Tannenbaum and Schmidt’s Leadership Behaviour Continuum

The Tannenbaum and Schmidt continuum demonstrates the relationship between the level of freedom that a manager chooses to give a team, and the level of authority used by the manager.  As the team’s freedom is increased, so to should the manger’s authority decrease. This is a positive way for both teams and mangers to develop.

This model explains the choices facing leaders when it comes to decision-making. Tannenaum and Schmidt demonstrated that a leader has seven decision-making options.

As you move from left to right on the following diagram, the leader gives up his, or her, power to make solo decisions and increases group involvement.


Leadership Behaviour Continuum


This model shows the seven ways of approaching decisions, outlining that the leader must have the self-awareness, presence of mind and wisdom to consider the three sets of pressures before making a decision.

It should be noted that delegating freedom and decision-making responsibility to a team absolutely does not absolve the manager of accountability.

Tannenbaum and Schmidt further explained that there are three sets of pressures that influence a leader’s decision making approach.

Situational pressures 

The complexity of the problem, the importance of the decision and the time pressure.

Leader’s inner pressures  

The leader’s preferences around decision-making (beliefs, behaviours etc), confidence in their/the team’s experience and importance or risk the decision is to the leader personally.

Pressures coming from subordinates 

A colleague’s desire to have a say in the decision, the willingness to take responsibility for the outcome, ability to reach decisions together and their readiness/ability in accepting orders.

Tannenbaum, R and Schmidt, W. (1973). How to Choose a Leadership Pattern. Harvard Business Review. Available at: https://hbr.org/1973/05/how-to-choose-a-leadership-pattern