University of Michigan Studies

Breaking Down the University of Michigan Studies

The Michigan Studies, conducted by Rensis LikertOpens in new window and his colleagues at the University of Michigan, is a survey on leadership behaviors that measures higher-performance and group satisfaction based on two dimensions of leader behavior, namely, the job centered and employee centered styles of leadership.

The Michigan Studies builds on the work of the Ohio StateOpens in new window, but it took a different approach by directly comparing the behavior of effective and ineffective supervisors. The effectiveness of leaders was determined by productivity of the followers.

Initial field studies and interviews at various job sites gave way to a questionnaire quite like the Leader Behavior Description Questionnaire (LBDQ)Opens in new window, called the Survey of Organizations.

During the course of the survey, Rensis Likert and his colleagues established two types of leadership behavior:

They specified that employee centered and job centered, each were identified similarly to consideration and initiating structure respectively in the Ohio State studies; and that each consists of two dimensions.

1.  Employee-centered Style

Employee-centered leaders display a focus on the human needs of their followers. Leader support and interaction facilitation are the two underlying dimensions of employee-centered behavior. This means that in addition to demonstrating support for their followers, employee-centered leaders facilitate positive interaction among followers and seeks to minimize conflict.

The employee-centered style of leadership roughly corresponds to the Ohio State concept of considerationOpens in new window. Because relationships are so important in today’s work environment, many organizations are looking for leaders who can facilitate positive interaction among others.

2.  Job-centered Style

In contrast to the employee-centered leader, the job-centered leader directs activities toward scheduling, accomplishing tasks, and achieving efficiency. Goal emphasis and work facilitation are dimensions of this leadership behavior. By focusing on reaching task goals and facilitating the structure of tasks, job-centered behavior approximates that of initiating structureOpens in new window.

Investigations conducted in a wide variety of industries found that effective supervisors were employee centered. They focused on needs of the group and also established high-performance goals that were determined jointly with their followers.

However, unlike the consideration and initiating structure styles defined by the Ohio State studies, Rensis Likert and the other Michigan researchers considered employee-centered leadership and job-centered leadership to the distinct styles in opposition to one another. A leader is identifiable by behavior characteristic of one or the other style, but not both.

Another hallmark of later Michigan studies is the acknowledgment that often the behaviors of goal emphasis, work facilitation, support, and interaction facilitation can be meaningfully performed by a follower’s peers, rather than only by the designated leader. Other people in the group could supply those behaviors, which enhanced performance.

In addition, while leadership behavior was demonstrated to affect the performance and satisfaction of followers, performance was also influenced by other factors related to the situation within which leaders and followers worked.