The University of Michigan Studies


A series of studies on leadership were done in Michigan University, starting in the 1950s. Under the general direction of Rensis Likert, the focus of the Michigan studies was to determine the principles and methods of leadership that led to productivity and job satisfaction. Two types of leadership behaviours were identified:

  • employee orientation (stress the human-relations aspect, employees are viewed as human beings with personal needs)
  • production orientation (stress on the technical and production aspects of the job, employees viewed as the means of getting the work done).
Leaders with an employee orientation showed genuine concern for interpersonal relations. Those with a production orientation focused on the task or technical aspects of the job.
Renis Likert

The conclusion of the Michigan studies was that an employee orientation and general instead of close supervision yielded better results. Likert eventually developed four "systems" of management based on these studies; he advocated System 4 (the participative-group system, which was the most participatory set of leader behaviors) as resulting in the most positive outcomes (Encyclopedia of Management, 2009).


Sirje Virkus, Tallinn University, 2009