The third dimension of leadership: change-oriented behaviors.

Author:Norris, Ernest Alonza

    The author of this research paper, while conducting leadership research using a sample of leaders in a manufacturing organization noted an unexpected emergence of a third dimension of leadership, (later determined to be change-oriented behaviors), while performing the reliability analysis section of the research (Norris, 2005). The current article includes an examination of the third dimension of leadership proposed by research conducted by Ekvall and Arvonen (1991), and Yukl (1998), and Yukl, Gordon, and Taber's (2002) leadership taxonomy. In conducting the literature review, Yukl and Ekvall and Arvonen were the only research studies found asserting that a third leadership dimension existed. However, in the 1960s, Blake and Mouton (1964) actually used a third dimensional framework (concern for people, concern for task, and hierarchy in construction and development of the managerial grid theory, but only targeted task and relation behaviors aligning with the two-factor theory. Later, in the 1970s, Blake and Mouton revised the managerial grid theory to include organizational change and renamed the managerial grid theory to the leadership grid theory.

    In review of leadership research conducted at the University of Michigan, a third form of leadership, participative leadership, was recognized along with task and relation behaviors, but the primary focus was on the two-factor leadership theory. Participative leadership is one of the forth leadership styles existing in the popular path -goal leadership theory (House, 1972). In the following literature review, the presence of a third interacting dimension is implied in research conducted, but outside of Ekvall and Arvonen's (1991) and Yukl's (1998) research, leadership theorists only focused on task and relation behaviors as the two underlying dimensions. In leadership literature, the two-factor leadership theory is a salient theory influencing numerous leadership theories, styles, and models emerging in subsequent years. The theoretical framework underlying this research paper is the leadership (managerial) grid theory developed by Blake and Mouton (1964) and the literature review will focus on this theory throughout the paper.


    The two dimensional leadership model of leadership arose in the 1940s in leadership studies at the University of Michigan and the Ohio State University. The University of Michigan leadership studies, led by Rensis Likert, first recognized leadership as one-dimensional, suggesting that leaders only used employee-oriented behaviors (relationship-oriented) or production-oriented behaviors (task-oriented). The University of Michigan leadership researchers later revised their leadership research and adapted two-JOURNAL OF ACADEMY OF BUSINESS AND ECONOMICS, Volume 10, Number 4, 2010 126 dimensional leadership, targeting the relationship between leadership behaviors and small group performance as indicators of effective leadership (Northouse, 2001).

    The University of Michigan studies of leaders, managers, and supervisors in different organizational settings led to the identification of three independent types of leadership behavior: task-oriented behavior, relationship-oriented behavior, and participative behavior. The University of Michigan studies compared ineffective leaders with effective leaders and found the level of effectiveness differed among the three behaviors (Yukl, 2002):

  3. Task-oriented behavior. Effective leadership involved placing emphasis on planning, coordinating, and providing the resources needed by followers, including establishing goal-setting objectives for the followers. Task-oriented behavior was similar to Ohio State University's initiating structure leadership behavior (Yukl).

  4. Relationship-oriented behavior. Effective leadership moved beyond task-oriented behavior to provide more support and assistance to the followers manifested through trust, consideration, and appreciation of follower contributions. A similarity exists with Ohio State University's consideration behavior (Yukl).

  5. Participatory behavior. Effective leadership uses more group supervision as opposed to direct supervision on a one-to-one basis. Participatory leadership involved managing the group meetings, influencing commitment and conformity, and assisting in conflict and communication issues. Participatory leadership is one of the four leadership styles in the path-goal leadership theory (Yukl).

    Ohio State University leadership researchers, led by Ralph Stodgill, asserted that leaders used a degree of the task-oriented and relationship-oriented behaviors in their roles and responsibilities in organizations, depending on the situation (Lussier & Achua, 2004). Ohio State University labeled the two-dimensional set of behaviors as initiating structure (task behaviors) and consideration (relationship behaviors), resulting in four styles based on different measurements of initiating structure and consideration: (a) high-low, (b) low-low, (c) low-high, and (d) high-high styles of leadership. Fleishman (1970) defined the two leadership behaviors:

  6. Consideration. Consideration reflects the extent to which an individual was likely to have had job relationships with his subordinates characterized by mutual trust, respect for their ideas, consideration of their feelings, and certain warmth between himself and them. A high score was indicative of a climate of good rapport and two-way communication. A low score indicated that the individual was likely to be more impersonal in his relations with group members.

  7. Initiating structure. Initiating structure reflects the extent to which an individual was likely to define and structure his/her own role and those of subordinates toward goal attainment. A high score on this dimension characterized individuals who played very active roles in directing group activities through planning, communicating, scheduling, criticizing, trying out new ideas, and so forth. A low score characterized individuals who are likely to be relatively inactive in giving direction in these areas.

    In describing consideration, Yukl (2002) stated that "The leader acts in a friendly and supportive manner, shows concern for subordinates, and looks out for their welfare" (p. 50). In describing initiating structure, Yukl posited, "The leader defines and structures his or her own role and the roles of subordinates toward attainment of the group's formal roles" (p. 50). The Ohio State University leadership researchers created three well-known instruments: (a) leadership behavior description questionnaire (LBDQ), (b) supervisory behavior description questionnaire (SBDQ), and (c) the leadership opinion questionnaire (LOQ) (Fleishman, 1998). The instruments were included in numerous studies by leadership researchers, but the findings were inconclusive, with the only significance found in the relationship between consideration (relationship behavior) and employee satisfaction (Fleishman).

    Blake and Mouton (1964) expanded the leadership studies conducted at the University of Michigan and Ohio State University in the 1950s and 1960s. Blake and Mouton argued that leaders could use task-oriented and relationship-oriented behaviors simultaneously to achieve maximum benefits. In an overview of leadership behavior taxonomies, Yukl (2002) noted that Blake and Mouton's managerial grid theory was the only research investigating the relationship between behaviors and leader concerns relative to the environment and situational factors.

    Blake and Mouton (1964) constructed the managerial grid theory leading to five primary leadership styles. In 1989, Blake and associate Anne McCanse renamed the managerial grid the leadership grid. For purposes of this study, the leadership grid was considered synonymous with the managerial grid. Blake and Mouton hypothesized that all organizations contain three universal characteristics: purpose, people, and hierarchy. In examining the connection between the three universal characteristics, Blake and Mouton included three dimensions: concern for production, concern for people, and hierarchy. It is important to note that in the managerial grid framework only the first two dimensions are present. Blake and Mouton emphasized that the dimensions are a measure of how concerned a leader was for the production or people in the organization.

    Blake and Mouton described the two dimensions as degrees of concern existing in leaders' attitudes surfacing in how a leader was concerned for production, concerned for people, and how the concerns interact. The hierarchy theory represented...

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