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Creating and Becoming a Leader – Understanding Behavioural Leadership Theory

We all know that our behaviour is important, whether at work or out in society at large. However, we might be less aware that there is a science behind our behaviour, particularly when it comes to leadership. This is where behavioural leadership theory has a huge role to play as we create — and become — the great leaders of tomorrow

What is behavioural leadership theory?

Behavioural leadership theory is an antidote to the idea of the ‘great man’ or ‘great woman’ — that some people are just superior to others and make better leaders as a result. Under this theory, leaders do not simply pop out of the womb; they are nurtured and grown over time, altering their behaviour and worldview to support and lead those they work with.

One of the earliest studies into behaviour in leadership was the Leaders Behavior Description Questionnaire or LBDQ. This questionnaire was produced by Ohio State University in the US in the 1940s and led to two distinct leadership groups — people-oriented and task-oriented. As the theory developed, it became obvious that there were not just one or two behavioural traits that characterised leadership styles. Instead, there was a huge number of different behaviour types to consider.


Types of behavioural leadership

There are many, many different types of behavioural leadership, each with its own characteristics and unique aspects. We can’t cover all of them here, but we will take a look at some of the most common forms of behaviour in leadership and how they impact the workplace.

Task orientation

Task orientation is a broad category, but in general, this refers to leaders who focus on systems, processes, and protocols within the organisation. These leaders create frameworks geared towards specific goal attainment. While this is likely to be based on tried and tested models, these models may be inflexible and might not work for all team members.

People orientation

People orientation is another broad behavioural category but tends to shift towards prioritising people over processes. In other words, individual working and training preferences are taken into account. This may be more effective at supporting workplace morale when compared with task-oriented styles, but managers will still need to make sure they are working towards specific goals.


Participative leadership essentially involves bringing more voices into the mix and discussing key issues before executive calls are made. Adopting this process ensures that everyone’s voice is heard, but it requires careful management to be productive. Communication must be frequent and high quality and stakeholders need to be fully engaged in the task at hand.


Dictatorial leadership could be considered the inverse of participative leadership in that there is no collaboration or discussion. Instead, this is replaced with direct instruction. Leaders may focus directly on the goals and objectives of the business without considering the needs of teams and individual staff members. Morale among team members may suffer as a result.

Indifferent or disconnected

Indifferent or disconnected leadership typically involves very little communication with the team itself and may also involve disconnection from company goals. This type of leadership may devolve into self-preservation and other negative working practices — to put it simply, this behavioural leadership style is best avoided.


Accommodating leadership is an extreme form of people orientation. Leaders go to great lengths to ensure that the human aspects of the operation are fully supported and that all team members have their personal needs met. This certainly has many positive aspects, but it can lead to a loss of focus if it is not aligned with productivity goals.

Balanced team

Also known as ‘sound leaders’, individuals with this leadership style will achieve a balanced focus, bringing together aspects of people-focus and goal-oriented leadership styles. Striking the right balance can have a hugely positive effect on the workplace, keeping the business in line with a broad range of different goals, while painting high levels of engagement and support within human teams.

There may be significant overlaps between the types of leadership we’ve discussed above, and applying behavioural leadership models certainly involves a great deal of nuance. However, we’ve covered these key types of behavioural

leadership to give you a better idea of the impact of behaviour on the workplace and how to adopt the right model for your business.

To discover more about behavioural leadership theory and how it relates to a more effective operation of your own company, reach out to our team today.