In today’s competitive climate, small business management seeks to understand what accounts for the success of some companies and the failure of others. Many factors, such as business strategy and business processes, influence a company’s financial and operational performance. However, it's the company’s leadership that often determines if a company survives the startup years and grows to be a regional or national corporate power. The manner in which a leader accomplishes these goals can vary greatly. For example, a task-oriented leader will define roles and business goals, and plan, organize and monitor work. In turn, a relationship-oriented leader will create and maintain supportive relationships as he encourages teamwork.

Task Leadership

The accomplishment of goals and work-group effectiveness are the primary concerns of task-oriented leaders. As a result, this type of leader focuses on task structure, process standards, desired outcomes and meeting deadlines, rather than interpersonal relationships. These directive leaders use conditional reinforcement to manage the performance of employees. For example, the leader rewards the performance of tasks and evaluates employees according to the relative value of their contributions to the accomplishment of group objectives. The task-oriented leader also applies disciplinary measures to correct unacceptable behavior. In addition, the degree to which an employee contributes to the accomplishment of group goals -- rather than personal goals -- determines the degree of work-related support he will receive from his manager.

Effects of Task Leadership

A task-oriented leader often has a thorough understanding of business processes and procedures, which contributes to the appropriate delegation of work and the accurate and on-time completion of work tasks. In addition, a task-oriented leader imposes deadlines and standards on team members who may lack self-motivation, which contributes to the timely accomplishment of business objectives. However, the leader's apparent indifference to the personal concerns of employees might serve to demotivate employees and lead to personnel retention issues.

Relationship Leadership

Unlike the task-oriented leader, the relationship-oriented leader exhibits support for and acceptance of their employees as individuals, rather than as production factors. These leaders focus on the professional and personal welfare of subordinates, rather than task structures and deadlines. The relationship-oriented leader provides support to all employees, which is not based on job performance or compliance with standards. For example, the leader provides positive feedback as a means to build the confidence of employees. In addition, these leaders take steps to improve employee satisfaction and capabilities by supporting the employee's personal goals. The leader also works to establish positive relationships with and between group members, which supports teamwork and collaboration.

Effects of Relationship Leadership

A relationship-oriented leader positively affects business relationships and creates a collegial work environment, which contributes to the accomplishment of business objectives. The leader also works to minimize interpersonal conflicts and job dissatisfaction that can negatively affect productivity and quality. By offering a high level of employee support, the leader attracts productive team members. However, team development and interpersonal relationships may become the leader's priorities at the cost of task accomplishment, leading to missed deadlines.