Behavioral leadership is not really a type of leadership. Instead, it is the study of the kinds of actions and behaviors that make up what we can call a leadership style. This field of study relies on inter-disciplinary approach to understand the phenomenon of leadership and how leaders can effectively engage their followers.
Behavioral leadership is different from situational leadership, which tends to focus on the effectiveness of leadership styles depending on the various stimuli that can be found in the environment of the leader and the organization.
This is a kind of social science study because it does not rely on “hard” sciences to achieve understanding. Rather, it looks at case studies and quantitative approaches occasionally so as to look at the behaviors exhibited by leaders in various times and situations.
Among those who advocated behavioral leadership are Kurt Lewin, Ronald Lipitt and Ralph White. They started doing this back in 1939 with the publication of their work on the influence of leadership performance and styles. Based on their research, they identified three leadership styles based on the behavior of the leaders.
1) Authoritarian leadership style. This kind of leaders makes decision alone and they do not involve others. They give orders and expect to be followed 100% of the time. The leader also prescribes the right way of doing it and is aloof from the followers.
2) Democratic leadership style. There is more participation and consultation in this kind of leadership. The democratic leader relies on group discussions and inputs from knowledgeable experts. The choices are arrived at based on consensus or voting. This works best in a setting where people know each other and they are fairly assertive of what they want to happen.
3. Laissez faire leadership. The group rules in this kind of situation! The leader has abandoned his leadership and just let his people do their own thing. This is dangerous in situations that require hands on assistance from the leader. But in situations where every member of the team is capable and can be considered an expert, this leadership style can easily work!
These types of leadership can be easily implemented in various situations in the organization. You just have to be sensitive to the situation and needs of your organization. If you just apply one over another because it is your preference, you become rigid. More than that, you also become unstable. And that will be a source of weakness in your leadership and in your organization. Choose carefully. The style of leadership is secondary to achieving the vision and the goals of your organization.
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