Toward a unified theory of task-oriented and relationship-oriented leader behavior: a multi-country generalizability study Dissertation

thesis or dissertation chair

fiu authors

  • Drost, Ellen Antoinette


  • The theoretical foundation of this study comes from the significant recurrence throughout the leadership literature of two distinct behaviors, task orientation and relationship orientation. Task orientation and relationship orientation are assumed to be generic behaviors, which are universally observed and applied in organizations, even though they may be uniquely enacted in organizations across cultures. The lack of empirical evidence supporting these assumptions provided the impetus to hypothetically develop and empirically confirm the universal application of task orientation and relationship orientation and the generalizability of their measurement in a cross-cultural setting. Task orientation and relationship orientation are operationalized through consideration and initiation of structure, two well-established theoretical leadership constructs. Multiple-group mean and covariance structures (MACS) analyses are used to simultaneously validate the generalizability of the two hypothesized constructs across the 12 cultural groups and to assess whether the similarities and differences discovered are measurement and scaling artifacts or reflect true cross-cultural differences. The data were collected by the author and others as part of a larger international research project. The data are comprised of 2341 managers from 12 countries/regions. The results provide compelling evidence that task orientation and relationship orientation, reliably and validly operationalized through consideration and initiation of structure, are generalizable across the countries/regions sampled. But the results also reveal significant differences in the perception of these behaviors, suggesting that some aspects of task orientation and relationship orientation are strongly affected by cultural influences. These (similarities and) differences reflect directly interpretable, error-free effects among the constructs at the behavioral level. Thus, task orientation and relationship orientation can demonstrate different relations among cultures, yet still be defined equivalently across the 11 cultures studied. The differences found in this study are true differences and may contain information about cultural influences characterizing each cultural context (i.e. group). The nature of such influences should be examined before the results can be meaningfully interpreted. To examine the effects of cultural characteristics on the constructs, additional hypotheses on the constructs' latent parameters can be tested across groups. Construct-level tests are illustrated in hypothetical examples in light of the study's results. The study contributes significantly to the theoretical understanding of the nature and generalizability of psychological constructs. The theoretical and practical implications of embedding context into a unified theory of task orientated and relationship oriented leader behavior are proposed. Limitations and contributions are also discussed.

publication date

  • August 1, 2001

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)