Attending to Tasks and Relationships


Attending to Tasks
and Relationships


• Most people would agree that good doctors are expert at treating dis_x0002_eas e and, at the
same time, care about their patients. Similarly, good teachers are informed about the subject
matter and, at the same time, are sensitive to the personal lives of their students. In leadership,
the same is true. Good leaders understand the work that needs to be done and, at the same
time, can relate to the people who help them do the job. When we look at what leaders do --that
is, at their behaviors --we see that they do two major things: (1) They attend to tasks, and (2)
they attend to their relationships with people. The degree to which leaders are successful is
determined by how these two behaviors are exhibited. Situations may differ, but every
leadership situation needs a degree of both task and relationship behaviors.


• One way to explore our own task and relationship perspectives on leadership is to explore our
personal styles in these two areas. All of us have developed unique habits regarding work and
play, which have been ingrained over many years , probably beginning as far back as elementary
school. Rooted in the past, these habits regarding work and play form a very real part of who
we are as people and of how we function. Many of these early habits stay with us over the
years and influence our current styles. In considering your personal style, it is helpful to
describe in more detail your task -oriented and relationship -ori ented behaviors. What is your
inclination toward tasks and relationships? Are you more work oriented or people oriented in
your personal life? Do you find more rewards in the process of "getting things done" or in the
process of relating to people? We all have personal styles that incorporate some combination of
work and play.


• Task Style
• Task-oriented people are goal oriented. They want to achieve. Their work is meaningful, and
they like things such as "to do" lists, calendars, and daily planners. Accomplishing things and
doing things is the raison d'etre for this type of person. That is, these individuals' reason for
being comes from doing. Their "in -box" is never empty. On vacations, they try to see and do as
much as they possibly can. In all avenues of their lives, they find meaning in doing.
• Some clear examples of task -oriented people include those who use color codes in their daily
planners, who have sticky notes in every room of their house, or who, by 10:00 on Saturday
morning, have washed the car, done the laundry, and cleaned the apartment. Task oriented
people also are likely to make a list for everything, from grocery shopping to the series of
repetitions in their weight -lifting workouts . Common to all of these people is their interest in
achieving the goal and accomplishing the work.


• Relationship Style
• Relationship -oriented people differ from task -oriented people because they are not as goal
directed. The relationship -ori ented person finds meaning in being rather than in doing. Instead
of seeking out tasks, relationship -ori ented people want to connect with people. They like to
celebrate relationships and the pleasures relationships bring.
• Furthermore, relationship -oriented people often have a strong orien_x0002_tation in the present.
They find meaning in the moment rather than in some future objective to be accomplished. In a
group situation, sensing and feeling the company of others is appealing to these people. They
have been described by some as "relationship junkies." They are the people who are the last to
turn off their cell phones as the airplane takes off and the first to turn the phones back on when
the airplane lands. Basically, they are into connectedness .


• In the previous section, you were asked to consider your personal style regarding tasks and
relationships. In this section, we are going to consider the task and relationship dimensions of
your leadership style. Figure 5 .1 illustrates dimensions of leadership along a task relationship
continuum. Task -oriented leadership, which appears on the left end of the continuum,
represents leadership that is focused predominantl y on procedures , activities, and goal
accomplishments . Relationship -oriented leadership, which appears on the right end of the
continuum, represents leadership that is focused primarily on the well -being of subordinates ,
how they relate to each other, and the atmosphere in which they work. Most leadership falls
midway between the two extremes of task and relationship -oriented leadership. This style of
leadership is represented by the midrange area, a blend of the two types of leadership. As was
discussed at the beginning of this chapter, good leaders understand the work that needs to be
done, as well as the need to understand the people who will do it. The process of "doing"
leadership requires that leaders attend to both tasks and relationships. The specific challenge
for the leader is to decide how much task and how much relationship is required in a given
context or situation.


Task Leadership
• Task leadership behaviors facilitate goal accomplishment -they are behaviors that help group
members to achieve their objectives. Researchers have found that task leadership includes
many behaviors. These behaviors are frequentl y labeled in different ways, but are always about
task accomplishment. For example, some have labeled task leadership as initiating structure,
which means the leader organizes work, defines role responsibilities, and schedules work
activities Others have labeled task leadership as production orientation, which means the
leader stresses the production and technical aspects of the job .From this perspective, the
leader pays attention to new product development, workload matters , and sales volume, to
name a few aspects. A third label for task leadership is concern for production . It includes
policy decisions, new product development, workload, sales volume, or whatever the
organization is seeking to accomplish. In short, task leadership occurs any time the leader is
doing something that assists the group in reaching its goals. This can be something as simple
as handing out an agenda for an upcoming meeting or as complex as describing the multiple
quality control standards of a product development process. Task leadership includes many
behaviors: Common to each is influencing people toward goal achievement.


Relationship Leadership
• R e l a t i o n s h i p l e a d e r s h i p b e h a vi o r s h e l p s u b o r d i n a te s f e e l c o m f o r ta b l e wi t h t h e ms e l ve s , wi t h e a c h o t h e r, a n d
wi t h t h e s i t u a t i o n i n wh i c h t h e y f i n d t h e ms e l ve s . F o r e xa m p l e , i n t h e c l a s s r o o m, wh e n a t e a c h e r r e q u i r e s
e a c h s t u d e n t t o k n o w e ve r y o t h e r s t u d e n t 's n a m e , t h e t e a c h e r i s d e m o n s tr a t i n g r e l a t i o n s h i p l e a d e r s h i p . T h e
t e a c h e r i s h e l p i n g t h e s t u d e n t s t o f e e l c o m f o r ta b l e wi t h t h e ms e l ve s , wi t h o t h e r s t u d e n t s , a n d wi t h t h e i r
e n vi r o n me n t . R e s e a r c h e r s h a ve d e s c r i b e d r e l a t i o n s h i p l e a d e r s h i p i n s e ve r a l wa ys t h a t h e l p t o c l a r i f y i t s
m e a n i n g . I t h a s b e e n l a b e l e d b y s o m e r e s e a r ch e r s a s c o n s i d e r a ti o n b e h a vi o r wh i c h i n c l u d e s b u i l d i n g
c a m a r a d e r i e , r e s p e c t , t r u s t , a n d r e g a r d b e t we e n l e a d e r s a n d f o l l o we r s . O t h e r r e s e a r ch e r s d e s c r i b e
r e l a t i o n s h i p l e a d e r s h i p a s h a vi n g a n e m p l o ye e o r i e n t a ti o n , wh i c h i n vo l ve s t a k i n g a n i n t e r e s t i n wo r k e r s a s
h u m a n b e i n g s , va l u i n g t h e i r u n i q u e n e s s , a n d g i vi n g s p e c i a l a t t e n _ x0 0 0 2 _ t i o n t o t h e i r p e r s o n a l n e e d s .
Another line of research has simply defined relationship leadership as being concern for people . Within an
o r g a n i z a t i o n , c o n c e r n f o r p e o p l e i n c l u d e s b u i l d i n g t r u s t, p r o vi d i n g g o o d wo r k i n g c o n d i t i o n s , m a i n t a i n i n g a
f a i r s a l a r y s t r u c t u r e , a n d p r o mo t i n g g o o d s o c i a l r e l a t i o n s . E s s e n ti a l l y, r e l a t i o n s h i p l e a d e r s h i p b e h a vi o r i s
a b o u t t h r e e t h i n g s : ( 1 ) t r e a t i n g f o l l o we r s wi t h d i g n i t y a n d r e s p e c t, ( 2 ) b u i l d i n g r e l a t i o n s h i p s a n d h e l p i n g
p e o p l e g e t a l o n g , a n d ( 3 ) m a k i n g t h e wo r k s e t t i n g a p l e a s a n t p l a c e t o b e . R e l a t i o n s h i p l e a d e r sh i p b e h a vi o r
i s a n i n t e g r a l p a r t o f e ff e c t i ve l e a d e r s h i p p e r f o r ma n c e .


• In our fast -paced and very diverse society, the challenge for a leader is finding the time and
energy to listen to all followers and do what is required to build effective relationships with each
of them. For those who are highly relationship oriented in their personal lives, being
relationship oriented in leadership will come easily; for those who are highly task oriented,
being relationship oriented in leadership will present a greater challenge. Regardless of your
personal styles, every leadership situation demands a degree of relationship leadership


• As discussed earlier in this chapter, task and relationship leadership behaviors are inextricabl y
tied together, and a leader's cha llenge is to integrate the two in an optimal way while effectivel y
adapting to followers' needs. For example, task leadership is critically important in a company
or an organization with a large number of newly hired employees or at a charter school with a
cadre of new faculty members . It is also called for in an adult fitness class when the instructor
is introducing a new exercise. Or, consider the family members of a patient going home after a
major heart surgery who have to learn how to change dressings and give medications; they
want the health professionals to tell them exactly what to do and how to do it. In situations like
these, the followers feel uncertain about their roles and responsibilities, and they want a leader
who clarifies their tasks and tells them what is expected of them. In fact, in nearly every group
or situation there are some individuals who want and need task direction from their leader, and
in these circumstances it is paramount that the leader exhibit strong task -oriented leadership.


• On the other hand, it is also true that many groups or situations will have individuals who want
to be affiliated with or connected to ot hers more than they want direction. For example, in a
factory, in a classroom, or even at a workplace like McDonald's, there are individuals who want
the leader to befriend them and relate to them on a human level. The followers are willing to
work, but they are primaril y interested in being recognized and feeling related to others. An
example would be individuals who attend a cancer support group. They like to receive
information from the leader, but even more importantl y they want the leader to relate to them. It
is similar with individuals who attend a community -spons ored reading club. They want to talk
about the book, but they also want the leader to relate to them in a more familiar way. Clearly,
in these situations, the leader needs to connect with these followers by utilizing relationship
oriented behaviors.


• In society, the most effective leaders recognize and adapt to followers' needs. Whether they are
team leaders, teachers, or managers , they appropriatel y demonstrate the right degrees of task
and relationship leadership. This is no small challenge because different followers and
situations demand different amounts of task and relationship leadership. When followers are
unclear, confused, or lost, the leader needs to show direction and exhibit task orientedleaders hip. At the same time, a leader needs to be able to see the need for affiliation
and attachment in followers and be able to meet those needs, without sacrificing task
accomplishment. In the end, the best leader is the leader who helps followers achieve the goal
by attending to the task and by attending to each follower as a person. We all know leaders who
do this: They are the coaches who force us to do drills until we are blue in the face to improve
our physical performanc e, but who then caringly listen to our personal problems. They are the
managers who never let us slack off for even a second but who make work a fun place to be.
The list goes on, but the bottom line is that the best leaders get the job done and care about
others in the process.


• Good leaders are both task oriented and relationship oriented. Understanding your personal
styles of work and play can provide a better recognition of your leadership. Task -oriented
people find meaning in doing, while relationship -oriented people find meaning in being
connected to others. Effective leadership requires that leaders be both task oriented and
relationship oriented.
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