The Full Range Model of Leadership
Many factors contribute to the need for leaders in organisations, but one driving force – the speed and scope of organisational change means that a specific approach to leadership is suited to cope better than most. That approach is known as the Full Range Model of Leadership (FRML) and it includes guidance on transformational leadership.
The concept of Transformational Leadership is based on extensive research and grew out of work first undertaken by Robert House, a management professor, in 1976. This was soon followed by historian James MacGregor Burns’ Pulitzer Prize winning book ‘Leadership’ that introduced transforming leaders. Following their work, Bernard Bass and his colleague, Bruce Avolio, both professors in the Centre for Leadership Studies at the State University of New York, undertook extensive research to identify what makes the most effective leaders. Their model is referred to as the Full Range Model of Leadership.
The FRML has obvious value to managers, but it offers useful insight to anyone in a position of leadership. When reading this article just substitute ‘colleagues’ or ‘volunteers’ or similar appropriate word where you read ‘staff’.
The FRML is organised around two key factors, represented diagrammatically by the two axes; degree of activity and degree of effectiveness.
Unsurprisingly the activity axis shows a visual representation of how active or passive the leader is. Essentially, this axis concerns the leader’s level of engagement and involvement in the leadership process and in seeking to achieve organisational goals. The effectiveness axis shows the effect the specific leadership style has on follower, group and organisational outcomes such as performance, internal motivation and wellbeing.
We’ll look at the styles, represented by acronyms in the diagram, from least desirable to the most desirable, certainly when considered in the context of leading change.
The most passive and ineffective style is called Laissez-faire leadership which is, at best a hands-off approach, but, in reality, is an absence of leadership. Although it may seem obvious that no-one would willingly adopt this style it can come about for several reasons.
Two main reasons for this occurring can be lack of ability and lack of desire. In the first instance, the individual could have been promoted, or moved, into a leadership position that they are ill-trained to fulfil. A common example here is the capable technical person who is promoted into management when they only enjoy the technical aspects of the job. Being a manager, at least being a competent one, requires specific skills and usually training.
The lack of desire could come from factors that may or may not be related to the job itself or the organisation. Sometimes one just loses so much faith in the organisation that one gives up on it completely. Alternatively, a life event, such as retiring or winning the lottery could mean that one views the effort required to lead effectively is no longer justified.
Behaviours exhibited by this style include:
- Avoids taking stands on issues, getting involved and making decisions
- Don’t develop their staff
- Are absent when needed
- Delays and fails to follow up
- Doesn´t emphasise results
Most people at some time will have witnessed this kind of manager and will know that it leads to confusion, conflicts, low effort and low trust in, and satisfaction with, the leader.
Because it is less focused on emotion and inspiration, transactional leadership is sometimes afforded less respect than transformational leadership. This is unfortunate, because most leadership positions require elements of both transactional and transformational leadership; particularly when it comes to managing resources, such as budgets, facilities, vehicles, etc. These kinds of responsibilities lend themselves well to the behaviours inherent in transactional leadership.
There are actually two forms of Transactional Leadership: Management By Exception; and Contingent Reward.
Management By Exception (MBE)
MBE focuses on intervention when staff fail to achieve standards and rarely involves building a positive contractual relationship between managers and staff. It is essentially a corrective transaction – an intervention by leadership to correct a situation.
MBE can be positive or negative in terms of intent from the leader – in many cases they are simply seeking to ensure professional standards – however, most people typically think of a leader’s intervention into their work areas as a decidedly negative event.
Typical behaviours depend on whether the leader is active or passive in their approach and include:
- Intervening only if/when standards are not met
- Waiting for things to go wrong before taking any action
- Reluctantly reacting to mistakes
- Close and constant monitoring for errors and intervening before errors occur (i.e., micromanaging)
- Focusing attention on mistakes, shortcomings, deviations and complaints
Without doubt there are some situations and instances where this style is appropriate. For instance, in situations where everyone agrees that mistakes are very costly or even dangerous and actually ask for tight control in order to avoid such mistakes. In general, however MBE is not an effective leadership style as it makes people too cautious and risk averse and makes them feel controlled, stifling proactivity and innovation. It should certainly not be used as a default style.
Contingent Reward (CR)
A much more effective way to lead is to use CR which basically means to reward, in some way, the behaviours that are in line with stated performance expectations. CR is an active form of management that is effective in a wide variety of situations. It recognises the inherent transactional nature of many supervisor-staff member situations and encourages leaders to “contract” with employees to achieve desired outcomes.
The CR leader demonstrates strong skills in negotiating and setting objectives, clarifying outcomes and providing appropriate rewards and recognition when people meet agreed on objectives. This leader exchanges reward/recognition for performance, works in line with policies and procedures, using authority appropriately. They also take responsibility for own performance and self-development.
- Sets goals together with, and for, his or her staff that are specific, measured, agreed, realistic and timebound
- Specifies the rewards that are to be expected for attaining the goals
- Asks for and suggest pathways for the group and for each individual to meet performance expectations
- Monitors progress toward goals actively and provides constructive feedback
- Provides rewards when goals are attained
This is a highly goal-directed form of leadership that, if performed correctly, creates a high level of clarity about what is expected and a high degree of trust in the leader as he or she delivers agreed-upon rewards contingent on attainment of specified expectations. This kind of leadership is related to a good level of job satisfaction and satisfaction with the leader, as well as a lot better job performance than the previous leadership styles.
Some major shortcomings of CR are that it typically fails to inspire people to exceed performance standards. In fact, in some work settings workers might ostracise colleagues who exceed standards arguing that they are “giving for free” work that should be compensated or “making others look bad”.
Another potential shortcoming of CR is leadership’s failure to discern which CRs work and which do not. Leaders need to understand what motivates their staff in order to offer CRs that actually stimulate the desired behaviours.
Clearly, leaders need to understand both their people and the motivators that are available to them – both positive and negative – in order to employ transactional CR effectively. Failure to achieve this understanding seriously limits leaders’ ability to employ this, otherwise, highly effective leadership style.
Transformational Leadership (TL)
Transformational leadership primarily differs from transactional leadership in the sense that it is more based on trying to increase the degree of intrinsic motivation, i.e. encouraging staff to be more proactive and take the initiative.
In their book Transformational Leadership, Bass and Riggio argue that, “Transformational leadership involves inspiring followers to commit to a shared vision and goals for an organization or unit, challenging them to be innovative problem solvers, and developing followers’ leadership capacity via coaching, mentoring, and provision of both challenges and support.”
When researching the FRML they found that Transformational Leaders demonstrated certain behaviours much more often that any of the other styles. These behaviours they categorised in four ways – often referred to as the Four ‘I’s. These are Individualised Consideration, Intellectual Stimulation, Inspirational Motivation, and Idealized Influence.
Leaders who are individually considerate see every person as unique and build personal relations with each individual based on his or her abilities and preferences. Individualised Concern involves a range of behaviours, to include listening, coaching, mentoring and teaching and directly addresses the need for achievement and growth.
Typical leadership behaviours:
- Consider individuals as having different needs, abilities and aspirations
- Treat others as individuals and not only members of a group or organization
- Listen attentively to others’ ideas and concerns
- Help others to identify and develop their strengths
- Coach others actively and regularly
- Promote self-development
- Genuinely care for others and show this compassion in actions
Through Intellectual Stimulation, leaders actively encourage staff members’ creativity. Leaders employing Intellectual Stimulation seek to create a working culture where everyone feels comfortable with challenging assumptions, processes and existing paradigms. Such managers include their staff in decision-making related to such improvements. They support some risk-taking, by allowing staff to try their ideas and by not over-reacting to failure.
Typical leadership behaviours:
- Challenge, and encourage others to challenge, existing ways of doing things
- Seek different perspectives when solving problems
- Value constructive feedback
- Give others the confidence to contribute new ideas
- Encourage intelligent risk-taking
Where Intellectual Stimulation is concerned with the stimulation of rational thoughts, Inspirational Motivation is more focused on emotional stimulation. Managers who demonstrate Inspirational Motivation behaviours motivate and inspire their staff via the spoken word. They develop and clearly articulate a vision and the expectations for their follower’s performance. In doing so, they “raise the bar” for their organisation, setting new standards and new targets.
Typical leadership behaviours:
- Talk optimistically about the future and articulate compelling visions
- Use strong and evocative language
- Express confidence in others’ abilities to reach goals
- Talk about the mission or purpose for the group or the organisation
- Align individual goals and aspirations with the vision for the organisation
Idealised influence is the main ingredient in serving as a role model and is absolutely essential in order to gain the trust from others that are needed in order for them to work hard on attaining the vision. By showing that the leader does not give himself or herself any advantages as compared to others and that he or she is consistently acting in line with shared values his or her level of trustworthiness increases.
This is essentially “walking the talk,” all also relates to morality and ethics. There is a strong emphasis on integrity and consistent behaviour.
Typical leadership behaviours:
- Talk about one’s most important values and take a strong stand for them
- Ask others about their most important values and search for shared values
- Consider the moral consequences of decisions
- Not giving oneself advantages others are not given
Most of us demonstrate all the styles to some extent, in some situations. Effective managers are just better at judging which style to use in any given situation. That said, the critical question still is what style(s) the leader demonstrates most of the time; in other words, what is the leaders’ main or dominant leadership style. If it is laissez-faire or managing by exception it is bad news for everyone they manage. If it is contingent rewarding it is better news but is unlikely to be the most effective in times of change. If it is transformational leadership it is even better news.
Finally, if it is contingent reward for managerial tasks, combined with transformational leadership during periods of change and challenge, it is probably the very best news for their organisation and their staff.
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