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By Forsyth and frequently cited, there are the following types of leadership, namely by task either relationship focus:

  • Task-oriented (or task-focused) leadership is a behavioral approach in which the leader focuses on the tasks that need to be performed in order to meet certain goals, or to achieve a certain performance standard.
  • Relationship-oriented (or relationship-focused) leadership is a behavioral approach in which the leader focuses on the satisfaction, motivation and the general well-being of the team members.

Now, does this apply to IT teams - and if yes, is there any difference? Examples without uniqueness because they might apply to other teams as well: In IT teams, many colleagues can be for good reasons extremely focused on the matter of subject and can become upset if tasks are not clear/formal enough. Also, teams are quite often partly or completely virtual.

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    I am not sure I even understand the question. Do you want to know if this model generally does apply to IT-Teams? Or do you want to know if there are specifics to teams in the field of IT, that make one of the leadership-models favorable? – Daniel Sep 27 '17 at 11:37
  • thank you @Daniel - 1) yes, rather "how good in general" 2) whether and if yes which adjustment is required for IT teams. - maybe there are other theories/concepts as well for example Agile process suggests to discuss in more detail also about conflicts in Sprint Retrospective. – J. Doe Sep 27 '17 at 11:40
  • Maybe you should make that clear in the Question then, to get it reopened. I find this topic quite interesting, would be a shame if it got deleted. – Daniel Sep 27 '17 at 13:10
  • IT Team is probably too broad to lead to good answers. – cdkMoose Sep 27 '17 at 16:25
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    "sited" should probably be "cited" – Fattie Sep 27 '17 at 19:25
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Provided you subscribe to the Forsyth model:

There are certain types of work that I would qualify as "knowledge work" This work differentiates itself from a lot of other kinds of work by having the worker spend the majority of his time thinking about a solution to a defined problem "inside his head". There are definitely a lot of roles in most IT-(development)-teams that would qualify as such.

So you could think a task-oriented style of leadership would be favorable with such teams. At last, if everybody knows exactly what to, they can concentrate 100% on the technical aspect.

On the other hand, agile development styles and some of the fields standard literature ("Peopleware" for instance) suggest you have the best success when you concentrate mostly on the relationships and let them figure out the task-management for them self.

One often overlooked fact in any development project is: A really good definition and estimation of the task can often not be provided by the "Product Owner". Usually the experts do a lot of defining and sharpening of the definitions and end up being the ones that understand the tasks and their dependence the best. I think that is the reason for the success behind those management-styles which focus on "making sure everybody feels happy and there are no obstacles in the way" and letting the workers sort out the management of the tasks themselves.

In the end, I think there are really too many different factors to give a general answer for the IT-Team, and also, I am not sure I´d even agree with the model.

  • This very open management style, which lets developers do much management on their own, works particularly well with well educated and experienced developers, who most often could also be project managers themselfs. You mostly find these developers in smaller companies, where great working atmosphere and flat hierarchy is the standard. – Mafii Sep 27 '17 at 14:24
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Now, does this apply to IT teams - and if yes, is there any difference?

Nothing you have written distinguishes IT from other teams.

In any teams, many colleagues can be for good reasons extremely focused on the matter of subject and can become upset if tasks are not clear/formal enough. And many teams can be virtual, not just IT teams.

I think you are imagining a uniqueness that doesn't exist.

To the extent that you believe in this theory of leadership types it would apply across team types. I've seen both types of leadership in many IT teams as well as many non-IT teams.

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    Or "IT Teams" is too broad. I do think these principles might be measured differently for a development team vs sys admins or internal help desk. The size and scope of tasks could be very different. For example, at my employer we have several thousand people in "Engineering" who develop software and IT would refer to PC support and internal help desk. – cdkMoose Sep 27 '17 at 16:28
  • @cdkMoose many country's use IT to refer to anyone who works with computers – Neuromancer Sep 27 '17 at 19:24
  • @Neuromancer, agreed, and that is why I think it is too broad for this question. I think the management styles could/should vary across functional areas within "IT". I manage a team of developers, I manage them differently than I would manage an internal help desk team. – cdkMoose Sep 27 '17 at 20:54
  • I only manage one. Just saying they are different – cdkMoose Sep 28 '17 at 1:18
  • @Joe, ideally management style even goes to a lower level than that. I should, and try, to manage each of the people on my team in the most appropriate way for that person and their role. – cdkMoose Sep 28 '17 at 13:00

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