Should Leaders Emphasize the Job or the Employees?

In addition to the expanding body of research on leadership types, such as transformational leadership, servant leadership, and ethical leadership, there has also been a return to a concept found in leadership literature many years ago. This distinction is between “consideration” and “initiating structure.” Consideration refers to leaders’ “people-oriented” behavior, such as showing respect for followers and facilitating group cohesiveness. Initiating structure refers to clarifying roles, establishing rules, and providing a framework for effective group and individual performance. These dimensions are not mutually exclusive, and some leaders may be high on both, others low on both, and still others high on one and low on the other. With interest in these dimensions increasing, a recent study (Holtz & Harold, 2012) examined them in relation to two important outcomes: employee perceptions of justice, and counterproductive work behaviors (CWBs), which include anything an employee does that harms the organization.


Across two studies using multi-source data, the authors found that both consideration and structure were related to organizational justice in important ways. Specifically, there was a strong relationship between structure and distributive justice (or the perception that organizational resources are divided fairly). They also found a relationship between consideration and interpersonal justice. Finally, the authors found that when consideration was low, higher levels of structure were associated with an increase in CWBs in the workplace.

These findings suggest that, while both consideration and structure are important for understanding leadership, what may be most important is the combination of these dimensions that a leader possesses. As interest in these leadership dimensions continues to return, it is likely that we will gain additional knowledge about how these dimensions interact with a variety of important outcomes.


Holtz, B. C., & Harold, C. M. (2012). Effects of leadership consideration and structure on employee perceptions of justice and counterproductive work behavior. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 34(4), 492-515.

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