Concept Of Follower Readiness Management Essay

Leadership model gyrates around leader and follower. The amount of direction an individual require to carry out a given task, socio-economic factor and the individual or team performance readiness altogether are referred to as situational leadership (Hersey, Blanchard, and Johnson, 2008).

Elements of Situational Leadership Model

Concept of Follower Readiness as it Relates to the Situational Leadership Model

In-depth look into leadership model reveals some of the seemingly obscure behaviors often exhibited by the two dominant players of the model – the leader and the follower, are as a result of the ability (knowledge, skill, and experience brings to a given task) and the willingness (confidence, commitment, and motivation to accomplish a specific task) of the follower (Hersey, Blanchard, and Johnson, 2008). Follower readiness can be prescriptive. The right amount of dosage of task and relationship behaviors for a given follower may be lethal or insufficient for another. The right mixes of task and relationship behaviors are different for every follower. It is not a one size always fits concept.

Description of the Four Levels of Follower Readiness

Follower readiness can broadly be divided into four levels R1: unable and insecure; or unable and unwilling, R2: unable and confident; or unable and willing, R3: able and insecure; or able and unwilling, and R4: able and confident; or able and willing. Each of the levels can be further broken down and be represented with various behavioral indicators according the Ron Campbell of the Center for Leadership Studies. Insecurity felt by some follower may be misconstrued for their unwillingness to perform assigned task. It is thus essential to allow each follower to prove out which of the two – insecure or unwilling is applicable to their situation. Some of the behaviors an unable but insecure R1 would exhibit are as follows: confused and unsure, discomfort, particular about result, and fear that effort might be futile. An unable and unwilling R1 would be defensive or argumentative, only strive to meet expectation on assigned task, complete task assignment late, procrastinate, ask too much question about task, intimidated by task, and also demonstrates intense frustration.

An unable but confident or willing R2 will demonstrate among others the following behaviors: responsive and show great interest, listen carefully, accept tasks, seek clarity, and speak quickly and intensely. An able but insecure R3 will demonstrate the following behaviors: doubt self, encourage leader to be involved, concentrate on likely problems, and lack self esteem. An able but unwilling R3 would demonstrate the following behaviors: hesitant and resistant, see performance as punishment, cherish teamwork to independent work, and feel overwhelmed.

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An able but willing or confident R4 will demonstrate among others the following behaviors: ready to hit the ground running on any task, result driven, able to share both good and bad news, ready to help others, creative, finish task on time, make efficient use of resources, and keep boss informed of what is going on. Movement from R1 to R2 to R3 to R4 is not sequential. It is possible for a follower to move from R2 to R4 or from R4 to R2 depending on the follower readiness. As absurd as it may seem to move from an able but confident and willing R4 to an unable but confident and willing R2, the transitional shock of having the follower take the front seat when certain decisions are now being could result in this type to movement.

Description of the Four Leadership Styles

Leadership style has a direct correlation to the follower readiness. Four types of leadership style are: telling (S1), selling (S2), participating (S3), and delegating (S4). Both telling and selling are leader-directed while participating and delegating are self-directed. Telling is when followers are told what to do, when to do it, where to do it and how to do it. At this level of follower readiness, facts must be clearly spelt out, small accomplishment must be recognized, assure follower that he or she could do it, and be sure to control emotion in the process. For follower that is unable but insecure, while leadership style S1 may be appropriate, the following leadership behaviors among host of others would be appropriate: breaking task down into smaller deliverables, provide step by step direction, and encourage periodic review of assigned task.

Selling (S2) is another leadership style, which is geared towards follower readiness R2. Followers at readiness level R2 have both the willingness and the confidence going for them. Leader needs to be available for clarification, make decision, explain the role of the follower, periodically benchmarking the follower ability to gauge readiness level, and persuasive when answering follower questions just to mention a few. Some of the things that the leader does not want to engage in are: decision rationalization, manipulate follower, and be caught defending his action.

Participating (S3) leadership style is needed in situation where the follower is able but unwilling or insecure. In occasion where follower is able but insecure, leader could instill confidence by working with the follower to determine the next course of action, encourage the follower to take risk, partner with the follower while making decision, and be open to discuss about anxiety. On the other hand, when a follower is able but unwilling, leader does not need to spend too much time explaining details about a task, leader instead will spend time to encourage follower to focus, allow more access to information, share consequences of action to increase drive and commitment.

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The last leadership style is delegating (S4). This set of individuals is able and confident. They are able because they have the skills and the knowledge required to carry out specific task; they are confident because they have acquired experience over time from repeatedly performing the same action. Follower readiness level 4 means follower only requires below average task and relationship behaviors. An example is the case when babies learn to walk. Initially, we will handhold them to prevent them from falling and injuring themselves (participating-S3). Eventually, babies, after repeated attempts will begin to walk by themselves (delegation-S4). As babies mature, parents’ involvements dwindle. Similarly, the leader wants to take the back seat and provide support, delegate, encourage risk-taking, resource, and monitor.

“Leadership is much more an art, a belief, a condition of heart, than a set of

things to do. The visible signs of artful leadership are expressed, ultimately

in its practice.”

– Max DePree

Figure 1:

Matching four levels of Readiness with Appropriate Leadership Style

This account will not be complete if attempt was not made to align leadership behavior to the readiness of the follower. Figure 1 shows that by drawing a perpendicular line from any point on the performance readiness continuum to a point on the leadership behavior curve, you will be able to establish the right amount of relationship and task behaviors that is appropriate for a given performance readiness. For a low performing, less motivated, insecure and unable (R1) follower, leadership style S1 would be appropriate. This individual would need to be told what to do, directed to where to do it, shown how to do it and instructed when to do it. This is consistent with a high task-oriented behavior coupled with a low relationship behavior. A follower who is unable but confident or willing (R2) will require a selling (S2) leadership style, with which mentoring, clarifying, coaching, and piece meal of task would be necessary. However, an individual who has just mastered a task but has not gotten the opportunity to extensively work on the task is said to be at performance readiness level R3. Individual in this category would need a leadership style that encourages 2-way communication, follower involvement with some decision-making, praise and build confidence (S3). Individuals that have all the bells and whistles needed to accomplish a task and very confident about it is said to be at the readiness level of R4 and thus requires a leadership style that encourage independence, support follower-led communication, and delegate activities.

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How Jeanne Lewis Matched her Leadership Style to the Level of the Follower Readiness

Lewis was a leader who demonstrated great tenacity throughout the time she spent at Staples. It was with this quality she was able to ascend leadership ladder faster than her contemporaries.

Leadership Style Lewis Applied

Lewis, upon being made the director of operations in 1994, she assessed the current situation and quickly came to the conclusion that the reason for weak performance in their stores was due to lack of leadership in various facets of the organizations. For this, Lewis applied Participating (S3) leadership style. This leadership style facilitates 2-way dialogue between the leader and the follower. It also confers partially the decision making on the follower. Leader praise work performed by the follower.

Examples of Lewis leadership style

During Lewis time as the director of operation, she had to train team members reporting to her after letting about 25 of them go (decision-making). Her reports may be able but having to provide training may connote that they lack confidence. Second, Lewis was very futuristic and strategic in the way she went about doing things stemming from the time she was the Director of Operation where she invigorated performance, to the time when she was the vice president and the divisional merchandising manager where she led a team that tripled the direct product profitability (DPP). Account of one of Lewis’s reports showed that she instigated dialogue to make certain that they put a lot of thoughts into decision-making, which often times may be intense by the way. Moreover, Lewis demonstrated that she could adapt to different situations. She had to soft-pedaled after realizing that her conventional “rough and tumble” style did not work as expected with the marketing staff even thought it worked with operation and merchandising. It only left marketing staff devastated.

Justification that the example reflect the leadership style

Retrenching 25 associates demonstrated the tough decision-making ability of Lewis. Training provided to the associates was a way for Lewis to build the confidence that was lacking. Furthermore, after Lewis led the team that tripled DPP, it was said that she inspired dialogue and made quality decision. This was consistent with leadership style S3 that is often used for individuals or group at readiness level of R3 (Able but insecure or unwilling). Switching leadership style by Lewis for the marketing staff clearly shows that leadership is not one-size-fits-all.

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