Behavioral Approach To Leadership Management Essay

The focal point of thuis chapter will be on theoretical developments made in leadership literature with the way of time by the advocates. Hence, the existing chapter will be divided into four major parts. In the first part, trait approach to leadership will be described. In the second part, behavioral approach to leadership will be discussed. Third part will be devoted to contingency approach to leadership. In last and fourth part, cutting-edge approach to leadership will be presented.

Trait Leadership Theory:

Leadership consists of leaders, followers and situations, but trait approach only focuses on leaders. Trait approach was one of the first systematic attempts to study leadership in which research started by focusing on leader’s traits that differentiate between leaders and non-leaders. Trait theory assumes that people are born with inherited characteristics. In other words, leaders were born, not made and leadership is rooted in characteristics of leaders. This assumption that leaders are born not made was taken from “Great Man Theory”. The underlying concept of this theory was that leaders are from upper class. Great Man theory was named so because in those days, leadership was thought of primarily as a male quality.

Stogdill studied more than 124 studies conducted between 1904 and 1947. Stogdill (1948) stated that the aspect allied with leadership could be categorize under six broad directions: capacity (intelligence, alertness, originality and judgment); achievement (scholarship, knowledge); responsibility (reliability, inventiveness, determination assertiveness, self-assurance and the desire to excel); participation (activity, friendliness, teamwork, flexibility and absurdity); status (socioeconomic position and popularity) and situation (status, ability, wants and wellbeing of followers, objectives to be accomplished).

Bryman (1993) also talk about the principle that there are distinct attributes that distinguish a leader from a non-leader, these being physical features (height); personality factors: (extroverted); and ability related characteristics: (speech fluency).

Trait theory offers no explanation for relationship between individual characteristics and leaderships. This theory did not consider the impact of situational variables that moderate the relationship between leader traits and measures of effectiveness. As a result of lack of consistent findings, linking individual traits to leadership effectiveness, empirical studies of leader’s traits were largely abandoned in 1950s.

Behavioral approach to Leadership:

In beginning of 1950s, focus of leadership research shifted away from leader traits to leader’s behaviors. Purpose of this research was that the behavior exhibited by the leaders is more important than their physical, mental, emotional traits or internal state. Behavioral theories differentiate between effective leaders from ineffective leaders. Behavioral theories of leadership are based on the belief that great leaders are made, not born. According to this theory, people can learn to become leaders through training and observations, thus, anyone can become a leader if they want to. Leadership is composed of two general kinds of behaviors: task behavior and relationship behavior. Task behavior focus on goal accomplishment and help subordinates in achieving their behavior while relationship behavior help subordinates to feel comfortable at workplace. Central focus of this approach is to examine how leaders combine these two types of behavior in order to make subordinates to put their efforts to reach a goal.

Many studies have been conducted to investigate the behavioral approach. Some of the first studies were conducted at Ohio State University in late 1940s. At the same time, another group of researchers at Michigan University were studying leadership functions. These studies sparked hundreds of other leadership studies and are still widely used.

The Ohio Studies:

Group of researchers at Ohio studies analyzed how a group of individuals acted when they were leading a group or organization. For this purpose, complete questionnaire about leader was developed on that questionnaire, subordinates had to identify the no. of times their leaders engaged in certain kind of behavior. Questionnaire was composed of 150 questions and was called the Leader Behavioral Description Questionnaire. (Hemphill and Coons, 1957). Questionnaire was distributed among military, manufacturing companies and educational institutes. The result showed that the certain clusters of behaviors were typically of leaders. Researchers found that respondent’s responses on the questionnaire clustered around two general types of leader’s behavior: Initiating Structure and Consideration (Stogdill, 1974). Initiating Structure sometimes called task-oriented behavior, involves planning, organizing and coordinating the work of subordinates. Consideration involves showing concern for subordinates, being supportive, recognizing subordinates’ accomplishments, and providing for subordinates welfare.

Many studies have been conducted to determine which style of leadership is most effective in a particular situation.

In some contexts, high consideration has been found to be most effective, but in other situations, high initiating structure has been found most effective. Some research has shown that being high on both behaviors is the best form of leadership.

The University of Michigan (1961 & 1967):

The Michigan leadership studies took place at about the same time as those at Ohio Studies. The focus of the Michigan studies was to determine the principles and methods of leadership that led to productivity and job satisfaction. The studies resulted in two general leadership behaviors or orientations: an employee orientation and production orientation (Likert). Leaders with an employee orientation showed genuine concern for interpersonal relations, while those with a production orientation focused on the task or technical aspects of the job. The supporters proposed that the more the leader is employee oriented, the lesser he’ll be production oriented and vice versa. He suggested that employee oriented approach results in the most positive outcomes.

The Managerial Grid:

The behavioral dimensions from early behavioral leadership studies provided the basis for the development of a two dimensional grid for appraising leadership style. One concept based largely on behavioral approach to leadership effectiveness was the Managerial (or Leadership Grid) development by Robert Blake and Jane Mouton (1964). The Grid helps to explain how leaders help organizations to reach their purposes through two factors: concern for production and concern for people. It closely parallels the idea and findings that emerged in the Ohio State and University of Michigan Studies. Concern for production refers to how a leader is concerned with achieving organizational tasks. Concern for people refers to how a leader attends to the people in the organization who are trying to achieve its goals. In grid, concern for production has been placed on horizontal axis and leader’s concern for people has been placed on vertical axis. Leaders’ behavior was ranked on a scale of 1 (Low) to 9(high). The grid has 81 potential categories into which a leader’s behavioral style might fall, emphasis was placed on five: authority compliance (9,1), country club management(1,9), impoverished management (1,1), middle of the road management(5,5), and team management(9,9).Researchers concluded that managers performed best when using a team management(9,9) style. It promotes a high degree of participation and team work in the organization a satisfied a basic need in employees to be involved and committed to their work. Team management approach cannot be affective in all situations. So leaders have to adapt their style according to follower’s ability.

The assumption of the leader behavior was that there were certain behaviors that would be universally affective for leaders. Unfortunately, empirical research has not demonstrated consistent relationship between leader’s behavior and leader effectiveness. The failure to attain a consistent relationship led to a new focus on situational influences. Like trait research, leader behavior research did not consider situational influences that might moderate the relationship between leader behavior and leader’s effectiveness.

Situational Leadership Theory:

As the name of approach implies, situational leadership focuses on leadership in different situations. The premise of the theory is that different situations demand different kind of leadership. From this perspective, to be an effective leader requires that a person adapts his or her style to the demands of different situations.

Contingencies theories gained prominence in 1960s and 1970s. Few of the situational leadership theories are discussed in next section.

The Fiedler Model (1967):

Fred Fiedler was the one who gave the first comprehensive contingency model. It specifies how situational factors interact with leader’s traits and behaviors to influence leadership effectiveness. This theory proposed that effective group performance depends on the proper match between a leader’s style of interacting with his or her followers and the degree to which the situation allowed the leader to control and influence. The theory suggests that the “constructivity” of the situation determine the effectiveness of task and person oriented leader behavior. Constructivity is determined by three things: leader follower relationship, task structures and the position power. Situation is constructive when followers respect and trust the leader, the task is highly structured and leader has control over rewards and punishments.

To measure leader’s style, Fiedler developed Least Preferred Coworker (LPC) Questionnaire. In questionnaire researcher used 16 pairs of contrasting adjectives like hardworking-not hardworking, friendly-unfriendly. Leaders were asked to think of a coworker with whom they had tough time and rate them on bipolar scale ranging from 1 to 8(8 describes positive adjective while 1 describes negative adjective out of the pair). Fiedler believed that you could determine a person’s basic leadership style on the basis of the responses to the LPC questionnaire. Fiedler concluded that high LPC score shows that leader is people/relationship oriented while low LPC score means that leader is task oriented. Fiedler research indicated that leaders were more effective either in highly favorable situation or highly unfavorable situation while relationship oriented leaders perform better in moderate situations.

Fiedler contingency has been criticized on both conceptual and methodological grounds. There was no discussion on the practicality of LPC and it is probably unrealistic to assume that a person cannot change his style in order to fit the situation. This theory does not take into consideration all situational factors. Despite its shortcomings, empirical research has supported many of specific propositions of the theory, the Fiedler model provided evidence that effective leadership style needed to reflect situational factors.

Hersey and Blanchard’s Situational Leadership Theory (1969 & 1977):

In contrast to Fiedler’s contingency leadership model and its underlying assumption that leadership style is hard to change (trait theory). The Hersey Blanchard situational leadership model suggests that successful leaders do adjust their style (behavioral approach). Secondly, Fiedler define situation covering three dimensions namely leader-follower relationship, task structure and position power while Hersey and Blanchard defined situation as a function of follower’s maturity/task related maturity of subordinates. Follower’s maturity is indicated by follower’s readiness to perform in a given situation. Readiness is largely based on two major factors-follower ability and follower confidence. Situational leadership theory uses the same two leadership dimensions that Fiedler identified: task and relationship behavior. However, Hersey and Blanchard go a step further by considering each as either high or low and then by combining them into four specific leadership styles. The two-by-two matrix shown below indicates the four possible leadership styles.


Participating Styles

Share Ideas


Follower’s able, unwilling,

not confident

Selling Style

Explain Decisions


Follower’s unable, willing,


Delegating Style

Turnover decisions


Follower’s able, willing,


Telling Style

Give instructions


Follower’s unable, unwilling,

not confident



Hersy Blanchard model map each leadership style to each maturity level, as shown below.

Maturity Level

Appropriate Leadership Style

M1: Low Maturity

S1: Telling/Directing

M2: Medium Maturity, limited skills

S2: Selling/ Coaching

M3: Medium maturity, higher skills but lacking confidence

S3: Participating/Supporting

M4: High Maturity

S4: Delegating

To use this model, reflect on the maturity of individuals within team. The table shows which leadership style Hersey and Blanchard consider the most effective for people with that level of maturity.

Unlike many other leadership theories, this approach does not have empirical research findings to justify and support the underpinning on which it stands. As a result, there is ambiguity regarding how the approach conceptualizes certain aspects of leadership. It does not explain how subordinates move from low development levels to high development level nor is it clears in explaining how commitment changes over time for subordinates. Also, the model does not clearly define how to match leader behavior from one situation to another (Draft 1999). Vroom and Jago 2007investigated that overwhelming focus of this theory was on one situational variable (the maturity of followers) and thus other important contextual characteristics within which interactions take place are ignored. According to assumption of model, follower’s maturity is taken as independent variable while task related leader’s behavior is taken as dependent variable. However, it remains one of the better-known contingency theories of leadership and offers important insights into the interaction between subordinates ability and leadership style.

Path-Goal Theory:

Path-goal theory first appeared in the leadership literature in early 1970s in work of Evan (1970) and House (1971). Path-goal theory emphasized the relationship between leader’s style and characteristics of the subordinates and work-setting. This theory was based on expectancy theory (Vroom 1964), which suggests that subordinates will be motivated if they think they are capable of performing their work (path instrumentality), if they believe their efforts will result in certain outcomes (expectancy) and if they believe that the reward for doing their work are worthwhile (valence). In this perspective, leader’s behavior is dependent upon subordinate’s needs, desires and task characteristics.

Therefore, path goal theory is designated to explain how leaders can help subordinates along the path to their goals by selecting specific behaviors that are best suited to subordinate needs and to situations in which subordinates are working. By choosing appropriate style, leaders can give rise specific motives related to task through rewards in order to achieve goals.

House (1971) identifies four leader’s behavior. These are achievement oriented, directive, participative and supportive. Leader’s behaviors are contingent to the environment factors and followers characteristics. In contrast to Fiedler’s view, a leader could not change his or her behavior, but House assumes that leaders are flexible. In other words, path goal theory assumes that same leader can display any or all of these leadership styles depending upon the situation. Path-goal theory proposes two classes of situational or contingency variables that moderate the leader -behavior outcome relationship: environmental/task characteristics that are outside the control of followers (e.g. task design, formal system of authority)- these have a major impact on the way a leader’s behavior influence follower’s level of motivation. Second is subordinate’s/follower’s characteristics (e.g. locus of control, experience) – these determine how a leader’s behavior is interrupted by subordinates in a particular work context (Northouse, 2007).

Environmental contingency factors

Task Design

Primary Workgroup

Formal System of Authority

Leader’s Behavior Outcomes

Directive Performance

Supportive Job satisfaction


Achievement Oriented

Subordinates Contingence Factors

Perceived level of task obtained

Locus of Control

Need for affiliation



The theory proposes that leader’s behavior will be ineffective when it’s redundant with sources of environmental structure or incongruent with follower characteristics. When follower’s needs are there, there is desire for leader intervention. Moreover, he described certain situations in which leader’s interventions have positive impact and in which negative influence. It has been investigated that employee performance and satisfaction is likely to be positively influenced when the leader compensates for shortcomings in either the employee or in the work setting. However, if the leader spends time in explaining tasks that are routine tasks and are clear or when the employees has the ability and experience to handle them without leader’s intervention, the employee is likely to see such directive behavior as redundant or even insulting.

Based on these theoretical reasons, one can easily conclude that leader’s intervention is dependent upon work settings. In some work settings leader’s intervention is highly valued while in others have no value or even considered as negative. Later on, this notion became base for evolution of substitutes for leadership and follower’s need for leadership.

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