Differences Between Task-Oriented Leaders & Relation-Oriented Leaders
Task-oriented and relationship-oriented leadership styles are among the common approaches used by managers. Typically, all leaders have elements of both task and relationship orientations. However, most tend to lean in one direction or another. Generally, a leader who can balance elements of both can have more long-term influence on his workers.
A task-oriented leader typically focuses on completing work tasks efficiently and effectively. He tends to stress deadlines, is often organized and is able to convey details of work tasks to employees. He often has a bottom-line approach. A relationship-oriented leader, on the other hand, tends to stress building relationships with his workers. His objective is to build rapport with employees so that they are motivated to work well together and to complete tasks. He tends to place more emphasis on group harmony and culture.
Leaders generally need the ability to influence others to succeed. Task-oriented leaders tend to use a more autocratic approach to leadership. They often rely on position power, goal setting, results tracking, clear directives and pushing of employees. Self-motivated workers tend to make a better fit with a task-oriented leader. A relationship-oriented leader uses empathy and relationships to influence. He believes that if employees see he genuinely cares about them as people, they are more likely to take direction and be inspired by his guidance.
A key distinction between these two leadership styles relates to their view of time. Task-oriented leaders tend to be very time-centered. Deadlines are critical, and social interaction should not get in the way of work completion. The relational leader usually puts interaction and group harmony above deadlines or efficiency. While work must be completed, he is more likely to set aside group activity time or team-building exercises.
At the extreme, each style has risks. An effective leader normally functions somewhere in the middle of a continuum between the extremes. An overly task-oriented leader can come across as bossy, somewhat like a dictator using workers as a means to an end. This can lead to low morale and, eventually, poor productivity. An extreme relational leader can put too much emphasis on group harmony at the expense of timely work. This may lead to inefficiency or missed deadlines in his department. In some cases, the relationship-oriented leader is too concerned with being liked to push employees.