Style Theory of Leadership: Advantages and Disadvantages

Updated June 24, 2022

Understanding the way effective leaders operate and make decisions can help you become a more effective leader yourself, especially if you frequently collaborate or manage others. Regardless of your role, your leadership style can help you foster positive working relationships and help your team achieve its goals. Intentionally developing certain leadership behaviors can enable you to become a more effective team member and overall leader. In this article, we discuss the style theory of leadership, as well as some advantages and disadvantages of this approach.

What is the style theory of leadership?

Also known as behavioral theory, the style theory of leadership is one of many leadership theories. It focuses on the actions of effective leaders rather than the individual traits that comprise an effective leader. The theory states that there is no one style of leadership that is effective in each unique situation, but there are usually two distinct behaviors that leaders exhibit to improve their effectiveness.

These two behaviors are:

Task behaviors

These behaviors can help a team achieve its goals and focus on the concrete actions a leader can take to increase their effectiveness.

Task-oriented leaders focus more on setting actionable goals and establishing efforts to achieve them. These types of leaders thrive in structured and well-defined work environments that rely on producing results. Some strengths of task behaviors include:

  • Clarification of daily objectives

  • Defined task outlines

  • Setting deadlines

  • Clear advice and direction

  • Effective delegation

  • Reward systems

  • Often achieve desired outcomes

Relationship behaviors

These behaviors help improve rapport and morale among team members and enable each individual to feel more comfortable within their work environment.

Relationship-oriented leaders focus on developing team relationships and foster a collaborative environment to enhance those relationships. These types of leaders are suitable for positions that require frequent communication between individuals. Some strengths of relationship behaviors include:

  • Encouraged communication

  • Close observation of team members' progress

  • Active listening and effectively solve people's issues

  • Coach and mentor team members to optimize their performance

The primary purpose of identifying these two distinct behaviors is to identify how leaders combine these two behaviors to influence others and accomplish their organization's goals. This theory suggests that people can become effective leaders based on learned behavior rather than solely relying on inherited traits.

Related: 6 Leadership Theories for Career Growth

What are the five additional types of behavioral styles?

The combination of task and relationship leadership behaviors has resulted in five alternative behavioral systems that range from focusing on building relationships to total focus on producing results. These different styles can be more or less effective based on specific teams or situations.

The five types of behavioral styles that stem from task and relationship behaviors are:

  • Country-club management: This style focuses heavily on people and building relationships instead of results. These leaders are often agreeable and comforting and focus on addressing the social and personal needs of a team.

  • Team management: This type of management attempts to balance people and results equally. These leaders set clear goals and foster positive team relationships to achieve those goals.

  • Impoverished management: This behavioral style, which most effective leaders try to avoid, minimizes focus on people and results. A leader using this style performs their individual duties but is often indifferent to their team's progress and needs.

  • Authority-compliance management: This management style focuses highly on results and places lesser concern on building relationships. These types of managers often judge their team members on whether they can produce the desired results.

  • Middle-of-the-road management: This style attempts to balance the concern for people and results. A leader using this style is often interested in continued progress but attempts to avoid disagreements.

Related: 10 Ways To Build Effective Leadership Behaviors

What are the advantages of the style theory of leadership?

The unique approach of the style leadership theory results in several benefits compared to other trait-based styles. Several studies support its use, making it a credible and viable approach to understanding leadership processes.

Some additional benefits of this theory include:

  • The possibility to cultivate and develop leaders

  • Flexible patterns of behavior

  • Measurable behaviors that one can alter

  • Adaptability to unique situations

Related: What is Behavioral Leadership Theory? Definition and Types of Behavioral Leadership

What are the disadvantages of the style theory of leadership?

This leadership style also has some disadvantages because due to its flexibility. The primary disadvantage of this theory is that it doesn't directly state how to act in order to achieve specific results.

Some additional disadvantages of this theory include:

  • No specific style for different situations

  • Largely influenced on leaders' experiences

  • Affected by each working environment

  • Effectiveness varies between teams

Read more: The Advantages and Disadvantages of Behavioral Theories of Leadership

Tips for adopting the style theory of leadership

There are many ways you can adopt the style theory of leadership to become a more effective leader. One of the first steps toward adopting this style includes examining your leadership style or the style of those around you. Once you analyze what behaviors seem to produce desired results within your company, you can reflect and adapt according to your research.

After you identify which behaviors may help your team members succeed, you can begin to implement styles of behaviors that better fit your situation and the people around you. For example, if your team seems to struggle with unclear directions and other communication issues, you can employ relationship behaviors that focus on fostering productive communication. You can learn or condition individual behavioral skills, as continuously changing situations require different behavioral approaches to increase their effectiveness.

What are some other common leadership theories?

Aside from the behavioral or style theory of leadership, there are several other theories of leadership that focus on additional components of leaders. Additional theories include:

  • The great man theory

  • The trait theory

  • The transactional or management theory

  • The transformational or relationship theory

  • The situational theory

While several components of different theories may overlap, each theory has specific core components that differentiate one theory type from another theory type. By analyzing your leadership approach, you can discover your strengths and weaknesses that may help you become a more effective leader. It's important to remember that leaders often alter or adjust their leadership style to align with their specific group or situation in order to achieve desired results.

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