Task-Oriented Leader

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Find Your Leadership Style
The best leaders recognize their natural tendencies and use that knowledge to respond appropriately in different situations.

by Darylen Cote

The music teacher let you know last spring that the band needs new uniforms, new instruments, and new music, among many other things. With budget cuts, the school cant manage any further expenditures. You present the case to the members of your parent group, and they decide to do a major fundraiser to supplement the music education program this year. How would you go about implementing this project?

Would you pick the type of fundraiser to undertake, set the goal for the amount of money to raise, appoint a subcommittee, chair it yourself, create a detailed list of tasks to be done, include a time line for who will do what and when, and then see that everything gets done on schedule? If so, you are a task-oriented leader.

If you would ask for volunteers, tell them to choose exactly what type of fundraiser to do and project how much they think they can raise, then ask for a report back only if they need help or when the project is done, you are a people-oriented leader.

The blend of the way you relate to the people in your group and how you accomplish the tasks indicates your leadership orientation. Some people call it "style," but orientations are more ingrained. Occasionally you may choose to behave differently. But when push comes to shove, we all tend to have a way of leading we are inclined toward. That is our leadership orientation.

Research into how leaders behave conducted at several universities, including the University of Michigan, the University of Iowa, and Ohio University, has long pointed to two basic orientations: people-centered and task-centered. People-centered leaders say things such as "Feel free to do it however you think is best" and "Use your judgment." Most of the time, people-centered leaders let group members set a pace that is comfortable for them, rather than following the leaders' time line.

If you're a people-centered leader, you probably try out your ideas with the group and ask for ideas frequently. Your willingness to make changes agreed upon by the group is evident. You want everyone to be happy about doing this job. It doesn't much matter how it gets done or even when; every voice must be heard.

For an annual event like teacher appreciation week, a people-oriented leader might ask for volunteers to form a subcommittee. She would let the committee know when the event is usually held but also state that if that didn't seem convenient, it wouldn't hurt to adjust the time frame. Little information would be offered about what had been done for past teacher appreciation events, and the leader would encourage the group to do whatever felt right.

The only caution for the group might be to stay within the allotted budget but to feel free to divide the money as the members saw fit. If anyone asked a question, the leader might say "I'll leave you to figure that out with your group."

The Task at Hand
Task-centered leaders tend to say things such as "Try harder! Everyone needs to pitch in more to get this job done." Or "I want this job done the right way." Task-oriented leaders often create guidelines (more like rules!) for getting each job done. Rarely would these leaders consult the group members before acting. Instead, a task-oriented leader would let members know what she had decided and would further inform them exactly how the job was to be accomplished, right down to the timetable.

If you're a task-oriented leader, you probably have a very low tolerance for uncertainty or postponement. Endless...
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