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Bola Owoade

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Senior Learning and Development Advisor

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Book Review – Leadership and The One Minute Manager By Ken Blanchard, Patricia Zigarmi and Drea Zigarmi


Leadership and The One Minute Manager


Leadership and The One Minute Manager written by Ken Blanchard in conjunction with Patricia and Drea Zigarmi was first written in 1985 and updated in 2013. The book is part of a series about the One Minute Manager which uses simple and short stories to teach about leadership and management. This one focuses mainly on Situational Leadership II, a revised version of the Situational Leadership model first developed by Ken Blanchard and Paul Hershey during the 1970s. In this book an entrepreneur wants to learn better how to manage her team because she is having a hard time finding people who are willing to work as hard as she does.  She goes to see the one minute manager for help. In the process of meeting and talking with him, he takes the entrepreneur through the core principles of situational leadership.

Customarily I would give a brief review of each chapter, but this is one of those books that does not use chapters. It is broken down into 21 topics and I have reviewed what I consider to be core principles in the book. This is not a large book as it has just 143 pages, and even a number of the pages are not full page length. Here is a brief review of the key aspects of the book.

Leadership Styles: Leadership style is defined as, the way you work with someone. "It's how you behave over time, when you're trying to influence others, as perceived by them." The one minute manager spends time discussing what leadership styles are and refers her to some of his team members to learn more. The learning takes place mainly through conversations and dialogue.

Situational Leadership: Again through discussion with the one minute manager and his team, the entrepreneur discovers what situational leadership is. The quote, "different strokes for different folks" is used to illustrate what situational leadership is.

The Skills of a Situational Leader: Once the entrepreneur understands what situational leadership is she is introduced to the three skills a situational leader needs. The skills are:

  • Goal setting: Setting clear goals
  • Diagnosis: Diagnose the development levels of the people you work with on their goals, tasks or in certain situations.
  • Matching: Learn to use a variety of leadership styles to provide individuals with the support they need.

From this point on the book goes into detail explaining these three skills. Explanation mostly involves the entrepreneur meeting with different people apart from the one minute manager and having discussions with them.

SMART goals: SMART goals are explained as being necessary to the goal setting skill of a situational leader.The SMART acronym describes the qualities of effective goals. SMART stands for:

  • Specific
  • Motivating
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Trackable

The Four Development Levels: Four development levels are discussed as part of the diagnosis skill and the four levels are:

  1. D1: Low competence and high commitment
  2. D2: Low to some competence and low commitment
  3. D3: Moderate to high competence and variable commitment
  4. D4: High competence and high commitment

For the development levels, competence is a function of demonstrated knowledge and skills, which can be gained through learning and/or experience. While commitment is a combination of confidence and motivation. Confidence is a measure of a person's self assuredness -  a feeling of being able to do a task well without much direction whereas motivation is a person's interest in and enthusiasm for doing a task well. A situational leader will use a different leadership style for each developmental level.

The Four Leadership Styles: The four leadership styles which match up to the development levels are discussed. The styles are:

  1. S1 - Directing: This style uses high directive and low supportive behaviour and is best matched to the D1 (low competence and high commitment).
  2. S2 - Coaching: Uses high directive and high supportive behaviour and is best matched to D2 (low to some competence and low commitment).
  3. S3 - Supporting: This has has highly supportive and low directive behaviour, it is best matched to D3 (moderate to high competence and variable commitment).
  4. S4: Delegating: This style combines low supportive and directive behaviour and it's best for D4 (high commitment and high competence)

Directive behaviour is described as giving direction and feedback. It can range from low to high depending on the developmental level of the person it is aimed at. Supportive behaviour on the other hand  is more about encouragement and motivation to boost confidence.

Six Types of Conversation: The book emphasizes that situational leadership works best when manager and team members understand the leadership style the manager is using  and why it is being used. For example if a manager is adopting a directing style with a team member, she should tell the team member how she will manage him and why. Ensuring that the working relationship between managers and their team members work well and both understand their role in terms of performance levels the authors suggest six types of conversation a manager must have with their team members. They are:

  • Alignment conversations: This type of conversation revolves around goal setting. It ensures that the team member understands how what they do aligns to the organisation or team's goals.
  • Four style conversations: These are the four different conversations a manager could have to explain any of the four leadership styles to someone and why they are using it.
  • One-on-one conversations: Conversations which allow managers and their team members to discuss issues such as performance and support needed.

This is an easy book to read and is also quite interesting. It transforms a serious topic into a story which makes for more exciting reading. Though at times it may seem a bit too simplistic and too good to be true. But it does contain some core concepts which can be applied by anybody involved in managing people. From a practical perspective situational leadership makes sense and this book demonstrates that. The use of diagrams, quotes and models make the concepts in the book easier to grasp.

From a learning and development perspective this book can be a good management development tool. For instance if I were to use it, I would purchase copies for managers to read and have a session afterwards where we discuss scenarios and see how situational leadership can be used. But that's just me being imaginative, how would you use it?

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Bola Owoade

Senior Learning and Development Advisor

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