Behavioral and Situational Approaches to Leadership

Behavioral Theory of Leadership

In this approach, the emphasis is on the actual behavior and action of the leaders and not on their traits or characteristics. In other words, this approach emphasizes that strong leadership is the result of effective role behavior.

This approach states that the leader uses three skills to lead his followers. These skills are: technical (refers to a person’s knowledge of the process of technique), human (refers to ability to interact with people and conceptual (refers to manager’s ideas which enable a manager to set up models and design plans).

This approach assumes that a particular behavior of a manager will make him a good leader while its opposite would discard him as a leader. Determining goals, motivating employees for achieving the goals, effective communication ability to interact effectively, building team spirit, etc. are the functional behavior of a successful leader.

This theory emphasizes the point that the favorable behavior of a leader provides greater satisfaction to the followers and they recognize him as their leader. However, one limitations of this approach is that a particular behavior and action of a leader may be relevant and effective at a particular point of time while at another, it may be irrelevant and ineffective. Thus, in this approach, the ‘time’ factor which is a vital element has not been considered.

Situational Theory to Leadership

According to this theory, leadership is affected by a situation from which a leader emerges and in which he works. In other words, the situation — the group, the problem and its environment — will affect the type of leadership. An important aspects of this theory is the interaction between the group and its leader and the people tend to follow the person who is capable of fulfilling their desires.

The theme in early approaches to understanding leadership was the desire to identify traits or behaviors that effective leaders had in common. A common set of characteristics proved to be elusive, however. Researchers were continually frustrated by the lack of consistent support for their findings and conclusions. As a result, research began to focus on what style of leadership was most effective in a particular situation. Contingency or situational theories examine the fit between the leader and the situation and provide guidelines for managers to achieve this effective fit.

The theorists in this section believe that managers choose leadership styles based on leadership situations. Managers adjust their decision‐making, orientation, and motivational approaches based upon a unique combination of factors in their situations: characteristics of employees, types of work, organizational structures, personal preferences, and upper‐level management’s influences.

The leader recognizes his followers’ desires and follows such methods (depending on the situation) which satisfy them. The main trust of the situational theory is that the leadership style may be effective under one situation and ineffective under the other. In other words, situational theory emphasizes that there is no one best style of leadership universally applicable to all situations and that the leader has to change his style of leadership from situation to situation. If the leader adopts the same style under all situations, he may not be successful. For example, Winston Churchill was the most effective and successful Prime Minister of Britain during the period of the Second World War, but he was a flop afterwards when the situation changed.

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