Behavioural Leadership

thought leadership Jun 05, 2023


Successful leaders - those visionary leaders with eye-wateringly huge results and an oracle-like knack for making the "right" decisions are so fetishised in today's world - we are constantly seeking the next influential leader who will guide teams and organisations towards success. Yet, in this relentless pursuit, an essential element of effective leadership often goes unnoticed - the power of behaviour. Today, let's look at behavioural leadership, its significance, and how it can radically enhance leadership effectiveness and business outcomes.


🧐 What is Behavioural Leadership

Behavioural leadership is a leadership style that focuses on the actions and behaviours of the leader. Instead of predominantly relying on intrinsic traits or learned abilities, behavioural leadership emphasises the leader's actions in specific situations. This approach posits that effective leadership is less about what the leader does and how about how they do it. In allows us to understand that we can learn effective leadership behaviours, we are not locked in to the behaviours that we currently have. All the leadership behaviours that we have or want can be learnt and unlearnt and applied to the right situations.

Let's look at it through a simple, yet powerful model - the Leadership Grid by Blake and Mouton. In this model, leadership behaviour is plotted on a grid with two axes - concern for people and concern for production. The reason this is valuable to understand behavioural leadership is because behavioural leadership is being able to balance the focus on results (concern for production) with a focus on people management (concern for people). Leaders can fall anywhere on this grid, from having a high concern for people and low concern for production (Country Club Leadership) to the opposite (Task-Oriented Leadership). The most effective leaders, according to this model, exhibit a high concern for both people and production (Team Leadership), adeptly balancing the needs of their team members and the task at hand. I like this model because it's simple, and reminds us of our duty as a leader - don't be a dickhead, and actually aim to do a good job - we've chosen to lead so we should do it with the full intention of being amazing at it right?

👋 Why Behavioural Leadership Is Often Neglected

The crux of leadership development often lies in skill-building, such as mastering finance, operations, strategy, and technology. This bias towards hard skills and quantifiable outcomes, while necessary, can overshadow the nuances of behavioural leadership. The key reason? It's challenging to measure.

Unlike concrete KPIs, gauging a leader's impact through their behaviour involves complex analysis of interpersonal dynamics, team morale, and organisational culture—elements that don't always neatly translate into numbers on a spreadsheet. Yet, neglecting behavioural leadership can lead to unintended consequences—disengaged teams, decreased productivity, and ultimately, weaker business performance.

Research has indicated the powerful impact of behavioural leadership. A study by the Centre for Creative Leadership found that "leadership behaviours and styles were the cause of 23% of all derailing behaviour within organisations." Another study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology highlighted that transformational leadership, a form of behavioural leadership, significantly influences employee engagement, job satisfaction, and performance. 🥜 In a nutshell🥜 - being able to manage your behaviours helps limit your potential to derail yourself and your career, and helps you to perform more effectively as a leader.


👑 Unpacking the Power of Behavioural Leadership

Behavioural leadership holds transformative potential for leaders and organisations. By focusing on the 'how' of leadership - the behaviours, actions, and communication patterns - leaders can foster a more engaged, productive, and satisfied team. What I want YOU to think about is how can you balance the RESULTS you need to deliver, with the BEHAVIOURS you as a leader need to exhibit and encourage from your team.

For instance, let's consider a leader who displays a high concern for people in the Blake and Mouton model. They prioritise team well-being, demonstrate empathy, and are attentive to their team's needs and concerns. They foster an environment of trust and collaboration. When team members feel valued and heard, they're more likely to be engaged, leading to enhanced productivity and retention.

On the other hand, a leader who scores high on concern for production ensures that tasks are executed efficiently and objectives are met. They set clear expectations, provide constructive feedback, and motivate their team to achieve their best.

The true power of behavioural leadership lies in striking the right balance between these behaviours, adapting them to the needs of the situation and the team. This dynamic, situational approach contributes to long-term business growth and ensures the leader's effectiveness across diverse scenarios.


To see behavioural leadership in action, let's examine two contrasting examples.

First, consider a hypothetical CEO named Alex. Alex is results-driven, laser-focused on meeting financial targets and KPIs. However, they dismiss the importance of employee engagement, disregards team morale, and often overlooks the interpersonal dynamics within their team. Despite meeting financial goals, employee turnover in their company is high, morale is low, and the organisation struggles to retain top talent. [⚡️ Pop quiz: What quadrant does Alex sit in on the Blake & Mouton grid?]

Contrast Alex with another hypothetical leader, Lisa, who practices behavioural leadership. Lisa balances a focus on results with an equal emphasis on people and relationships. They communicate effectively, shows empathy, and fosters a supportive team culture. Lisa's team is highly engaged, leading to not only impressive financial results but also high employee retention and a robust organisational culture. [⚡️ Pop quiz: What quadrant does Lisa sit in on the Blake & Mouton grid?]

These examples illustrate the power of behavioural leadership. It's not just about the bottom line; it's about the 'how' that leads to that bottom line, which includes developing people, fostering engagement, and cultivating a positive culture.


Time for Reflection: Your Personal Leadership Journey

Now that you understand what behavioural leadership is, why it's overlooked, and how powerful it can be, it's time to reflect on your own leadership style. Here are some questions to ponder:

  • Can you think of specific examples of leaders or managers you've worked with that fall in to each section of the Blake & Mouton Grid?
  • Thinking specifically about YOUR leadership - how do you balance your focus between results and people?
  • Are you mindful of your behaviours and their impact on your team? [For leaders in my ESLP, use this as a reflection point as part of your Self Awareness lesson set]


Don't forget, your leadership style is not set in stone. With consistent effort, a commitment to yourself and your growth - you can flex these behavioural skills.





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