Patterns of Leadership Behavior

The experienced leader uses many complex and subtle resources to exercise his influence and stimulate those he leads to be creative and productive. From the complex range of leader behavior, we have selected five of the most typical patterns, ranging from highly leader-centered to highly group-centered.

  1. Telling – the leader identifies a problem, considers alternative solutions, chooses one of them, and then tells his group members what they are to do. He may or may not consider what he believes the group members will think or feel about the decision, but they clearly do not participate directly in the decision-making. Coercion may or may not be used or implied.
  2. Selling – the leader, as before, makes the decision without consulting his group. However, instead of simply announcing his decision, he tries to persuade the group members to accept it. He points out how he has considered organization goals and the interests of group members and he states how the members will benefit from carrying out the decision.
  3. Testing – the leader identifies a problem and proposes a tentative solution. Before finalizing it, however, he gets the reaction of those who will implement it. He says, in effect, “I’d like your honest and to the point reactions to this proposal, and I will then make the final decision.”
  4. Consulting – the leader here gives the group members a chance to influence the decision from the beginning. He presents a problem and relevant background information, then ask the members for their ideas on how to solve it. In effect, the group is invited to increase the number of alternative actions to be considered. The leader then selects the solution he regards as most promising.
  5. Joining – the leader here participates in the discussion as “just another member” and agrees in advance to carry out whatever decision the group makes. The only limits placed on the group are those given to the leader by his superiors. (Many research and development teams make decisions this way).

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