13 Style theory of leadership

Alec Smith, Nick Helm, Zach Stark, Ian Stone

Style Leadership theory does not focus on who leaders are, but rather on what they do. It focuses on task and relationship behaviors (Burkus 2015). Although trait and skill theories have ideas that can be intertwined and can be compared to one another, style leadership theory differs quite drastically. Instead of focusing on who leaders are or what qualities they possess, were born with, or skills they acquired, Style Leadership instead focuses on what they actually do/did. Style Leadership refers to behavior and action tendencies held by the leader that led to their individual style of leadership and how it impacted their environments. Style Leadership focus on 2 main types of behaviors, 1) Task Behavior and 2) Relationship behavior.

Style theory refers to three main theories or styles of leadership. These studies are known as…

  • The Ohio State University Studies
  • The Michigan University Studies
  • The Blake and Mouton Managerial Grid.

In 1945, a group of researchers at Ohio State University looked to identify some of the observable behaviors in leaders instead of focusing on their specific individual traits. To document their findings, the University generated a list of 150 statements that measured nine different dimensions of leadership behavior. These statements were used to develop the Leaders’ Behavior Description Questionnaire (LBDQ). The surveys were given to members of a group and asked to respond to a series of statements about their leader of the group. The LBDQ survey showed how the leaders engaged in certain behaviors. The results of the survey showed that the two main behaviors were consideration and initiating structure. Consideration is how the leader shows concern for members of the group. These leaders treated everyone as his/her equal, were friendly and approachable. Initiation structure means the leader is very task oriented. Group members follow rules and regulations and they know what is expected of them. These were the most significant factors in leadership. Follow the link for more information https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VV1s_ZtMkP4.

The University of Michigan has produced some of very important studies of leadership. Studies that date back to the 1950s have identified two leadership styles of employee orientation (see people as people) and production orientation (people are viewed as a way to get the job done). The studies have shown that for best results an employee orientation is better than a production orientation. This could be improved even further when employees are trusted and are not watched over at all times.  The studies also identified three major characteristics of effective leaders.

  • Task-oriented behavior – Planning, coordinating, and scheduling work/activities to get the job done
  • Relationship-oriented behavior – focused on the relationship with people below and around them
  • Participative leadership – involve team members in the planning to help better create a team

The Michigan leadership studies along with the Ohio State University studies took place in the 1940s and are two of the best-known behavioral leadership studies. They continue to be studied and cited today. Both studies look to identify the best combination of the leadership behaviors even though they use different methods to do so. Their research has led to many researchers attempting to define leadership behaviors that work in any and all situations. However, the results of these researches are inconclusive. This suggests that there is not just one style of effective leadership that works the best.


Robert R. Blake was born January 21st, 1918 and died on June 20th, 2004. Blake studied Psychology at Berea College, University of Virginia where he earned his Master’s. He later went on to earn his Ph. D. at The University of Texas, Austin. He stayed at his alma mater until 1964 where he was a professor.

Jane Mouton was born April 15th, 1930 and died December 7th, 1987. Mouton received her Bachelor’s Degree in Math Education in 1950. In 1951 she earned a Master of Science Degree in Psychology from Florida State University. She then later returned in 1957 to earn her Ph. D. from the University of Texas, Austin.

Robert R. Blake and Jane Mouton developed their concept of the “Managerial Grid” while working together at their alma mater, The University of Texas. Here, their theories and hypotheses were put to the test and developed as they came up with an organizational program for the oil powerhouse we know today as Exxon. Robert R. Blake and Jane Mouton founded “Scientific Methods Inc.” in 1951 to provide consultation and evaluation services to various companies and organizations using the facets of what would later be called, “The managerial grid”.  Their company eventually grew to nearly 30 countries worldwide.

The Managerial Grid is based on two different behavioral thoughts, concern for people, and the concern for results. Concern for people is where a leader considers the teams’ needs, interests, and areas of improvement when deciding how to best accomplish task at hand. The concern for results is where a leader points out specific objectives, readiness, and where to strengthen production when deciding how best to accomplish the task.   The final theory in Style Leadership Theory is known as the Blake and Mouton Managerial grid or also known as the Leadership Grid. It was developed in the early 1960s by Robert Blake and Jane Mouton. The grid was made to show a leader’s concern for people or their concern for results. It also identifies five different combinations of leadership styles that are produced from people, results, or both.


As you can tell by the grid shown, the x-axis shows the concern for results and the y-axis shows the concern for people. This plots the five different points showing what Blake and Mouton believe to be the most effective method of Style Leadership. Below we will briefly describe each plotted managerial concept found on the grid.


Impoverished Management – Low Results and Low People

The impoverished or “indifferent” manager is the most ineffective. These leaders have little to no interest to create a work environment that gets the job done. With little interest in motivating or satisfying the team, the results are almost always unorganized, lack agreement and have no satisfaction. An example of this may be a manager who is leaving or retiring. They no longer have interest in the company or the employees.

Produce-or-Perish Management – High Results and Low People

These types of managers are autocratic and have strict rules, policies, and procedures. By viewing punishment as an effective way of motivating team members, this approach can lead to high production results. However, this lowers the teams’ morale and diminishes motivation. This will ultimately hurt people’s performance. This type of leader will struggle to keep performance at a high level and no one will be happy. An example of this is if a manager takes over a department for a short period of time. They don’t care for the people and just want to get the job done.

Middle-of-the-Road Management – Middle Results and Middle People

A Middle-of-the-Road or “status quo” manager tries to keep a balance between results and people. This strategy sounds alright but is not as effective as it may seem. Through constant adjustments, it will not succeed in having high performances and will never fully meet the needs of the people. The result is that the team will not be very happy and that will show in the lack of production.

Country Club Management – High People and Low Results

The Country Club or “accommodating” style of manager keeps tabs on how team members are feeling. The leader assumes that as long as employees are happy and feel needed, they will work hard and perform better.  An example of this is if a manager just got hired or promoted. They want to stay friendly with old peers and will forget to criticize or discipline employees.


Team Management – High Production and High People

Team management is the most effective leadership style and has a leader who shows passion in their work. Team managers manage both the organization’s production and needs so that the team members understand the organization’s purpose. By involving the people in determining production needs, they feel committed and want to have a say in how successful the organization can become. This creates a respectable environment based on trust. This will ultimately lead to higher satisfaction, more motivated employees, and overall better performance. An example of this is an experienced manager who shows commitment to their employees but does not depend on being well liked by them.




  • Style Leadership Theory – focuses on what leaders do rather than who they are
  • Consideration – how leaders show concern for members of a group
  • Initiation Structure – the leader is very task oriented
  • Employee orientation – see people as people
  • Production orientation – people are viewed as a means to get the job done
  • Task-oriented behavior – Planning, coordinating, and scheduling work/activities to get the job done
  • Relationship-oriented behavior – focused on the relationship with people below and around them
  • Participative leadership – involve team members in the planning to help better create a team
  • Impoverished management –managers/leaders have little to no interest in the people
  • Produce-or-perish – These types of managers/leaders are autocratic and have strict rules, policies, and procedures
  • Middle-of-the-road management – managers/leaders try to keep a balance between results and people
  • Country Club management – the managers/leaders assume that as long as the people are happy, the work will get done
  • Team management – Managers/leaders put the people first but still expect a high production rate



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