The concept of leadership is one that has attracted considerable attention over the years. From governmental leaders to institutional leaders, what leaders should do, and what they should not do have received continuous attention. Even more, why leaders act, what makes them act, and how they become leaders have continually received analysis.
It is in this light that various studies have emerged in a bid to understand the decision-making process of leaders. A prominent result of this study is the behavioral theory of leadership, which offers a leap from the trait theory. This essay thus undertakes an examination of the behavioral approach to leadership management as a theory of leadership.
Broadly, the concept of leadership involves the relationship that exists between a leader and their followers. However, due to the distinctiveness of these relationships’ realities, even in similar situations, the necessity to understand leadership arose. One of the first and most prominent approaches towards understanding leadership was the trait leadership theory (TechnoFunc, 2013).
This theory focused on the leaders, precisely their traits, in a bid to understand the concept of leadership. However, in the coming years, precisely in the 1950s, a new theory arose – the behavioral theory of leadership (TechnoFunc, 2013).
This theory shifted the focus of leadership studies from understanding leaders’ traits to a focus on the leader’s behaviors. This approach to leadership management postulated that leaders’ behaviors posed a more significant focus of study than the physical, emotional, internal, or mental state of such leaders.
Precisely, this approach postulates that leaders are not born; instead, they are made. As such, individuals can learn the tenets of leadership through observations and training. Generally, this approach postulates that every individual can become a leader through the right effort and learning.
Furthermore, this approach recognized two types of behavior, namely, relationship behavior and task behavior. Noteworthy, this division first emerged thanks to the Ohio studies of 1957. In this study, researchers examined the behavior of leaders within an organization by distributing questionnaires to their followers (TechnoFunc, 2013).
These questionnaires comprised 150 questions distributed to subordinates among manufacturing, educational, and military institutes. Then, upon analysis, the researchers discovered that leaders exhibited certain types of behavior geared towards two areas, namely Consideration and Initiating Structure.
Considerations involved actions that demonstrated concerns and care for subordinates, such as being supportive, supporting subordinates’ welfare, and recognizing and appreciating subordinates’ accomplishments. On the other hand, initiating structure involved actions such as planning and coordinating subordinate’s work (TechnoFunc, 2013).
Hence, through entries that demonstrated consideration and initiating structure, the researches established relationship behavior and then established task behavior through initiating structure.
Generally, the former involves how leaders help their subordinates experience comfort and assurance at the workplace. It involves behavioral attributes that individuals can exhibit as a leader to ensure subordinates and followers feel comfortable while at work (TechnoFunc, 2013).
The latter involves how leaders help their subordinates achieve set goals in the workplace. Precisely, it involves behavioral attributes that individuals exhibit as a leader to ensure subordinate and followers meet and accomplish group and individual goals (TechnoFunc, 2013).
The behavioral approach to leadership management examines how individuals – leaders – can effectively lead followers through a combination of both the relationship and task behavior (TechnoFunc, 2013).
Additionally, another critical study relevant to the development of the behavioral theory of leadership was the Michigan studies undertaken by the University of Michigan around 1961. This study focused on the methods and principles – behavior rather than traits – that increased job satisfaction and productivity (TechnoFunc, 2013).
This study identified two major leadership orientations or behavior, namely product orientation and leadership orientation. Like in the Ohio studies, leaders either display behavior geared towards either interpersonal relationships or the technical aspect of a job (TechnoFunc, 2013).
Generally, under product orientation, leaders focus on the technical aspect of a job while under employee orientation, leaders focus on interpersonal relationships and employee satisfaction (TechnoFunc, 2013).
Noteworthy, there have been various attempts to identify which of the two aspects is more effective due to the belief that individuals could not engage in both types effectively. However, this notion has changed, and it is generally believed that individuals can effectively exhibit both person and task-oriented behaviors.
As such, in recent times, the focus has shifted to identifying which of the two aspects is more effective in specific situations (TechnoFunc, 2013).
Scholars have identified various arguments and advantages to justify the behavioral theory of leadership. Prime among these justification cum benefit is that this theory promotes value in leadership due to its emphasis on people and collaboration. Precisely, rather than focus on traits, it focuses on the relationship between leaders and subordinates with attention to concern for subordinates (TechnoFunc, 2013).
Similarly, it promotes a mutual and participative process of decision making. In turn, this promotes individual and team development, which ensures higher productivity for the organization or institution. It enables superiors to find a balance between the various leadership styles to promote interpersonal relationships and achieve group goals (TechnoFunc, 2013).
Although various justifications have emerged in favor of the behavioral approach to leadership, it is not without its criticism and shortcomings. Like the trait theory of leadership, the behavioral approach has certain limitations (TechnoFunc, 2013).
Precisely, this approach generally neglects environmental factors in its conceptualization of leadership. This, in turn, poses a significant limitation as certain behaviors may be ineffective depending on the context. For instance, specific behavior that improves performance in an educational setting might be wholly ineffective in a military setting (TechnoFunc, 2013).
Also, there were significant inconsistencies and differences between studies. As such, it became difficult to identify what leadership style produced the best result in varying circumstances (TechnoFunc, 2013).
Although the behavioral approach to leadership management provides valuable insight into the idea of leadership, it remains inadequate. As such, it remains necessary to approach leadership while considering factors beyond a leaders’ behavior.
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