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Behavioral Theories of Leadership

Behavioral theories of leadership are classified as such because they focus on the study of specific behaviors of a leader. For behavioral theorists, a leader behavior is the best predictor of his leadership influences and as a result, is the best determinant of his or her leadership success.

This behavior-focused approach provides real marketing potential, as behaviors can be conditioned in a manner that one can have a specific response to specific stimuli. As a result, we have gone from the supposition that leaders are born, (Great Man Theory) through to the possibility that we can measure your leadership potential (Trait Theory) via psychometrics measurements and then to the point that anyone can be made a leader (Behavioral Theories) by teaching them the most appropriate behavioral response for any given situation. When a few of those situations are combined; you have a program that you can trademark and market! The The evolution of leadership: From Philosophy to Market article explores that question. On a side note: There are excellent leadership programs available to guide you on your leadership journey, just assure that the program you chose is complete.

There are two important Behavioral studies

Ohio State University (1940s)

As leadership studies that were aimed at identifying the appropriate traits didn't yield any conclusive results, a group of people from Ohio State University developed a list of 150 statements from their generated responses that included 1,800 hundred statements. The list was designed to measure nine different behavioral leadership dimensions. The resulting questionnaire is now well-known as the LBDQ or the Leaders Behavior Description Questionnaire.

As part of the study, the LBDQ was administered to various groups of individuals ranging from college students and their administrators, private companies including military personnel. One of the primary purposes of the study was to identify common leadership behaviors. After compiling and analyzing the results, the study led to the conclusion that there were two groups of behaviors that were strongly correlated. These were defined as Consideration (People Oriented behavioral Leaders) and Initiating Structure (Task Oriented Leaders).

Task oriented leaders

Task Oriented Leaders

The task concerned leaders are focusing their behaviors on the organizational structure, the operating procedures (S.O.P.) and they like to keep control. Task-oriented leaders are still concern with their staff motivation; however it's not their main concern. They will favor behaviors that are in line with:

  • Initiating
  • Organizing
  • Clarifying
  • Information Gathering

People oriented leaders

People Oriented Leaders

The people oriented leaders are focusing their behaviors on ensuring that the inner needs of the people are satisfied. Thus they will seek to motivate their staff through emphasizing the human relation. People oriented leaders still focus on the task and the results; they just achieve them through different means. Leaders with a people focus will have behaviors that are in line with:

  • Encouraging
  • Observing
  • Listening
  • Coaching and Mentoring

University of Michigan (1950s)

Lead by the famous organizational psychologist, Dr. Rensis Likert, the leadership studies at the University of Michigan identified three characteristics of effective leadership; two of which were previously observed in studies that had been conducted at Ohio State University. The study showed that task and relationship-oriented behaviors weren't of major significance within the world of organizational psychology. However it was the third observation that introduced a new concept, one of participative leadership!

Behavioral Theories

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