Task-oriented or people-oriented
Leadership is a phenomenon on which individuals in an organization are trained again and again over the years to make them balance activities and...
It is essential to balance the task and people’s orientations so that both the sensitivities of individuals as well as to meet the deadlines and targets efficiently
Should they stand firm on the working late requirement or should they let the team relax the evening? Should they give priority to the approaching deadlines or should they be sensitive towards the priorities of the team? Should they keep the team motivated with positive energies or should they give the tough feedback required to improve effectiveness? Leaders are known to struggle between the extremes of this spectrum, and any decision they take either way, they risk being called either a hard-hearted, autocratic leader or a too soft-spoken and emotional leaders. The truth is there is no single answer for this dilemma. Leaders have to take each situation, assess it and make an appropriate decision. The answer, each time, may be very different.
In an organizational context today, it is extremely important for a leader to be able to focus on both tasks as well as people. S/he has to be sensitive towards how people feel they are treated and whether they are comfortable with the targets and the value they are given in an organization whilst it is also important for a leader to keep the team focused on achieving the results required and taking on more challenges. How then does one balance these two? What happens when one overrides the other? Thus comes the eternal dilemma every leader faces: Do I show more concern for people or do I give more preference for tasks? Which is the correct way?
Concern for tasks: A leader who prioritizes tasks is one who focuses on the series of tasks at hand that need to get done and the ways to accomplish them. S/he is less concerned about catering to the employee’s needs and more concerned with finding processes and solutions to meet specific targets. A task-oriented leader asks questions, such as, “What steps do we need to take to meet the department targets?”Being a task-oriented leader has its advantages as one is logical and analytical and stays focused on the rules and guidelines of the company to get things done. S/he delegates tasks by breaking them into sub-tasks to ensure everything gets done on time. They ensure that deadlines are met and jobs are completed. The disadvantage, however, is that since they do not focus time and energy on thinking about the team’s well-being, there might exist motivation and retention problems as the leader might be considered autocratic over time.
Concern for people: A leader who prioritizes people is one who realizes that the people involved in the project need to feel motivated and satisfied for the project to move forward seamlessly. S/he ensures that incentives are offered and time is spent with individual employees to understand their needs and strengths and how to align them to the organization’s goals.
A people-oriented leader asks questions, such as, “Who amongst the team will be most motivated and/or capable of completing this particular target?” Being a people-oriented leader has its advantages as one understands the link between productivity and employee satisfaction and that a positive environment where individuals feel driven helps in accomplishing targets faster. They can push personal conflicts, job dissatisfaction, resentment, etc, to a minimum, thus creating a healthy work atmosphere. The disadvantage, however, is that if taken too far, the team may start deviating from the actual tasks and targets at hand.
So, it is essential to balance the task and people orientations so that both the sensitivities of individuals as well as meet the deadlines and targets efficiently. An effective leader is able to create this balance in his/her interactions with the teams.
The question, however, is how to balance these two. The answer is two-fold. One, everyone has a preferred tendency. For example, to some leaders, focusing on the task comes easily whilst to some others focusing on people comes easily. It is good for a leader to realize which comes as a natural preference so that s/he can learn to reinforce that side while consciously also trying to develop a certain extent of practice on the other. The leader need not be equally balanced in both the orientations. As long as they are aware of their preference and choose to practice the other, one can create a sense of shared leadership effectively.
Revathi Turaga is an International Trainer and Inspirational Speaker.