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What is People-Oriented Leadership and why is it important?

As a leader, which do you consider more important: The wellbeing of your team, or the effective achievement of company objectives?

While the majority will note that both are vital parts of effective management, a lot can be determined about your leadership style by which you grant higher importance.

Leaders who place prominence on their team’s wellbeing are considered to be people-oriented leaders, and this comes with a whole host of implications in the workplace.

This blog post will explore the advantages and disadvantages of people oriented leadership style, and the situations where this leadership style can thrive.

What is a People-Oriented Leadership Style?

Maybe you’re wondering what the traits, skills, and qualities of a people-oriented leadership style are?

To answer this question, you need to understand the distinction between task-oriented and people-oriented leadership.

Where task-oriented leaders have a strong focus on getting a job done, people-oriented leaders place more emphasis on the development and involvement of their team.

Democratic and participative decision making processes are used to invite contributions from members of staff, and their personal development - as well as organisational success - is a key consideration of all activities.

Words like motivational, transformational, and moralising are associated with this style of leadership.


Why is People-Oriented Leadership important?

Because relationships are given precedence, people-oriented leadership is often held in high regard in an organisation. Managerial staff are increasingly aware of the importance of a work culture that makes people feel involved and respected, and they seek to use leadership styles that foster these things.

In task-oriented workplaces, a strong focus on achieving results can sometimes come at the expense of personal considerations. When people feel left behind, the quality of their work, and even their allegiance to the company, can begin to suffer.

This can set off a chain reaction where the leadership loses the respect and buy-in of their team, and productivity plummets.

Advantages and Disadvantages of People-Oriented Leadership

The best way to understand the contributions that people-oriented leadership can bring to a workplace is to understand tangible outcomes it can lead to.

Let’s start with the benefits:

Team members feel that they and their contributions are valued, and likely feel more closely aligned to organisational objectives as a result. This harmony is a boon to any workplace.

This dialogue extends to other areas, too. If a team member feels they will be listened to, they are more likely to be open about difficulties they may be facing elsewhere in their role, giving the opportunity to nip problems in the bud.

Employees working under this management style are more likely to feel motivated and energised, which may translate to reduced staff turnover and burnout.

People-oriented leadership invites creativity, innovation, and fresh thinking: Vital aspects of a fluid and nimble workplace. By incorporating new ideas into procedures and organisational goals, a company is able to be responsive and to move with the times.

But we’d be lying if we pretended there were no drawbacks to people-oriented leadership. Here are some things that can be problematic:

There is an increasingly blurred line between leaders and their subordinates. When an important decision must be made and the leader needs to exert authority, team members who are used to having their contributions valued may feel snubbed if this opportunity is not present.

To reduce the risk of this outcome, firm boundaries should be established and observed. Team members who know that their voices will be heard, but that there are exceptions to this rule, will be less begrudging.

Another limitation is the nature of the work that an organisation carries out. Certain workplace rhythms just don’t lend themselves to people-oriented leadership, unfortunately. If this is the case, ensure team members are made to understand their value in another way, else you risk alienation and burnout.

And finally, people can feel more pressured if their is the expectation - real or perceived - that contributions must be made, and that this will be judged negatively. Effective people-oriented leaders must communicate to their team that participation is optional, or if this is not the case, they must do what they can to facilitate contributions without creating pressure.

People-Oriented vs Task-Oriented Leadership

Ultimately, the situation should dictate which leadership style is used, rather than a lack of willingness or ability from a leader to adapt.

The difference between a general and task environment will also determine whether people-oriented or task-oriented leadership is most suitable.

Here are some points to recap the difference between the styles:

  • Task-oriented places emphasis on the task at hand, whereas people-oriented prioritises the individuals doing it.
  • Task-oriented leaders are more likely to impose a method on their team, whereas people-oriented leaders will work with them to decide on how things should be done.
  • People-oriented workplaces are prone to benefit from new and inspired ideas from people whose experiences are different to the traditional decision makers in an organisation. A task-oriented workplace is less conducive to this.
  • People-oriented leadership considers relationships and rapport to be vital and integral parts of managerial experience.
  • The boundaries between a leader and subordinates are more clearly defined and communicated in task-oriented leadership, leading to less ambiguity in expectations. This ambiguity can be negative though: If someone feels unambiguously that their contributions will be ignored, they will begin to feel disenfranchised.

Bear in mind that this is a top level picture of the intricacies of these two leadership styles, and in practice things will be less black and white.


In conclusion…

This blog post should lend some clarity to the strengths and weaknesses of the people-oriented leadership style, when considered in relation to task-oriented leadership.

No leader will fit neatly into one leadership style for the duration of their career, and it’s unlikely that doing so would be beneficial to them, their team, or their organisation.

Refining your understanding of different leadership styles and the situations that warrant them, you stand to become a more effective leader.

If you’re curious to learn how your people-oriented leadership skills can be improved, get in touch.

Every Success,

About the author

Graham Wilson

Graham Wilson

I enjoy and specialise in teaching leadership skills, how to create winning strategies, how to build high performance cultures. Outcomes and results are the most important measures for me!