveness, permissiveness, mutual acceptance, even years, they can shift their thinking from tactics
and commonality of purpose will exert subtle but to large-scale strategy. No longer need they be fet-
8 HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW May–June 1973
tered by all of the forces mentioned, for they can tants. To provide the individual or the group with
view many of them as variables over which they greater freedom than they are ready for at any given
have some control. They can, for example, gain new time may very well tend to generate anxieties and
insights or skills for themselves, supply training for therefore inhibit rather than facilitate the attain-
individual subordinates, and provide participative ment of desired objectives. But this should not keep
experiences for their employee group. managers from making a continuing effort to con-
In trying to bring about a change in these vari- front subordinates with the challenge of freedom.
ables, however, they are faced with a challenging In summary, there are two implications in the
question: At which point along the continuum basic thesis that we have been developing. The first
should they act? is that successful leaders are those who are keenly
Attaining objectives: The answer depends largely on aware of the forces which are most relevant to their
what they want to accomplish. Let us suppose that they behavior at any given time. They accurately under-
are interested in the same objectives that most modern stand themselves, the individuals and groups they
managers seek to attain when they can shift their atten- are dealing with, and the company and broader
tion from the pressure of immediate assignments: social environment in which they operate. And cer-
tainly they are able to assess the present readiness
1. To raise the level of employee motivation. for growth of their subordinates.
2. To increase the readiness of subordinates to But this sensitivity or understanding is not
accept change. enough, which brings us to the second implication.
3. To improve the quality of all managerial deci- Successful leaders are those who are able to behave
sions. appropriately in the light of these perceptions. If
4. To develop teamwork and morale. direction is in order, they are able to direct; if con-
5. To further the individual development of siderable participative freedom is called for, they are
employees. able to provide such freedom.
Thus, successful managers of people can be pri-
In recent years managers have been deluged with a marily characterized neither as strong leaders nor as
flow of advice on how best to achieve these longer- permissive ones. Rather, they are people who main-
run objectives. It is little wonder that they are often tain a high batting average in accurately assessing
both bewildered and annoyed. However, there are the forces that determine what their most appropri-
some guidelines which they can usefully follow in ate behavior at any given time should be and in actu-
making a decision. ally being able to behave accordingly. Being both
Most research and much of the experience of insightful and flexible, they are less likely to see the
recent years give a strong factual basis to the theory problems of leadership as a dilemma.
that a fairly high degree of subordinate-center behav-
ior is associated with the accomplishment of the five 4. For example, see Warren H. Schmidt and Paul C. Buchanan,
Techniques that Produce Teamwork (New London, Arthur C. Croft
purposes mentioned.4 This does not mean that man- Publications, 1954); and Morris S. Viteles, Motivation and Morale in
agers should always leave all decisions to their assis- Industry (New York, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1953).
HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW May–June 1973 9
Since this HBR Classic was first published in 1958, These and other societal changes make effective lead-
there have been many changes in organizations and in ership in this decade a more challenging task, requiring
the world that have affected leadership patterns. While even greater sensitivity and flexibility than was needed
the article’s continued popularity attests to its essen- in the 1950’s. Today’s manager is more likely to deal
tial validity, we believe it can be reconsidered and with employees who resent being treated as subordi-
updated to reflect subsequent societal changes and new nates, who may be highly critical of any organizational
management concepts. system, who expect to be consulted and to exert influ-
The reasons for the article’s continued relevance can ence, and who often stand on the edge of alienation from
be summarized briefly: the institution that needs their loyalty and commit-
ment. In addition, the manager is frequently confronted
The article contains insights and perspectives which by a highly turbulent, unpredictable environment.
mesh well with, and help clarify, the experiences of In response to these social pressures, new concepts of
managers, other leaders, and students of leadership. management have emerged in organizations. Open-sys-
Thus it is useful to individuals in a wide variety of orga- tem theory, with its emphasis on subsystems’ inter-
nizations—industrial, governmental, educational, reli- dependency and on the interaction of an organization
gious, and community. with its environment, has made a powerful impact on
The concept of leadership the article defines is managers’ approach to problems. Organization devel-
reflected in a continuum of leadership behavior (see opment has emerged as a new behavioral science
Exhibit I in original article). Rather than offering a approach to the improvement of individual, group,
choice between two styles of leadership, democratic or organizational, and interorganizational performance. New
authoritarian, it sanctions a range of behavior. research has added to our understanding of motivation in
The concept does not dictate to managers but helps the work situation. More and more executives have become
them to analyze their own behavior. The continuum concerned with social responsibility and have explored the
permits them to review their behavior within a context feasibility of social audits. And a growing number of organi-
of other alternatives, without any style being labeled zations, in Europe and in the United States, have conducted
right or wrong. experiments in industrial democracy.
(We have sometimes wondered if we have, perhaps, In light of these developments, we submit the fol-
made it too easy for anyone to justify his or her style of lowing thoughts on how we would rewrite certain
leadership. It may be a small step between being non- points in our original article.
judgmental and giving the impression that all behavior The article described forces in the manager, subordi-
is equally valid and useful. The latter was not our nates, and the situation as givens, with the leadership
intention. Indeed, the thrust of our endorsement was pattern a result of these forces. We would now give more
for managers who are insightful in assessing relevant attention to the interdependency of these forces. For
forces within themselves, others, and situations, and example, such interdependency occurs in: (a) the inter-
who can be flexible in responding to these forces.) play between the manager’s confidence in subordinates,
In recognizing that our article can be updated, we are their readiness to assume responsibility, and the level of
acknowledging that organizations do not exist in a vac- group effectiveness; and (b) the impact of the behavior of
uum but are affected by changes that occur in society. the manager on that of subordinates, and vice versa.
Consider, for example, the implications for organiza- In discussing the forces in the situation, we primar-
tions of these recent social developments: ily identified organizational phenomena. We would
now include forces lying outside the organization and
> The youth revolution that expresses distrust and even would explore the relevant interdependencies between
contempt for organizations identified with the establish- the organization and its environment.
ment. In the original article, we presented the size of the
> The civil rights movement that demands all minor- rectangle in Exhibit I as a given, with its boundaries
ity groups be given a greater opportunity for participa- already determined by external forces—in effect, a
tion and influence in the organizational processes. closed system. We would now recognize the possibility
> The ecology and consumer movements that challenge of the manager and/or the subordinates taking the ini-
the right of managers to make decisions without consid- tiative to change those boundaries through interaction
ering the interest of people outside the organization. with relevant external forces—both within their own
> The increasing national concern with the quality of organization and in the larger society.
working life and its relationship to worker productiv- The article portrayed the manager as the principal
ity, participation, and satisfaction. and almost unilateral actor. He or she initiated and
10 HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW May–June 1973
EXHIBIT II Continuum of Manager-Nonmanager Behavior
Manager power and influence
Area of freedom
Area of freedom
able to Manager
must "sell" Manager
his or her presents
decision presents Manager
decision decision Manager
which tentative presents
before but must defines Manager and
non- decision problem,
gaining respond to limits within non-managers
managers subject to gets inputs
acceptance. questions which jointly make
accept. change from non-
from non- nonmanagers decision
after non- managers,
managers. make within limits
inputs. decides. decision. defined by
TH R e s u lt organizational
E ant ma
OR er and
b e h av io
Z AT r
I O NA
L E N V I RO N M E N T
TA L E N V I RO N M E N T
determined group functions, assumed responsibility, vision with respect to the realities of power. We did not
and exercised control. Subordinates made inputs and attempt to deal with unions, other forms of joint worker
assumed power only at the will of the manager. action, or with individual workers’ expressions of resis-
Although the manager might have taken outside forces tance. Today, we would recognize much more clearly
into account, it was he or she who decided where to the power available to all parties and the factors that
operate on the continuum—that is, whether to underlie the interrelated decisions on whether to use it.
announce a decision instead of trying to sell the idea to In the original article, we used the terms “manager”
subordinates, whether to invite questions, to let subor- and “subordinate.” We are now uncomfortable with
dinates decide an issue, and so on. While the manager “subordinate” because of its demeaning, dependency-
has retained this clear prerogative in many organiza- laden connotations and prefer “nonmanager.” The
tions, it has been challenged in others. Even in situa- titles “manager” and “nonmanager” make the termi-
tions where managers have retained it, however, the nological difference functional rather than hierarchical.
balance in the relationship between managers and sub- We assumed fairly traditional organizational struc-
ordinates at any given time is arrived at by interac- tures in our original article. Now we would alter our
tion—direct or indirect—between the two parties. formulation to reflect newer organizational modes
Although power and its use by managers played a which are slowly emerging, such as industrial democ-
role in our article, we now realize that our concern racy, intentional communities, and “phenomenar-
with cooperation and collaboration, common goals, chy.”* These new modes are based on observations
commitment, trust, and mutual caring limited our such as the following:
HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW May–June 1973 11
> Both manager and nonmanagers may be governing The arrows in the exhibit indicate the continual flow
forces in their group’s environment, contributing to the of interdependent influence among systems and people.
definition of the total area of freedom. The points on the continuum designate the types of
> A group can function without a manager, with man- manager and nonmanager behavior that become possi-
agerial functions being shared by group members. ble with any given amount of freedom available to
> A group, as a unit, can be delegated authority and each. The new continuum is both more complex and
can assume responsibility within a larger organiza- more dynamic than the 1958 version, reflecting the
tional context. organizational and societal realities of 1973.
Our thoughts on the question of leadership have
prompted us to design a new behavior continuum (see
Exhibit II) in which the total area of freedom shared by *For a description of phenomenarchy, see Will McWhinney,
manager and nonmanagers is constantly redefined by inter- “Phenomenarchy: A Suggestion for Social Redesign,” Journal of
actions between them and the forces in the environment. Applied Behavioral Science, May 1973.
12 HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW May–June 1973