Douglas McGregor is most famous for his Theory X and Theory Y as described in his book ‘The Human Side of Enterprise’ 1.

McGregor identified two extreme views of leadership. Theory X managers assume that people fundamentally dislike work and need authoritarian leadership. Theory Y managers assume that people can be ambitious and self-motivated and see their role as developing each individual’s potential.


Characteristics of McGregor's theiry X and theory Y

McGregor’s two extremes relate to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and, from the leader’s perspective, are the basis of models such as Hersey and Blanchard and Blake and Mouton.

Being a good leader is not about being a Theory X or Theory Y manager, it is about knowing three things: firstly, what is your natural style; secondly, what combination of theory X and theory Y is needed at different phases of a project or programme; finally, what combination of theory X and theory Y is appropriate to the team being led and the individuals within it.

From the team’s perspective McGregor is closely related to models such as Maslow, Hertzberg and Tuckman.


  1. McGregor, D (1960), The Human Side of Enterprise, McGraw-Hill, New York



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18th August 2014Link to Italian translation added

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