Can a Leader be Multifaceted in their LDST Style?

I will focus this first reflection on relationship versus task-oriented leadership styles, referencing Hogg et al. (2005)’s comparison of LMX theory and social identity theory as a guide.

As we discussed in Theories and Models, task-oriented leaders strive to get the job done through delegation and strategy, while relationship-oriented leaders tend to gear their efforts toward building rapport within a group. According to Hogg et al. (2005), groups that are low in salience have higher preferences for personalized (relational) leadership, whereas groups that are highly salient prefer depersonalized leadership. LMX theory, specifically, supports both the former and the latter, as higher group salience indicates a stronger bond amongst the group (and therefore, less emphasis on relationships because the interpersonal glue is already in tact). On the other hand, groups that are ranked low in salience might need to invest more time in guided ice breakers before they can set out to make to-do lists.

Based on this comparison between low versus high salience in the context of preferential LDST style/group effectiveness, one might argue that task-oriented leadership and relationship-oriented leadership are two dichotomous styles of leadership, seeing that they serve various groups in different ways (Hogg et al., 2005).

Or…do they?

Couldn’t the argument be made that leaders are sometimes task and relationship-oriented…at the same time? In the same place? Working toward the same objectives?

After having completed my first week of internship, I am tempted to answer “yes” to the questions above. I believe that leaders can function relationally while still getting things done. I also stand by the idea that leader-member relations are important investments for the purpose of task fulfillment (i.e. forward progression).

This past week afforded me a bit of insight into the UR Events office workplace dynamic–that is, from a unique perspective based on our prior analysis of Hogg et al. (2005)’s findings. Already, I have a gut instinct intuiting that relationship-oriented leadership is not only elevated in the Events office, but it also necessary for the completion of tasks. This office, in particular, seems to function as the nucleus of campus (at least in the summertime). A lot of information goes into the office, and an equal (if not greater) amount of information must be funneled out in a timely manner. Thus, the relational approach to leadership is welcomed, as well as essential to overall task performance in the UR Events office.

Tying my observations back to the research, I would argue that the Events office is high in salience, as their group performance is already tethered to relational foundations–with strong communication at the core. Therefore, depersonalized leadership is the best-case scenario here (according to Hogg et al., 2005), as it allows each employee the space and opportunity to be a team player while getting the job done.

Further, Lausten and Petersen (2017) provide a theory on dominance that could extend the LMX/social identity analysis of workplace dynamics in their article, “Perceived Conflict and Leader Dominance: Individual and Contextual Factors Behind Preferences for Dominant Leaders”. The researchers posit that relationship-oriented leaders tend to value dominance less (seeing it as a potential threat to group harmony), while task-oriented leaders highly endorse dominance for the sake of output (Lausten and Petersen, 2017).

Based on my observations, there does not appear to be any conflicting power dynamics in the office–or overt dominance–that could potentially inhibit relationship-building (and by default, task fulfillment). In fact, there is a distinct  interpersonal nature shared amongst the full-time employees in the office–one that fosters a sense of belonging.

Thus, task and relationship-oriented leadership styles work in tandem for optimal productivity within this workplace context. And as a result, we get to experience a positive work environment!



One thought on “Can a Leader be Multifaceted in their LDST Style?

  • June 6, 2019 at 4:11 pm

    Catchy title, most definitely. And really thoughtful reflection. Though not necessary to invoke (and cite) specific literature in these reflections, it will definitely serve you well when you go to write your theory into action paper this fall. As this is based on your first week in the office, which was undoubtedly busy in preparation for reunion weekend, it will be interesting to see if your observations about power dynamics hold true over the course of your experience or whether the longer your tenure, the more exposure you have to different things (including perhaps conflicts/competing power players, etc.). I like your notion that development of leader/follower relations is a step towards successful completion of task.

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