The leadership theories in the behavioural approach

The credibility of a theory is determined by its accuracy towards reality. Behavioural approach to leadership is in an improvement to Trait Theory because it provides a more realistic focus and assumptions to leadership. While trait theorists focus on the belief that leaders genetically  possess certain characteristics, or traits, which set them apart from non-leadersi(Inkson & Kolb, 2002: p313), behavioural approach focuses on the different styles of leadership that a leader may learn to perform. Trait theory also states that a set of traits exist in all leaders alike.

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That is, all leaders possess the same characteristics. In contrast, behavioural approach gives flexibility for leaders of diverse characteristics and situations. This essay will address in depth the above assumptions of the behavioural approach, in particular, Blake and Moutonis Managerial Grid and how it is more realistic and improved than those of the trait approach. Developed in the late 1940s, behavioural approach to leadership states that it is what leaders do that makes them effective (Aronson, 2001), and that anyone who adopts the appropriate behaviour can be a good leaderi (Daft, 1999, p69).

The focus of the theory is primarily on how leaders lead and what they do rather than the traits that a leader may possess. These behaviours are determined through two core factors: task and relationship. The underlying assumption evident is that it is possible for a person to learn to be a leader whether it is through training or personal experience. The theory further developed over half a century to state that different situations will determine the effective style to lead.

Specifically, no one leadership style is always considered best, but the best leader is one that determines and adopts the best style for the particular situation (Williams, 2000). The initial studies of leadership behaviours by Kurt Lewin of Iowa State University were that of three separate leadership styles: autocracy, democracy and laissez-faire. These studies were further developed by Tannenbaum and Schmidt who placed autocracy and democracy on a continuum (Daft, 1999).

Additional developments were also made at Ohio State University, University of Michigan, and University of Texas where the Managerial Grid was developed. Robert Blake and Jane Mouton of the University of Texas developed a two dimensional leadership theory, namely, the Managerial Grid. The two core factors, concern for production and concern for people represents the x and y axis of the grid respectively. Five various leadership styles that represent different combinations of these two factors are plotted on the grid as follows.

Situated on the upper right-hand corner (9,9), Team Management, with the maximum level of concern for both factors, is the style of leadership where unity and commitment among the members are established to achieve high level goals. Before the development of the concept that the best leadership style is one that best fits the situation, Team Management was thought to be the ultimate (Williams, 2000).

Country Club Management (1,9) puts an emphasis on concern for people. This style of leadership can be described as  accommodatingi due to the creation of friendly and comfortable atmosphere. However, low effort is put in to achieve objectives and therefore may not be the most suitable for highly demanding organizations (Aronson 2001). In contrast, the accomplishment of tasks is the primary objective for Authority Compliance Management (9,1). The consideration for membersi needs is irrelevant under this dictatorial style of leadership and may be best described by the behaviour of Adolf Hitler.

Organizations with the need for discipline such as military groups may also undertake Authority Compliance Management. Centering the grid is Middle-of-the-Road Management (5,5) where the necessities of output and human morale are both maintained at a reasonable level. It is believed that the majority of todayi?? i?? s leaders fall into this category (Aronson 2001). Impoverished Management (1,1) describes the absence of leadership philosophy where little effort is made to accomplish both morale and production (Daft, 1999).