Behavioral Approach

Behavioral theories of leadership are rooted from the principle that great leaders are not born – they are made. It is based on the concept of behaviorism, also called behavioral psychology. It is a theory which states that behaviors can be acquired through the process of conditioning.

Behavioral approach does not focus on the internal states or mental qualities of the leaders. Based on this theory, a person can learn to be a leader through observation and teaching. This theory believed that the environment is a big factor of how a leader behaves. Behavioral psychology is an extensive field of studying behavioral approaches of different people in various situations.

Conditioning takes place through interaction and communication with the environment. According to behavioral psychology, one’s behavior can be studied through an observable and systematic matter without consideration of intellectual and mental capacity.

The types of learning, also known as conditioning, are:

  1. Classical conditioning is a type used in behavioral training where a natural occurring stimulus has a specific response. Then, a previous neutral stimulus is now paired with a natural occurring stimulus. Next, the previous neutral stimulus will have a response without the natural occurring stimulus. It will now be called conditioned response and conditioned stimulus.
  2. Operant conditioning is also called instrumental conditioning. This is a type of learning wherein behaviors are acquired because of the process of punishments and reward. In result, the behavior will now be associated with a consequence for a specific behavior.

What is now the relation of behavioral approach to the qualities of a leader?

It now assumes the following:

  1. Most behaviorists assume that in order to understand the behavior of the leaders must be observed. Take note, this is in contrast to the cognitive approach which believes that a leader can be understood through unobservable activities and thought processes.
  2. Every behavior can be observed and monitored through the responses in every stimulus. For instance, you are asked to carry a bag, which is called the stimulus. Your response would be to carry the bag. This is called the Stimulus-Response Theorywhich forms the foundation of conditioning. This means that learning will happen through connection of a certain response with actual stimuli.
  3. It assumes that the qualities of a leader are developed. Everyone started with tabula rasa or with a clean slate. It is believed that the qualities of a leader are formed based on the environmental factors and not on biological or genetic differences that makes a leader different from each other. Behavioral approach rooted from the nature-nurture concept.
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