Considerate leadership is a particular characterization of leader behavior that emphasizes commitment to developing personal relationships with followers, care and concern for others, willingness to attend to the unique preferences and work styles of subordinates, and facilitating cooperation among members of a work group. The concept was central in the Ohio State Studies of the 1960s and led to studies published by Edward Fleishman, who specified two distinct clusters of effective leader behavior: “Initiating Structure”, or the extent to which a leader defines leader and group member roles, initiates actions, organizes group activities and defines how tasks are to be accomplished by the group; and “Consideration,” the extent to which a leader exhibits concern for the welfare of the members of the group. Around the same time as the Ohio State studies, research conducted at the University of Michigan revealed a similar pattern of effective behavior, distinguishing leader behaviors that were task-oriented (i.e., initiating structure) from those that were people-oriented (i.e., consideration). According to this model, leaders who were people-oriented were more considerate, helpful, and supportive of subordinates. Similarly, Blake and Mouton proposed a Managerial Grid in 1964, which identified five important behaviors for effective managers. These behaviors were clustered into a concern for production, which concerns the degree to which a manager emphasizes specific and concrete objectives; organizational efficiency and productivity when making decisions; and a concern for people, or the degree to which a employee needs and preferences are taking into account. These three sets of seminal studies represented a meaningful evolution in leadership research, which, up to that point, had focused primarily on identifying the specific and unique traits characteristic of great leaders. Since then, several models of leader behavior have included reference to a leader’s care and concern for others, appreciation of individual differences, and interest in the general welfare of the team. For example, transformational leadership theory, as introduced by Bass in 1985, highlights four dimensions of especially effective leader behavior, including individualized consideration, or the degree to which leaders attend to followers’ needs, act as mentors or coaches, and listen to followers’ concerns. Similarly, recent models of servant leadership theory, as discussed in Reed, et al. 2011 (cited under Servant Leadership), include an “interpersonal support” (caring) dimension, where leaders “perceive their decisions in the context of utilitarianism and benevolence, stressing an overarching concern for the well-being of others, including society at large” (p. 418). Lastly, Rafferty and Griffin 2006 (cited under Supportive Leadership) isolates supportive leadership as distinct from developmental leadership. In doing so, the authors define supportive leadership as behaviors that are attentive the interest of subordinates and considerate of their personal feelings and concerns. As recently as 2013, van Knippenberg and Sitkin made a critical assessment of the charismatic-transformational leadership paradigm. In doing so, they offered four criticisms of how these leadership models have been developed and tested. Especially relevant in their review is a summary of how essential leader behaviors, such as leader consideration, are described, operationalized, measured, and tested in various modern models of effective leadership.
Textbooks and Other Summaries of Considerate Leadership
Leadership textbooks vary in their treatment of the behavioral approaches to leadership in general, and to considerate leadership in particular. Recently published leadership textbooks extend prior treatments of the literature by highlighting subtleties of new theories and the integration of diverse disciplines that are demonstrative of modern research. Most textbooks are practitioner-oriented, including cases, applications, and useful questionnaires that can be utilized in practice. There are variations across books, but most are more similar than dissimilar. In general, books not only focus on the specification of leader behaviors (e.g., consideration) that would most likely result in positive outcomes, but also address the functional approach to leadership, in which the context is deemed important. Two widely used representative textbooks are Yukl 2012, now in its 8th edition, and Northouse 2012, now in its 6th edition. Uhl-Bien, et al. 2017 is a textbook that highlights the importance of context in understanding leaders and leadership. Vecchio 2007 is a complete anthology of key writings by well-known leadership scholars. Antonakis and Day 2012 introduces readers to state-of-the-art approaches to leadership theory and practice such as evolutionary and biological perspectives, individual differences, and shared leadership. Miner 2005 provides a detailed review and analysis of the building-block theories in organizational behavior, motivation, and leadership. Bass and Bass 2008 is a highly comprehensive and detailed book comprising relevant leadership styles, models, research and related fields. Nohria and Khurana 2010 is a highly practitioner-oriented handbook. Most summaries of the leadership literature tend to highlight the progression of scholarly thought from a focus on key traits and individual differences (e.g., intelligence, sociability) that characterize effective leaders to the specification of leader behaviors (e.g., consideration) that would most likely result in positive outcomes.
Antonakis, John, and David V. Day, eds. The Nature of Leadership. 2d ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2012.
Organizes a summary of leadership thought into the three key thematic areas: 1) science, nature, and nurture; 2) the major schools of leadership; and 3) leadership and special domains.
Bass, Bernhard M., and Ruth Bass. The Bass Handbook of Leadership: Theory, Research, and Managerial Applications. 4th ed. New York: Free Press, 2008.
Focuses on historical and modern leadership theories as well as future directions; status, power and influence, and conflicts; leadership of teams; management and organizations; diversity and culture; and development and identification of leaders and leadership.
Miner, John B. Organizational Behavior 1: Essential Theories of Motivation and Leadership. Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 2005.
Key theories are highlighted and each chapter includes the background of the theorist represented, the context in which the theory arose, the initial and subsequent theoretical statements, research on the theory by the theory’s author and others (including meta-analysis and reviews), and practical applications.
Nohria, Nitin and Rakesh Khurana, eds. Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice. Boston: Harvard Business Press, 2010.
This handbook provides sociological, psychological, clinical, economic, and organizational behavior perspectives on leadership, and covers the practice of leadership (CEO leadership, team leadership, leading for innovation, decision-making, leadership development) as well as leadership and history, power, cultural context, and gender.
Northouse, Peter G. Leadership: Theory and Practice. 6th ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2012.
Describes and analyzes a wide variety of theoretical approaches on leadership with a focus on how each theory can be employed to improve leadership in real-world organizations. This book focuses on the description of the approaches, three case studies illustrating each approach, and the measurements to apply to each approach. The book further emphasizes on leadership ethics and women and leadership.
Uhl-Bien, Mary, Ronald F. Piccolo, and John Schermerhorn. Organizational Behavior. 1st ed. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2017.
Modern textbook that emphasizes critical thinking, conceptual understanding, and the interaction of leadership and organizational context. Chapters on relationship development, leadership, and organizational culture highlight the importance of considerate behavior in all of modern work.
Vecchio, Robert P., ed. Leadership: Understanding the Dynamics of Power and Influence in Organizations. 2d ed. University of Notre Dame, 2007.
The second edition text encompasses the major theories in the field of leadership with eight new chapters.
Yukl, Gary. Leadership in Organizations. 8th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson, 2012.
Excellent book composed of multiple chapters that summarize relevant leadership theories, empirical findings, practical implications as well as new directions. Also provides the reader with case studies. Highly readable and relevant for scholars, graduate students, and individuals interested in the study of leadership.
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