Behavioral Theory of Leadership: Meaning & Application

A person's behavior is the broad spectrum of actions taken by people impacted by their environment, including their society, emotions, feelings, beliefs, morals, power, friendship, psychology, influence, compulsion, and heredity. It is generally accepted that humans' neurological body and hormonal function play the largest roles in regulating behavior. Both inherent and acquired behaviors are possible; one can have similar behavior throughout life. Their behavior is influenced by various things, including their mind-set, basic beliefs, societal mores, and DNA makeup. Each person has distinct features that affect their behavior. Each human's qualities are unique and, therefore, can lead to various acts or behaviors.

Behavior Theory

In the 1940s, in addition to research studies on the features expressed by leaders, the study was also undertaken on the behaviors demonstrated by leaders. The earliest and most important research on leadership was conducted in 1939 by psychologist Kurt Lewin and his team, who recognized distinct types of leadership, namely authoritarian, democratic, and laissez-faire leadership, which will be examined in the next section. While characteristics theory holds that "leaders are born, not produced," behavioral theories hold that distinct behavioral patterns of leaders may be learned via learning and experience. While trait theory focuses on "who the leaders are," behavioral theories focus on "what the leaders do." This section has addressed four distinct leadership behavioral patterns, which are as follows

Ohio State University Research

One of the most important investigations on behavioral theories was conducted by E.A. Fleishman, E.F. Harris, and H.E. Burtt at Ohio State University in 1945. The study classified leadership behaviors into two groups: starting structure and consideration, under which the numerous leadership behaviors were grouped.

Beginning Structure

The extent to which a leader is likely to define and organize his or her position and workers in the pursuit of goal accomplishment is called initiating structure. It includes attempts to organize work, work relationships, and objectives. A leader with an initiating structure is often task-oriented, emphasizing staff performance and fulfilling deadlines.


According to the "consideration" category, a leader is more concerned with the well-being, comfort, and contentment of employees than with the task at hand. A leader prioritizes relationships characterized by reciprocal trust, respect for workers' views, and consideration for their feelings. The two-factor model of Ohio Studies has gained widespread acceptance in recent years.

University of Michigan Research

Like the Ohio State University experiments, Rensis Likert and his collaborators conducted a leadership study at the University of Michigan's Research Centers in 1946. The research looked at the association between leadership behaviors and organizational success. According to Michigan Studies, there are two types of leaders: employee-oriented leaders and production-oriented leaders

Employee-Oriented Leader

Employee-oriented leaders were more concerned with interpersonal relationships with employees, and such leaders paid more attention to the needs of employees and tolerated individual diversity among members.

Production-Oriented Leader

Production-oriented leaders focus on the technical components of the work or the tasks allotted to employees rather than on the people themselves. Such leaders placed little value on group members and saw employees as only a means to an end, i.e., the aims of a company.

The two-factor conception of the Ohio research is similar to the two-way dimension of the Michigan experiments. While employee-oriented leadership is comparable to the "consideration" component of Ohio studies, production-oriented leadership is comparable to the "initiating structure." While the Ohio studies considered both components necessary for effective leadership, the Michigan research prioritized the employee-orientation component above the production-orientation component.

The Management Grid

The Managerial Grid theory of leadership, like the Ohio State and Michigan studies, was founded on the leadership styles of "care for people" and "concern for productivity." Robert Blake and Jane Mouton created the Managerial Grid theory of leadership in 1964. This graphical representation of the idea is also known as the "Leadership Grid Theory." The Managerial Grid established five types of leadership styles, which include the following

  • Impoverished, with little care for people and production (1 by 1)

  • Country Club, where the emphasis is on people rather than manufacturing (1 by 9).

  • Task with a strong emphasis on productivity and a low emphasis on people (9 by 1)

  • In the middle of the road, there is reasonable care for both production and people (5 by 5)

  • A team concerned about people and production (9 by 9).

As a result, this theory provides a valuable framework for conceiving and comprehending leadership styles. Though behavioral theories contribute to understanding leadership effectiveness, there are other choices for determining leadership success. In other words, it cannot be stated unequivocally that a leader exhibiting specific leadership qualities and behaviors is always effective. Situational settings can have a significant part in determining a leader's performance.


It prioritizes care for the group and organization's employees while working as a part and encouraging transparent decisions to guarantee efficient procedures. Supports personal and collective requirements while fostering group performance. Helps companies identify the same implications of one's habits on the management style and efficiency of one's crew, assists organizations develop an enduring relationship with colleagues, encourages support and dedication to organizational success, and upholds the orientation of personal and collective goals to make it successful.


Interpersonal prejudice: This leadership paradigm considers a single leader's distinctive deeds. As a result, there is a chance that the boss will bias the decision-making process. Managers may prevent this by being more conscious of their prejudices, developing a conscience, and soliciting input from their colleagues. Although the behavioral theory of management gives managers freedom, it also implies that it does not offer suggestions on how to react in certain circumstances. Nevertheless, this adaptability equips managers to decide wisely depending on specific situations

Traits of Behavioral Leadership

responding to criticism, inspiring dialogue Supporting workers in their improvement, granting workers independence, Practical schedule management, determining duties depending on each person's abilities and interests, Understanding and repeating the player's core mission and its aims to meet with staff members regularly to monitor performance and provide criticism, encouraging workers to cooperate both with and without you, achieving objectives, establishing and sustaining a positive atmosphere at work.


In every company culture, it is thought that effective leaders drive organizational advancement and growth. Professionals have the necessary learning and abilities to boost numerous industry operations' efficiency, which spurs the expansion and improvement of organizations. The Behavioral Theory of Leadership implies that skillsets may be acquired instead of innate, which is a significant departure from Trait Theory. This theory is founded on the idea that behaviors may be trained to respond in a certain way to particular stimuli. This research identifies what managers do by examining their behaviors in reaction to various circumstances, evaluating performance outcomes by examining their activities and associating major behaviors with effectiveness. It does this instead of looking for inborn attributes.