Leadership can also be analyzed in terms of how much contribution the leader obtains from subordinates before solving a problem or making a decision. As previously discussed, most leaders are situational and they use both styles on different occasions.
A popular leadership trend since the 1980s has been to encourage employee participation in problem solving and decision making. By obtaining and considering the suggestions of subordinates, a leader has access to more data, experience and opinions.
Participation can occur when the leader either delegates total responsibility for tasks or allows subordinates to participate in problem-solving and decision-making processes. A more restrictive form of participation is used when a leader discusses the task with subordinates but ultimately makes the decision as to what will be done. By using a participative style of leadership, a leader doesn't relinquish the responsibility to get the job done, but gives subordinates the authority to help arrive at the right decision to get the job done correctly. Participation is particularly effective in less structured or rapidly changing work environments.
Leaders who have a direction orientation decide what needs to be done and communicate this to subordinates. They may or may not explain why they chose a course of action and they may use persuasion techniques to bolster their directives. These leaders autocratically assume that, since they know the right answer, seeking input from subordinates is unnecessary. They may rationalize the use of a directive style by citing organizational problems, such as low employee educational levels and competence, even though this may not be applicable. The degree to which a leader may be directive depends upon a number of factors.
For example, leaders tend to be more directive when there's high uncertainty in the situation, little time is available, a short-term increase in productivity is needed, or they exercise a high degree of positional or organizational power. Directive leadership tends to be used more than participative leadership in slow-changing situations or where less employee input is needed.
Relationship or Task Orientation
The best leaders concern themselves both with people relationships and the tasks for which they are responsible because tasks usually are accomplished more effectively when human factors are considered. The degree of integration of task and relationship varies considerably with each leader; the exact mix partly depends upon task urgency, subordinates' work performance and ability, organizational climate, and the leader's natural inclination toward one orientation or the other.
Leaders who set relationships as a priority recognize the synergistic effects of attending to the human side of work. This doesn't mean they're less concerned with accomplishing tasks but that they know the best way to achieve high-quality success is to make sure they consider subordinates' and team members' needs. They do this by maintaining warm, close and friendly relationships with their followers and co-workers and by openly trusting and supporting them.
A complete task orientation means that a leader has foremost in mind the job that must get done. Without seeking input from subordinates, the leaders structure the work, define the goals, allocate resources, and focus on achieving production quotas or delivery of services. People are of concern, but only because they're necessary to get the work done. This leader uses an inflexible, no-nonsense approach with subordinates.
Consideration or Initiation Orientation
Considerate leaders do what any considerate person would do, but in the context of leadership. Since they concern themselves with subordinates' interests and well-being, they're sensitive toward their feelings, needs and goals. Before making decisions, they seek suggestions from subordinates and consider what effects these decisions will have on the team. By openly praising and privately correcting subordinates, they establish a working environment in which people trust, respect and follow them.
Initiation refers to a leader's ability to start activities and organize work. Strong initiators prefer not to let the group completely structure its work or make all of the on-the-job decisions. They prefer not only to determine what must be done but also who does it and how it is to be done. Consequently, they focus on tasks: most of their daily initiatives occur simply to facilitate achievement of work-related goals. Since there can be overlap in these two orientations, a leader could be both highly considerate and initiating and still be effective.
Action or Inaction Orientation
Action-oriented leaders involve themselves with fulfilling work responsibilities. They take charge of these responsibilities by using the leadership and management principles discussed in Leadership Made Easy and by realizing that subordinates perform better when their leaders are aware of work-related issues, interested in seeing goals achieved, and actively monitoring performance.
Active leaders establish and communicate their subordinates' authority, responsibilities and work parameters. Having this knowledge of what is expected of them and the encouragement to perform well, employees will gain the autonomy that most of them crave. There are distinctions between action and inaction. By asking a subordinate to complete a task, for example, the leader is actively delegating an assignment, not avoiding taking action.
Leaders who are inactive are much less engaged in their work than active leaders. On a spectrum of reasons for such inactivity, you will find leaders who consciously shirk their responsibilities and those who do not realize they're less active than they need to be. Inactive leaders tend to react to a daily work challenge after someone tells them about it, whereas the active leader proactively seeks out impending obstacles. In addition to the risk that inactive leaders pose to their organization's ability to achieve goals, the leaders themselves risk being perceived as irrelevant or ineffective by their subordinates.