Behavioural Theory

28/05/2020 1 By indiafreenotes

The shortcomings of the trait theory led to a significant change in the emphasis of leadership approach. This shift in emphasis began to focus attention on the actual behaviour and actions of leaders as against personal qualities or traits of leaders. According to this approach, leadership involves an interpersonal relationship between a leader and subordinates in which the behaviour of the leader towards the subordinates constitute the most critical element. The good behaviour of the leader raises the morale, builds up confidence and spirit among the team members and lack of good behaviour will discard him as a leader.

The behavioural approach differs from the traits approach in that:

(i) The traits approach emphasizes some particular trait to be possessed by leader whereas this theory emphasized on particular behaviour by him.

(ii) The purpose of trait theory was to separate leaders from non-leaders on the basis of traits, whereas the purpose of behavioural theory is to determine how various kinds of specific behaviour affect the performance and satisfaction of subordinates.

Behavioral leadership theory is conducted by scientifically evaluating the moods and actions of individuals in leadership roles to adopt patterns that may impact you and the environment around your team members. If a study of multiple leaders is large enough, statistical conclusions can be drawn to determine the tangible metrics of their behaviors, and it can serve as an indicator to if their management style encourages workplace improvement.

Behavioral leadership theories are designed to study a leader’s behavior in a controlled situation to generate marketing potential. If leaders can take the viewpoint of their customers when they’re reviewing a product or service targeted toward them, they know how to establish a lasting relationship, leading to continuous purchases and revenue for the company. In this article, we overview how behavioral leadership theories are defined and the effects they have on you and your coworkers.

Advantages of behavioral leadership theory

There are two main advantages of behavioral leadership theory:

  1. It addresses key questions on an organization’s leadership model

A couple of points that can be addressed by this study is if leaders expect you to cooperate among various departments on different tasks or if teams are consistently involved in decision-making to foster support on related projects. If there is a lag when it comes to the work being completed on a marketing project, the behavioral theory of leadership can answer why there may be a lag and who is directly responsible for it. If a marketing manager did not communicate expectations for the approval process on client deliverables, then a change of direction is needed to get a project back on track to keep the clients satisfied with your brand.

  1. It identifies the leadership style of your manager

Behavioral theories of leadership only assess behavior, not traits or capabilities. Trait theory goes in-depth on how managers and employees have characteristics like being adaptable to changing circumstances and alertness in a social environment that show if they’re qualified to be a leader. Executing a behavioral leadership theory evaluation highlights the events a manager acts upon given the situation.

If you feel like your means of communication differs from your manager, determine which leadership style your manager has, such as:

  • Coaching leadership: This kind of leader helps you set your and your department’s goals and is proactive in giving feedback about performance. For example, a manager can assign your team a project as a growth opportunity in addition to setting expectations and creating a positive work environment for staff. Each month, a sales director can set goals for their team to reach a quota of outbound calls to prospects, leads generated and deals closed over a set period. Once the sales director gathers all performance metrics, they determine if they met or exceeded their targets for these three categories, suggest improvements and answer questions or concerns from the team about how to proceed.
  • Visionary leadership: These types of leaders can inspire progress from their employees while earning trust for new ideas and creating a bond between you and other organizations’ employees. This is helpful if you’re a part of a smaller organization that is growing fast or a larger organization that is experiencing a corporate restructuring. If your manager forms a group with you and your coworkers to resolve anxieties about workload, this is an example of a visionary leader.
  • Servant leadership: Servant leaders have a people-first mindset and are fulfilled when you feel personally and professionally fulfilled. Many managers have the belief that if you’re fulfilled in all aspects of your life, then you’re more likely to produce great work regularly. They can raise employee morale and help you re-engage with your work. Say the CEO of your company has coffee with you once a month to address concerns, questions or thoughts about a product that is launching soon. This is intended to help alleviate confusion you may have about your work and to help the client receive a highly valuable product.
  • Autocratic leadership: An autocratic leader makes a company decision without consulting you about it directly. If a decision needs to be made quickly, then it makes sense to not loop you in, especially if you’re not an upper-level employee in an organization. This strategy can save you time if you’re working on a project that has a stringent client deadline so you don’t have to be pulled into a meeting that doesn’t require your input.
  • Laissez-faire or hands-off leadership: This approach is the opposite of autocratic leadership where its approach is centered on delegating tasks to different employees without or with little supervision. if you’re highly experienced in your field, then you would be in favor of this style as it requires little oversight. It’s also beneficial if you like the freedom of creating your own schedule that meets the department’s goals.
  • Democratic leadership: Democratic leaders ask their team to provide input before making a managerial decision. This can be a chance for you to shine by presenting your ideas in a way that is correlated to the teams’ performance. Even though each leader differs in how much input they ask from their team, an agreement matters if there is an unbreakable bond between coworkers.

Disadvantages of behavioral leadership theory

There are two main disadvantages of behavioral leadership theory:

  1. Behavioral theories are a learned process and take time

Whether you’re a leader or an employee, determining certain behaviors that fit scenarios come with trial and error. Leaders have to be willing to put themselves in an environment to be tested, and they have to acknowledge that their behavior is worth monitoring. With the vast deadlines pending and clients to attend to, a CEO or impactful leader may be a difficult test subject to access. However, if they show a willingness to be vulnerable, they’ll know more about themselves than they did going into the evaluation, and it can have a direct effect on how they interact with you as time progresses.

  1. Leaders have other considerations for how to manage employees

Leaders may consider power and influence approaches to getting work done and how to work with you. This way, your role and the manner in which you operate within an organization factors into what decision you make and when.

Two leadership styles that fit this paradigm include:

  • Pacesetter leadership: This approach is geared toward driving fast results from team members where they hold high standards for you and your colleagues for meeting your goals. Your manager can change a weekly staff meeting from one hour in the boardroom to a 15-minute standup meeting to go over the past week’s performance.
  • Transactional leadership: This method is also centered on a leader who is only measuring the performance of their team. This leader offers predetermined incentives, usually a monetary one for success or disciplinary action for failure. However, the leader still provides mentorship opportunities to achieve those goals. A sales director meets with their team biweekly to see how they can exceed their targets to earn their bonuses. This is not an optimal management style if you’re seeking to move into a creative field.

Criticism of the Behavioural Approach

(i) This approach does not take into consideration the situational variables. A particular leadership style may be effective in one situation, but it may not be so effective or ineffective in another situation. In fact, the situation determines the effectiveness of a particular leadership style.

(ii) This approach does not consider the time factor also. A particular behaviour or action of the leader may be effective at one point of time while the same may be ineffective at some other point of time. Several theories where developed during 1950s and 1960s that approached leadership from the standpoint of actual behaviour of leaders.

Two important behavioural theories are:

  • Michigan Studies
  • Ohio State University Leadership Studies
  1. Michigan Studies

These empirical studies were conducted slightly after World War II by the Institute of Social Research at the University of Michigan. The purpose of these studies was to identify styles of leadership behaviour that results in higher performance and satisfaction of a group.

These studies distinguished between two distinct styles of leadership:

(i) Production Centered Leadership

This leadership is also known as task oriented leadership.

The production oriented leadership stressed on certain points:

  • Rigid work standards, procedure and rules
  • Close supervision of the subordinates
  • Technical aspect of the job
  • Employees were not to be considered as human beings but as tools to accomplish the goals of the organizations.

(ii) Employee Centered Leadership

This style is also known as relation oriented leadership because it emphasize on human relations.

The main parts which are concentrated upon in this approach are:

  • To treat subordinates as human beings.
  • To show concern for the employees needs, welfare, advancement etc.
  • To encourage employee participation in goal setting and in other work related decisions.
  • To help ensure high performance by inspiring respect and trust.
  1. Ohio State University Leadership Studies

The Bureau of Research at Ohio State University conducted these studies. The main objective of the studies was to identify the major dimensions of leadership and to investigate the effect of leader’s behaviour on employee behaviour and satisfaction.

Ultimately, these studies narrowed the description of leader behaviour to two dimensions:

(i) Initiating Structure

(ii) Consideration

(i) Initiating Structure

It refers to the leader’s behaviour in defining and organizing the relationship between himself and members of the group.

The purpose of initiating structure is to:

  • Establish well defined patterns of organization.
  • Develop channels of communications and methods or procedures.
  • To supervise the activities of employees.


Consideration refers to the behaviour which can be characterised by:

  • Friendliness
  • Mutual trust
  • Respect
  • Supportiveness
  • Openness
  • Concern for the welfare of employees

The basic feature of this theory is that leadership behaviour is plotted on two axes rather than on a single continuum.