What Is Relationship-Oriented Leadership?

Relationship-Oriented Leadership Style

This article is part of my
Leadership Styles Blog Series

What Is Relationship-Oriented Leadership?

Relationship-oriented leaders are primarily focused on supporting, motivating and developing individuals and teams through collaborative working.

This style of leadership is in contrast to task-orientated leadership.

Relationship-oriented leaders seek to establish meaningful relationships with their staff and aim to utilise this emotional connection to maximise staff performance.

VIDEO: Relationship-Oriented Leadership Explained

What Are The Qualities Of A Relationship-Oriented Leader?

  1. Prioritises the facilitation of interaction between people and teams.
  2. Focus on relationships, well-being and motivation of people and teams. 
  3. Support the development of positive relationships.
  4. Focus on effective communication with individual team members.
  5. Adopt a casual structure for interactions, meetings and collaboration.
What is relationship-oriented leadership

Advanced levels of emotional intelligence are required for effective relationship-oriented leadership as this enables them to empathise with their staff and understand their point of view when making decisions.

This style of leadership encourages effective teamwork and collaboration through enhanced relationships that exist between team members.

Understanding the needs and requirements of each individual person is vital for relationship-oriented leadership to be effective.

Relationship-oriented leaders are very personable, their door is always open and they have a genuine interest in the wellbeing of their staff.

People are supported and looked after in way that enables them to perform to the best of their ability, free from distractions and emotional burdens.

Harmony within the workforce is often good as social cohesion is promoted.


Find out about Task-Oriented Leadership,

the contrasting leadership style to

Relationship-Oriented Leadership.

What Are The Strengths Of Relationship-Oriented Leadership?

By focusing on the emotional needs of the staff, relationship-oriented leaders ensure they have a positive and motivated workforce. Staff will be enthused and inspired to work and will feel valued and appreciated.

In a well supported team of staff, personal conflicts, dissatisfaction and boredom will be minimised resulting in a happy and productive team. 

Free from personal issues, the staff will be able to work more productively and at a higher standard.

Staff may also be more inclined to work creatively and innovatively, taking risks and challenging key operations.

Risks can be taken because staff are aware that the leader will provide support if they are unsuccessful.

This is essential for development and improvements in organisational performance.

The relationship-oriented leadership style has been also been linked with improvements in staff learning and development.  

What Are The Criticisms of Relationship-Oriented Leadership?

The major criticism to this style of leadership is that with a focus on the relationships between the leader and the staff the actual task at hand can sometimes be overlooked.

Not wanting to work staff too hard, to much, in a way they don’t enjoy, etc. can risk not getting the job completed in the timeframe that has been set.

Another key criticism of relationship-oriented leadership is that some employees may take advantage of a people-focused leader.

If staff see the leader accommodating their every need they may start to take liberties to see how far they can push the leader with what they will get away with.

While risk taking was a key strength it can also be considered a criticisms as well.

Risk is essential for progressing an organisation but the risk also needs to be calculated.

Too much risk taking, at the wrong time and in the wrong place can result in irreversible errors which the leader will find difficult to repair.

Final Thoughts on Relationship-Oriented LEadership

Leaders have to be relationship focused – after all leadership is all about inspiring and motivating people to take action.

If a leader does not have a clear understanding of the needs, interests and abilities of their staff, and cannot relate to them on a personal level, they will never succeed.

But with this in mind it is also important for a leader to maintain focus on the task at hand.

Relationship-Oriented Leadership

Neglecting the task in order to address the every growing needs and demands of the staff may impact long-term success.

A balance needs to be established between meeting the needs of the staff and the needs of the task.

The key is to ensure that the support you provide is directly linked to the completion of the task.

By ensuring you enable the staff to do the best job they can you will ensure success.

If you wish to explore relationship-oriented and task-oriented leadership in more detail I recommend you read an article by Fred E Fiedler.