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Volume 18 Issue 2 (April 2008), Pages 97-195

Leadership, task and relationship: Orpheus, Prometheus and Janus (pages 188-195)

The idea that the major division in leadership or management styles is a preference for either task or relationship orientation has long prevailed in the literature. This article proposes an alternative orientation for leaders; that, while in pursuit of achieving the task, the leader is focused either on the needs of superordinates or subordinates, or both. A large‐scale evaluation of leadership in the Royal Air Force from the perspective of followers suggests that although there is some surface support for the task/relationship dichotomy, the more important division is threefold: between people who only look upwards to satisfy the demands of their superordinates (Orpheans), those that tend to focus downwards at the demands of their subordinates (Prometheans) and those that try to look both ways (Janusians). The latter appear to have the greatest chance of sustained success at the more senior levels of the organisation.

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