Style approach

A different perspective to trait theory for leadership is to consider what leaders actually do as opposed to their underlying characteristics. By the late 1940s researchers became less concerned with identifying individual traits of leadership and started to be more interested in leadership behaviours.

A number of models and theories have been developed to explore this. One approach focusing on the behavior of the leader is the style approach. This approach focuses on what leaders do and how they act (Northouse, 2007, p.69).

This approach indicates that leadership is composed of two general kinds of behaviors:

  • task-oriented behaviour and
  • relationship-oriented behaviours (McCaffery, 2004, p.64).

Task-oriented behaviours facilitate goal accomplishment and help group members to achieve their objectives. Relationships-oriented behaviours help subordinates feel comfortable with themselves, with each other, and with the situation in which they find themselves. The central purpose of the style approach is to explain how leaders combine these two kinds of behaviors to influence subordinates in their efforts to reach a goal (Northouse, 2007, p.69).

Many studies have been conducted to investigate the style approach: for example, The Ohio State University Study, The University of Michigan Study and Blake and Mouton's Leadership Grid. Adair (1983), Likert (1967) and Mintzberg (1973) have advocated this approach.

iDevice icon Reflection
There are many more approaches. Watch the following videoclip.  Do these situations sound familiar?

Leadership Styles 


Sirje Virkus, Tallinn University, 2009