What are the Behavioural Theories of Leadership?

The behavioural theories of leadership say that there are different sets of leadership styles or behaviours that leaders adopt. This focuses on what leaders do, or how they behave rather than their

traits. Different patterns of behaviour were identified. These were then called "styles" of leadership. Four main behaviours were identified:

  1. Concern for task. The extent to which the leader emphasises high levels of productivity, organises and defines group activities in relation to the group's objectives.
  2. Concern for people: The extent to which the leader is concerned about his or her subordinates as people; their needs; interests; problems; development, rather than treating them as units of production.
  3. Directive leadership. The extent to which the leader makes all the decisions concerning group activities and expects subordinates to simply follow instructions.
  4. Participative leadership. The extent to which the leader shares decision making concerning activities with subordinates.

Further studies by The University of Michigan (1957) and Ohio State (1961) identified two independent dimensions of leadership which are in essence a combination of the four styles above:
  • Consideration and
  • Initiating structure
Some leaders concentrate exclusively on the task and see the team as a means to an end. Others, focus on people. Both approaches have their weaknesses and need to be kept in balance.

Blake and Mouton say that assumptions can guide the behaviour of managers. It is important to understand your own assumptions because they operate silently and they have a central role in controlling your behaviours. The Blake and Mouton Managerial Grid helps to examine assumptions about leadership. The Managerial Grid represents various ways that a manager can use their authority:

  1. Concern for production, getting results, bottom line, performance, profits,
  2. Concern for people, subordinates and colleagues. Getting results based on trust, respect,sympathy, understanding and support, working conditions

Blake and Mouton point out that concern for indicates the character and strength of assumptions present behind any particular leadership style. The manner in which these two concerns are expressed by the manager defines how authority will be used.

The behavioural theories have their limitations. It is recognised that the setting or environment plays a role in the effectiveness of the style used. Therefore, the contingency or situational theories also need to be considered.

Return to top of Behavioural Theories
Return to Leadership Theories
Return to Home Page