Theories of leadership:


“The term leadership is a word taken from the common vocabulary and incorporated into the technical vocabulary of a scientific discipline without being precisely redefined. As consequences, it carries extraneous connotations that create ambiguity of meaning (Janda, 1960). Additional confusion is caused by the use of other imprecise terms such as power, authority, management, administration, control and supervision to describe similar phenomena. An observation by Bennis (1959, p. 259) is as true today as when he made it many years ago: Always, it seems, the concept of leadership eludes us or turns up in another form to taunt us again with its slipperiness and complexity. So we have invented an endless proliferation of terms to deal with it…. and still the concept is not sufficiently defined.” “Most definition of leadership reflect the assumption that involves a process whereby intentional influences is exerted over other people to guide, structure, and facilitate activities and relationships in a group or organisation. The numerous definitions of leadership appear to have little else in common. They differ in many respects, including who exerts influence, the intended purpose of the influence, the manner in which influence is exerted, and the outcome of the influence attempt. The differences are not just t a case of scholarly nit picking; they reflect deep disagreement about identification of leaders and leadership processes.”(Gary Yukl, 2010)

Theories of leadership:

Douglas McGregor described Theory X and Theory Y in his book, The Human Side of Enterprise. Theory X and Theory Y each represent different ways in which leaders view employees. Theory X managers believe that employees are motivated mainly by money, are lazy, uncooperative, and have poor work habits. Theory Y managers believe that subordinates work hard, are cooperative, and have positive attitudes.

Theory X

is the traditional view of direction and control by managers.

  1. It is the nature of average human being who dislikes doing work and will avoid if he or she can.
  2. Because of this human characteristic of dislike of work, most people must be controlled, directed, and threatened with punishment to get them to put forth adequate effort toward the achievement of organizational objectives.
  3. The average human being prefers to be directed, wishes to avoid responsibility, and has relatively little ambition, wants security above all.

Theory Y is the view that individual and organizational goals can be integrated.

  1. The expenditures of physical and mental effort in work are as natural as play or rest.
  2. External control and the threat of punishment are not the only means for bringing out effort toward organizational objectives.
  3. Commitment to objectives is a function of the rewards associated with their achievement.
  4. The average human being learns, under proper conditions, not only to accept but also to seek responsibility.
  5. The capacity to exercise a relatively high degree of imagination, ingenuity, and creativity in the solution of organizational problems in widely, not narrowly, distributed in the population.
  6. Under the condition of modern industrial life, the intellectual potentialities of the average human being are only partially utilized.

Fred E. Fiedler’s contingency theory postulates that there is no best way for managers to lead. Situations will create different leadership style requirements for a manager. The solution to a managerial situation is contingent on the factors that impose on the situation. For example, in a highly routinized (mechanistic) environment where repetitive tasks are the norm, a certain leadership style may result in the best performance. The same leadership style may not work in a very dynamic environment.

Fiedler looked at three situations that could define the condition of a managerial task:

  1. Leader member relations: Compatibility between the manager and the employees?
  2. The task structure: Is the job highly structured, fairly unstructured, or somewhere in between?
  3. Position power: How much authority does the manager possess?
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Managers were rated as to whether they were relationship oriented or task oriented. Task oriented managers tend to do better in situations that have good leader-member relationships, structured tasks, and either weak or strong position power. They do well when the task is unstructured but position power is strong. Also, they did well at the other end of the spectrum when the leader member relations were moderate to poor and the task was unstructured. Relationship oriented managers do better in all other situations. Thus, a given situation might call for a manager with a different style or a manager who could take on a different style for a different situation.

Another aspect of the contingency model theory is that the leader-member relations, task structure, and position power dictate a leader’s situational control. Leader-member relations are the amount of loyalty, dependability, and support that the leader receives from employees. It is a measure of how the manager perceives he or she and the group of employees are getting along together. In a favorable relationship the manager has a high task structure and is able to reward or punish employees without any problems. In an unfavorable relationship the task is usually unstructured and the leader possesses limited authority.

Positioning power measures the amount of power or authority the manager perceives the organization has given him or her for the purpose of directing, rewarding, and punishing subordinates. Positioning power of managers depends on the taking away (favorable) or increasing (unfavorable) the decision-making power of employees.

The task-motivated style leader experiences pride and satisfaction in the task accomplishment for the organization, while the relationship-motivated style seeks to build interpersonal relations and extend extra help for the team development in the organization. There is no good or bad leadership style. Each person has his or her own preferences for leadership. Task-motivated leaders are at their best when the group performs successfully such as achieving a new sales record or outperforming the major competitor. Relationship-oriented leaders are at their best when greater customer satisfaction is gained and a positive company image is established.

Hersey-Blanchard Situational Leadership

The Hersey-Blanchard Situational Leadership theory is based on the amount of direction (task behaviour) and amount of socio-emotional support (relationship behaviour) a leader must provide given the situation and the “level of maturity” of the followers. Task behaviour is the extent to which the leader engages in spelling out the duties and responsibilities to an individual or group. In task behaviour the leader engages in one-way communication. Relationship behaviour is the extent to which the leader engages in two-way or multi-way communications. This includes listening, facilitating, and supportive behaviours. In relationship behaviour the leader engages in two-way communication by providing socio-emotional support. Maturity is the willingness and ability of a person to take responsibility for directing his or her own behaviour. People tend to have varying degrees of maturity, depending on the specific task, function, or objective that a leader is attempting to accomplish through their efforts.

To determine the appropriate leadership style to use in a given situation, the leader must first determine the maturity level of the followers in relation to the specific task that the leader is attempting to accomplish through the effort of the followers. As the level of followers’ maturity increases, the leader should begin to reduce his or her task behavior and increase relationship behaviour until the followers reach a moderate level of maturity. As the followers begin to move into an above average level of maturity, the leader should decrease not only task behaviour but also relationship behaviour.

House’s Path-Goal Model

The path-goal theory developed by Robert House is based on the expectancy theory of motivation. The manager’s job is viewed as coaching or guiding workers to choose the best paths for reaching their goals. “Best” is judged by the accompanying achievement of organizational goals. It is based on the precepts of goal setting theory and argues that leaders will have to engage in different types of leadership behavior depending on the nature and demands of the particular situation. It is the leader’s job to assist followers in attaining goals and to provide direction and support needed to ensure that their goals are compatible with the organizations.

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A leader’s behaviour is acceptable to subordinates when viewed as a source of satisfaction and motivational when need satisfaction is contingent on performance, and the leader facilitates, coaches and rewards effective performance. Path goal theory identifies achievement-oriented, directive, participative and supportive leadership styles. In achievement-oriented leadership, the leader sets challenging goals for followers, expects them to perform at their highest level, and shows confidence in their ability to meet this expectation. This style is appropriate when the follower suffers from lack of job challenge. In directive leadership, the leader lets followers know what is expected of them and tells them how to perform their tasks. This style is appropriate when the follower has an ambiguous job. Participative leadership involves leaders consulting with followers and asking for their suggestions before making a decision. This style is appropriate when the follower is using improper procedures or is making poor decisions. In supportive leadership, the leader is friendly and approachable. He or she shows concern for followers’ psychological well being. This style is appropriate when the followers lack confidence.

Path-Goal theory assumes that leaders are flexible and that they can change their style, as situations require. Effective leaders clarify the path to help their followers achieve their goals and make the journey easier by reducing roadblocks and pitfalls. Research demonstrates that employee performance and satisfaction are positively influenced when the leader compensates for the shortcomings in either the employee or the work setting.

Leadership plays an important role in one’s life. If one is a business owner he needs to be a leader in the field of your business. To be a successful leader, one must demonstrates some or all of the following characteristics:

  1. The ability to listen: Most leaders do too much talking but not enough listening. Feedbacks to a person’s company services or products are important to that person as they demonstrate the customers’ needs.
  2. The ability to acknowledge and change: This is probably the hardest part to do. People often refuse to change. They believe their services or products are the best, which, there’s nothing wrong with that. But when there are feedbacks coming from customers you have to listen, then acknowledge them and make changes to provide better customer service.
  3. The ability to form one-on-one relationships: People will need to be able to reach you. If you are just starting a business it’s especially important for you to be able to spend some time to get to know your customers, and/or employees. If you do that, over time, you will develop a strong trust between you and your customers.
  4. Successful people make sure they surround themselves with like-minded people. I’m not saying millionaires should just ignore the poor. But you need to spend time to communicate with like-minded people. You cannot survive by yourself, and by interacting with others you can motivate others or give others a chance to motivate you.
  5. The ability to know yourself: It is very important to know what you’re best at, and what your weaknesses are. A business is a team sport. Often one cannot handle all the aspects of a business and need to know when to seek for assistance.
  6. Successful people refuse to let other people dictate how they should do certain things. We are not living under someone else’s shadow. We must take control and ownership of our lives and careers and never let go.
  7. The ability to communicate: Communication is really very important. Even if you are running a home online business and you use email as a communication channel. Down the road, you might want to do a video to promote your company. You might receive TV interviews. It’s never too late to practice your presentation and communication skills.
  8. Successful people display high levels of optimism and confidence. They believe in themselves and they are not afraid of failures. They see every obstacle as a stepping-stone to their success. They turn challenges into motivators and become their advantages.
  9. People who are successful are the ones who are passionate at what they do.
  10. People who are successful are the ones who develop high levels of patience and dedication to see the results.
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Characteristics of Successful and Effective Leadership

It is not only inborn personality traits that are important but also styles and behaviours that a person learns. Strong autocratic leaders set their goals without considering the opinions of their followers, and then command their followers to execute their assigned tasks without question. Consultative leaders solicit the opinions and ideas of their followers in the goal-setting process but ultimately determine important goals and task assignments on their own. Democratic or participative leaders participate equally in the process with their followers and let the group make decisions. Extremely laid-back leaders, so called laissez-faire leaders, let the group take whatever action its members feel is necessary.

A research team at the University of Michigan, inspired and led by Renis Likert, studied leadership for several years and identified two distinct styles, which they referred to as job-centered and employee-centered leadership styles. The job-centered leader closely supervises subordinates to make sure they perform their tasks following the specified procedures. This type of leader relies on reward, punishment, and legitimate power to influence the behaviour of followers. The employee-centered leader believes that creating a supportive work environment ultimately is the road to superior organizational performance. The employee-centered leader shows great concern about the employees’ emotional well-being, personal growth and development, and achievement.

A leadership study group at Ohio State University, headed by Harris Fleishman, found similar contrasts in leadership style, which they referred to as initiating structure and consideration. The leadership style of initiating structure is similar to the job-centered leadership style, whereas consideration is similar to the employee-centered leadership style. It was the initial expectation of both research groups that a leader who could demonstrate both high initiating structure (job centered) and high consideration (employee centered) would be successful and effective in all circumstances.

Many students of leadership today believe that there is no one best way to lead, believing instead that appropriate leadership styles vary depending on situations. Fred Fiedler (1967), for instance, believes that a task-oriented leadership style is appropriate when the situation is either extremely favorable or extremely unfavorable to the leader. A favorable situation exists when the relationship between the leader and followers is good, their tasks are well-defined, and the leader has strong power; when the opposite is true, an unfavorable situation exists. When the situation is moderately favorable, a people-oriented leadership style is appropriate. Some theorists suggest that situational factors—the type of task, nature of work groups, formal authority system, personality and maturity level of followers, experience, and ability of followers—are critical in determining the most effective leadership style. For instance, when followers are inexperienced and lack maturity and responsibility, the directive leadership style is effective; when followers are experienced and willing to take charge, supportive leadership is effective.


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