Leadership Style:  Initiating Structure and Consideration




Leadership development can follow many courses, including the acquisition of knowledge, skills and abilities that makes a person the most effective leader.  There are things we think of as leadership traits, and there are also many things that effective leaders do, which we consider as leadership behaviors.  Some researchers have made an effort to look at the behaviors of leaders and create models to aid in our understanding of these leadership behaviors.  These models are often referred to as leadership style. 


There are several ideas about leadership styles that have been presented over the years, but most theories center around a key idea that leaders have two types of style.  One type involves a group of task-oriented behaviors, in which the leader helps subordinates figure out what is expected of them and manages the daily activities of a group toward accomplishing a task.  In some style theories, this is referred to as transactional leadership, or management (as a contrast to leadership).  The other set of behaviors is referred to as people-oriented style, where the leader provides a more supportive role in providing a positive work environment in which the workers can maximize their productivity.  This is sometimes referred to as participative leadership, and is also more closely related to transformational leadership theories.





Early research at the Ohio State University identified two styles of leadership that include consideration and initiation structure3.   These are closely linked to the ideas of people-oriented and task-oriented behaviors.



Some behaviors of leaders who are strong in consideration style include:

1.        Being friendly and approachable

2.        Doing little things to make it pleasant to be a member of the group

3.        Putting suggestions made by the group into operation

4.        Treating all group members as his/her equal

5.        Giving advanced notice of changes

6.        Making him/herself accessible to group members

7.        Looking out for the personal welfare of group members

8.        Willingness to make changes

9.        Explaining actions

10.     Consulting the group when making changes











Those competencies which relate to the leadership style of consideration can mostly be found in the “Leading Others” dimension of the Leadership Competency Model, including:


Communicating with Coworkers                        Active Listening

Facilitating Discussion                                       Social Orientation

Social Perceptiveness                                         Nurturing Relationships

Reinforcing Success                                            Developing and Building Teams

Assessing Others                                                Coaching, Developing, Instructing

Cooperating                                                          Persuading

Resolving Conflicts/Negotiating                       Empowering





Some behaviors of leaders who are strong in Initiating Structure Style include:


1.        Letting group members know what is expected of them

2.        Encouraging the use of uniform procedures

3.        Trying out ideas in the group

4.        Making his/her attitudes clear to the group

5.        Deciding what shall be done and how it shall be done

6.        Assigning group members to particular tasks

7.        Making sure that his/her part in the group is understood by group members

8.        Scheduling the work to be done

9.        Maintaining definite standards of performance

10.     Asking that group members follow standard rules and regulations


Initiating structure relates to many of the competencies in the “Task Management” dimension of the Leadership Competency Model along with some from the “Leading Others” dimension.  This includes:


From Task Management Dimension:

Coordinating Work Activities                           Attention to Detail

Decision Making                                                  Designing Work Systems

Managing Materials and Facilities                    Managing Information Resources

Performing Administrative Activities               Maintaining Quality

Personnel Decision Making                               Maintaining Safety

Eliminating Barriers to Performance                  Strategic Task Management


From Leading Others Dimension:

Taking Charge

Orienting Others

Setting Goals for Others

Interpreting the Meaning of Information for Others





Although not all leadership style theories suggest that it is important to have a command of all styles, there is growing evidence that BOTH initiating structure and consideration are important for successfully leading teams.  Without initiating structure behaviors, subordinates would not know what is expected, how to coordinate their work with others, or how their work relates to any group or organizational goals.  This leads to frustration among workers and ultimately influences their productivity.  Likewise, lack of consideration behaviors from the leader may leave employees feeling unsupported, unrecognized, or confused as they try to navigate conflicts and issues in their roles without any sense of feedback about how they are doing.





Since leadership style theory measures the behaviors of leaders, these are among the easiest competencies to develop.  In order to improve on the style of initiating structure, choose the specific competency behaviors that are most closely related to the style of initiating structure from the list above.  As you look into the specific ideas of each competency, identify specific behaviors that you can try that will increase your competence in this area.  Make sure to seek feedback from subordinates and others about how you are doing in improving your task-oriented behaviors. 


The same is true for developing the behaviors in the consideration style.  First look at the list of the competencies that are most closely aligned with the people-oriented behaviors of the consideration style.  Utilizing the resource guide to specifically understand what it takes to develop in these areas should provide you with good information about how to improve your people-oriented behavior.  People around you should be able to notice the changes in your behavior, and you should encourage and welcome their feedback as you develop these processes.




(1) Bass, B.M. (1990).  Bass and Stogdill’s Handbook of Leadership.  New York:  Free Press.

(2) Judge, T.A., Piccolo, R.F. & Ilies, R. (2004). The forgotten ones?  The validity of consideration and initiating structure in leadership research.  Journal of Applied Psychology, 89, (1), 36-51.


(3) Schreisheim, C.A. & Stogdill, R.M. (1975).  Differences in the factor structure across three versions of the Ohio State Leadership scales.  Personnel Psychology, 28 (2), 189-206.

~Contributed by Cathy Bush