The Behavioral Theory and Leadership Approach

Conceptual Map

Leadership is one of the most critical defining elements in any organization. It is implicit in the capacity of an individual or an organization to direct its employees and team members towards the fulfillment of desired objectives. Leadership theories are frameworks that help to explicate how and why certain people succeed in authority while others do not (Chow et al., 2017). This paper presents an analysis of the behavioral leadership approach as one of the key theories of leadership. It examines the behavioral theory with special emphasis on the conduct of leaders and how they affect leadership outcomes in contemporary organizations.

In the past, numerous researches have evaluated the behavioral approach of leadership. The most perceptible past studies regarding this topic were done in the 1940s at the Ohio State University and Michigan University. The Ohio state university study elicited the relevance of considering additional factors other than a leader’s traits in leadership research. On the underscore, the Michigan study was an evaluation of how leadership works in small groups (Chow et al., 2017). Notably, other studies examined how leaders applied task and relationship traits in the workplace setting.

The Behavioral Theory

The behavioral theory is a leadership approach that provides a broad framework for its assessment. The theory focuses on the behaviors of leaders and how those behaviors affect organizational outcomes (Cote, 2017). In essence, the behavioral approach works by examining how particular leaders behave. Besides, the theory seeks to evaluate the major components of leaders’ behaviors. The behavioral leadership theory is attributed to Dr. Lennis Likert, who led the University of Michigan Study aimed at explicating the features of effective leadership. As noted earlier, the University of Michigan study is one of the past studies that have been conducted on the topic of behavioral theory (Chow et al., 2017).

Likert posited that good leaders possess a certain set of attributes. He advanced the perception that effective leaders are different from others due to the exceptional traits that they possess. This argument implies that anyone can become a great leader by simply adopting particular authority traits. This notion disregards the conventional perception that some people are born leaders. Rather, it reinforces the ideology that they are made. In essence, anyone could become a great leader by simply leveraging and adopting certain behaviors.

The behavioral theory implies that the actions of a leader are either task-oriented or relationship-oriented. In some work scenarios, leaders are inclined to be task-oriented while, in others, they have to be relationship-oriented. Whereas some followers need a lot of supervision and direction, others prefer less authoritative leaders. In essence, the behavioral theory offers a means of evaluating the conduct of leaders and how it affects organizational outcomes (Cote, 2017). Leaders impact their followers through the tasks they perform and the relationships they create.

Application in a Higher Education Setting

The behavioral approach can work well in nearly all organizational settings. At any level of an organization, leaders are incessantly engaged in both task-oriented and relationship-oriented behaviors (Northouse, 2019). The behavioral approach can apply well in a higher education setting, particularly in the docket of student affairs. For instance, the leaders working in the office of student affairs can embrace good leadership traits to achieve favorable outcomes in their engagements with them on matters about their welfare.

As noted earlier, the actions and actual behaviors of a leader define their success in any workplace setup. Leaders dealing with student welfare can leverage the behavioral approach to gain flexibility and adapt to circumstances. As task-oriented leaders, such individuals will be capable of dealing with the concerns raised by the followers, who are students in this case. They will be able to see that something needs to be done to strike a balance between the concerns of students and the values of the higher learning institution.

The behavioral approach also focuses on the relevance of being people-oriented. In a higher education setting, leaders can apply this strategy to focus on students and enquire about the challenges that they are facing while at the institution. The behavioral approach is highly congruent with a participative form of leadership. Participative leaders consult their followers when designing systems and methods for achieving the team’s goals (Northouse, 2019).

This form of leadership can apply well in the context of a student affairs office in an institution of higher learning. Ideally, leaders working in the office of student affairs can leverage the behavioral approach to get crucial information from students. In any higher learning institution, particular concerns affect the life and welfare of students. Clearly, the behavioral approach can provide a good ambiance for students to voice their grievances and concerns.

With the behavioral theory, work becomes more collaborative implying that students will feel encouraged to voice their concerns more consistently and accurately. Moreover, the approach will grant students the liberty to participate in decision-making processes about matters of student welfare. In any organizational setup, the behavioral approach ensures that every team member’s voice is heard, enhancing communication and collaboration (Scott et al., 2018). In their higher education setup, the approach can be profoundly useful in maintaining close relations between leaders and students.

Comment on the Strengths and Limitations of the Theory

The behavioral theory has its share of strengths as well as limitations. One of the most common advantages of this approach is that it contributes to a better understanding of the leadership process (Scott et al., 2018). Leaders working at the office of student affairs can apply this theory to evaluate their actions and how they impact the welfare of their followers, who are learners in this case. Second, the behavioral approach focuses on diverse types of behaviors that comprise tasks and relationships. In the higher education example discussed above, leaders can balance their task-oriented activities with their relationship-oriented aims to better address students’ concerns. These two elements form a critical part of the leadership process.

On the downside, the behavioral theory has various weaknesses. For example, there is no proof that a leader’s behavior affects performance outcomes (Scott et al., 2018). In the learning institution setup example, there is no sufficient proof that the behaviors of the leaders will help achieve desirable outcomes in matters of student welfare. Additionally, the behavioral approach may not be effective in every situation. Some studies prove that there are situational elements that dictate whether one leadership behavior is more effective than others (Northouse, 2019).

In the higher learning institutions, the practicability and application of the behavioral theory will depend on the situation and severity of students’ concerns. Another weakness of the theory is that leaders have other considerations on how to manage their followers. They may consider their influence and power to create new approaches to work. In the higher education setting, leaders may feel that they are superior to students who are their followers. This may consequently affect the decisions they make in matters of student affairs.

To conclude, behavioral leadership approach can be applied in nearly all organizations. The theory focuses on the conduct of leaders and how that influences organizational outcomes. Its strengths are significant compared to its weaknesses. For instance, the approach ensures that leaders consider the diverse types behaviors of their followers and fosters understanding within an organization. However, there is no proof that the leader’s behavior affects the organizational performance, one of its main drawbacks.


Chow, T. W., Salleh, L. M., & Ismail, I. A. (2017). Lessons from the major leadership theories in comparison to the competency theory for leadership practice. Journal of Business and Social Review in Emerging Economies, 3(2), 147-156. Web.

Cote, R. (2017). A comparison of leadership theories in an organizational environment. International Journal of Business Administration, 8(5), 28-35. Web.

Northouse, P. G. (2019). Leadership: Theory and practice. SAGE Publications.

Scott, C. P., Jiang, H., Wildman, J. L., & Griffith, R. (2018). The impact of implicit collective leadership theories on the emergence and effectiveness of leadership networks in teams. Human Resource Management Review, 28(4), 464-481. Web.

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