In 2016, the biopic movie Dangal became a record-breaking commercial success in Bollywood. It’s loosely based on the journeys of Gita and Babita Phogat, who became household names in Indian wrestling. The movie also highlighted the influence of Mahavir Singh Phogat, the father, who is instrumental to their success.

The character of Mahavir displays a good balance of authority, empathy and inspiration. He changes his leadership style according to changing needs and contexts. Mahavir is an ideal example of a behavioral leader. Read on to understand more about this leadership style.

What Is Leadership?

Leadership is an individual’s ability to influence and guide people to establish and achieve goals. It’s the art of making difficult but sound decisions. An effective leader exhibits qualities like strong communication, management, innovative thinking, level headedness and resilience in the face of challenges.

Leadership doesn’t have a standard definition. A leader or organization can choose to define leadership the way they want. This gave rise to different schools of thought that attempted to define unique leadership styles. Various leadership theories try to explain why certain individuals become leaders. Behavioral Theory of leadership is one such school of thought that considers human behavior at the core of leadership. It influences different leadership styles and therefore great leaders approach every situation differently.

What Is Behavioral Theory of Leadership?

Before the Behavioral Theory of management emerged, it was believed that leaders are ‘naturally born’. The Great Man Theory, for example, proposed that effective leaders are born with innate leadership qualities. If you’re born with leadership qualities (like confidence) it doesn’t mean that you’ll become a successful leader. Therefore, this leadership theory was highly criticized. The behavioral theory surfaced and changed the game.

The Behavioral approach to leadership evolved from the behaviorism movement of the 1950s. Many behavior scientists attempted to identify different behavioral patterns of leadership styles. They achieved this by studying the activities of various leaders. The behavioral theory argued that the success of a leader is based on their ability to respond to environmental factors. Therefore, anyone can become a leader if they learn and implement certain behaviors.

Here are some real-life examples of Behavioral Theory of leadership:

  • Dr. Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, the chairperson of Biocon started her organization with minimal experience and several obstacles. She succeeded at making Biocon a global brand because of her dynamic leadership style. She motivated her employees by putting them in charge of their work. It helped her establish a trusted network of people who championed Biocon’s mission like their own.

  • Mahendra Singh Dhoni, former captain of the Indian cricket team is one of India’s most beloved sportspeople. He established a leadership style where he placed immense trust in his teammates. Dhoni believed in his team as much as they believed in him.

Types of Behavioral Leadership

Business success is rooted in effective leadership styles. There are several styles of behavioral leadership that are practiced in work environments:

  1. People-Oriented Leadership

These leaders are primarily driven by their interpersonal connections. They build relationships that inspire them and increase their efficiency.

  1. Task-Oriented Leadership

Task-oriented leaders perform well in structured environments and often display authoritative behavior. Their behavior is influenced by setting goals and monitoring progress.

  1. Sound Leadership

This type of leadership is highly effective but also ideal. Sound leaders prioritize both productivity and team morale at the same time. They value their teams and find satisfaction in supporting their teams’ progress.

Two Sides of Behavioral Leadership

Just like every coin has two sides, the Behavioral Theory of leadership has its unique strengths and weaknesses.

Advantages Of Behavioral Theory

  • It helps determine the leadership styles of managers and team leaders

  • It helps managers determine how their leadership style affects their relationship with the team and promotes commitment towards business goals

  • It guides managers to find the right balance between different leadership styles and helps them decide how to behave in different situations

Disadvantages Of Behavioral Theory

  • Behavioral theories are learned processes that take time and may not always be successful

  • Personal biases may influence a manager’s decision because they’re expected to make independent decisions and respond to different situations differently


The Behavioral Theory of management provides a map on how to practice effective leadership in organizations. The best leaders are those who can adjust their leadership styles and use the right approach in every situation.

Harappa Education’s Leading Self course will teach you to embrace new opportunities for growth and learning. The Ladder Of Learning framework is a four-step process that’ll teach you how to navigate the different stages of learning.  You’ll overcome self-limiting beliefs with Harappa’s courses and get on the path to becoming the best version of yourself.

Explore topics such as the Leadership TheoriesOpinion LeadersThought LeadershipServant LeadershipTransformational Leadership & Transactional Leadership from our Harappa Diaries section and lead on a path of self-development.

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