Everything you need to know about the theories of leadership. Leadership remains one of the most important aspects of an organizational setting. It deals with listening, observing, and encouraging the followers to help them perform in a better way.
Leadership is not only about setting the agenda of work; it also deals with identifying problem areas, taking initiatives for change, and making improvement in current organizational systems.
There are numerous leadership theories that provide information about effective leadership. The researches carried out by many behavioural scientists to find out what makes a leader effective have resulted in various theories of leadership.
The theories of leadership can be studied under the following heads:- A. Leader-Centered Theories B. Followers Centered Theories.
A. Leader-centered theories include:- i. The Great Man Theory ii. Trait Theories of Leadership.
B. Followers centered theories include:- i. Situational Theory ii. Contingency Theories.
Some of the other theories of leadership are:- 1. Behavioural Theory 2. Leader-Member Exchange (LMX) Theory 3. Path Goal Theory 4. Theory “Z”- Team Leader 5. Theory L- Missing Management 6. McGregor’s Theory 7. Charismatic Leadership Theory.
Theories and Approaches to Leadership: Trait, Behavioural, Leader-Member Exchange(LMX), McGregor’s Theory and a Few Others
Theories of Leadership – Trait Theory, Behavioural Theory, Leader-Member Exchange (LMX) Theory, Situational / Contingency Approach, Path Goal Theory and a Few Others
1. Trait Theory:
Trait theory focuses on the individual characteristics of successful leaders. This approach says that all of us possess certain abilities and share responsibilities. Such qualities are considered as god given and hence leaders are born.
Keith Davis has summarized four of the major traits which might have an impact on successful organizational leadership.
(b) Social maturity and breath
(c) Inner motivation and achievement drives
(d) Human relations attitude
2. Behavioural Theory:
Behavioural theory focuses on leader behaviour while interacting with subordinates and not on his or her traits. In the 1930s, Kurt Lewin developed a framework based on a leader’s behavior.
He argued that there are three types of leaders:
i. Autocratic Leaders:
Make decisions without consulting their teams. This ‘style of leadership is considered appropriate when decisions need to be made quickly, when there’s no need for input, and when team agreement isn’t necessary for a successful outcome.
ii. Democratic Leaders:
Allow the team to provide input before making a decision, although the degree of input can vary from leader to leader. This style is important when team agreement matters, but it can be difficult to manage when there are lots of different perspectives and ideas.
iii. Laissez-Faire Leaders:
Don’t interfere; they allow people within the team to make many of the decisions. This works well when the team is highly capable, is motivated, and doesn’t need close supervision. However, this behavior can arise because the leader is lazy or distracted.
3. Leader-Member Exchange (LMX) Theory:
It is also called as vertical dyad model. This approach more focuses on leader’s behaviour. LMX theory focuses on two or three people who are close to each other. Informal observation of leadership behavior suggests that leader’s action is not the same towards all subordinates. The importance of potential differences in this respect is brought into sharp focus by Graen’s leader-member exchange model, also known as the vertical dyad linkage theory.
The theory views leadership as consisting of a number of dyadic relationships linking the leader with a follower. The quality of the relationship is reflected by the degree of mutual trust, loyalty, support, respect, and obligation.
According to the theory, leaders formed different kinds of relationships with various groups of subordinates. One group, referred to as the in-group, is favored by the leader. Members of in- group receive considerably more attention from the leader and have more access to the organizational resources. By contrast, other subordinates fall into the out-group. These individuals are disfavored by the leader. As such, they receive fewer valued resources from their leaders.
Leaders distinguish between the in-group and out-group members on the basis of the perceived similarity with respect to personal characteristics, such as age, gender, or personality. A follower may also be granted an in-group status if the leader believes that person to be especially competent at performing his or her job.
The relationship between leaders and followers follows the stages:
(i) Role taking- When a new member joins the organization, the leader assesses the talent and abilities of the member and offers them opportunities to demonstrate their capabilities.
(ii) Role making- An informal and unstructured negotiation on work-related factors takes place between the leader and the member. A member who is similar to the leader is more likely to succeed. A betrayal by the member at this stage may result in him being relegated to the out- group.
The LMX 7 scale assesses the degree to which leaders and followers have mutual respect for each other’s capabilities, feel a deepening sense of mutual trust, and have a sense of strong obligation to one another. Taken together, these dimensions determine the extent to which followers will be part of the leader’s in-group or out-group. In-group followers tend to function as assistants or advisers and to have higher quality personalized exchanges with the leader than do out-group followers.
These exchanges typically involve a leader’s emphasis on assignments to interesting tasks, delegation of important responsibilities, information sharing, and participation in the leader’s decisions, as well as special benefits, such as personal support and support and favorable work schedules.
Strengths of LMX Theory:
i. LMX theory is an exceptional theory of leadership as unlike the other theories, it concentrates and talks about specific relationships between the leader and each subordinate.
ii. LMX Theory is a robust explanatory theory.
iii. LMX Theory focuses our attention to the significance of communication in leadership. Communication is a medium through which leaders and subordinates develop, grow and maintain beneficial exchanges.
iv. When this communication is accompanied by features such as mutual trust, respect and devotion, it leads to effective leadership.
v. LMX Theory is very much valid and practical in its approach.
Criticisms of LMX Theory:
i. LMX Theory fails to explain the particulars of how high-quality exchanges are created.
ii. LMX Theory is objected on grounds of fairness and justice as some followers receive special attention of leaders at workplace and other followers do not.
It is forms of continuum which emphasize that leadership style consist of factors of both the task- oriented and people relations oriented behavior in varying degrees. It explains that whatever may be the type of leadership styles it ultimately relates with tasks to be performed and people with whom it is to be performed.
Some styles emphasize on concern for production which means that the attitudes of superiors towards a variety of things, such as, quality of policy decisions, procedures and processes, creativeness of research, quality of staff service, work efficiency and volume of output.
On the other hand there are certain leadership styles which emphasize on concern for people which means that degree of personal commitment towards goal achievement, maintaining the self-esteem of workers, responsibility based on trust, and satisfying inter-personal relations, Based on these two factors leadership styles can be identified in to 5 types. (1.9, 9.9, 5.5, 1.1, 9.1)
The managerial grid concept has been developed by Blame and Mour.
The 5 styles depicted are:
(i) Impoverished style where exertion of minimum effort is require get work done and sustain organization morale.
(ii) Country club style where thoughtful attention to needs of people leads to friendly and comfortable organization atmosphere and work tempo.
(iii) Task oriented style which says that efficiency results from arranging work in such a way that human elements have little effect.
(iv) Team model style which highlights that work accomplished is from committed people with interdependence through a common stake in organization purpose and with trust and respect.
(v) Middle Road style rightly pointed out that adequate performance through balance of work requirements and maintaining satisfactory morale.
Among the five different styles, the most desirable leader behaviour is 9.9. So efforts have to be taken by developing suitable training programs that attempts to change managers towards 9.9 leadership style. Managerial gird helps the managers to identify and classify managerial styles and it helps to understand why he gets the reaction that he does from his subordinates. However, the midpoint of the grid i.e. 5.5 is highly emphasized in the pure form of working conditions.
4. Situational / Contingency Approach:
Paul Harsey and Kenneth Blanchard have developed a situational model of leadership that adds ‘maturity’ of the followers as a contingency variable which deserves due consideration.
Fielder’s theory emphasizes two variables:
1. Motivational styles
2. Favourableness of situations
This is viewing that leadership qualities are determined by the situation in which he/she operates. It is not individual’s characteristics.
5. Path Goal Theory:
According to the goal setting theory, leader’s job is to create a favorable environment that helps employees reach the organizations goal. It suggests that the main functions of the leader are to clarify and set goals with subordinates them find the best path for achieving the goals and remove obstacles.
Group approach- A leader is one who comes attuned to the feelings and actions of people whom he is supposed to lead. Thus, the leader is one who comes closest to living up to the norms and standards of his group.
Path-goal theory identifies four kinds of leader behavior-
i. Directive leader behavior- Letting subordinates know what is expected of them, giving guidance and direction, and scheduling work.
ii. Supportive leader behavior- Being friendly and approachable, showing concern for subordinate welfare, and treating members as equals.
iii. Participative leader behavior- Consulting subordinates, soliciting suggestions, and allowing participation in decision making.
iv. Achievement-oriented behavior- Setting challenging goals, expecting subordinates to perform at high levels, encouraging subordinates and showing confidence in subordinates’ abilities.
6. Theory “Z”- Team Leader:
a. Balances production and people issues
b. Builds a working team of employees
c. Team approach- involves subordinates
d. Organization is a vehicle for carrying out plans
e. Results of leadership styles
f. “good manager” –
i. High productivity, cooperation, low turnover, employee commitment
ii. Origins of leadership
iii. Evidence that both inherent personality and environment are factors
7. Theory L- Missing Management:
Related to very low productivity.
8. McGregor’s Theory:
McGregor argued that the style of Management adopted is a function of the manager’s attitudes towards human nature and behaviour at work. He put forward two suppositions called Theory X and Theory Y which are based on popular assumptions about work and people.
Douglas Mc. Gregor has classified the prevalent theories into two groups:
1. Traditional or theory X
2. Modern or theory Y.
1. Traditional or Theory X:
It completely excludes workers from the process of managerial decision making the theory stress that would here only when forced to do so through ruthless exercise of managerial authority over them through constant rebuking scolding reprimanding. Decisions whether right or wrong have to be made by managers only, the only rule assigned to workers being to mainly incline the decision.
Assumptions of Theory X:
1. Lack of inclination to work- People do not like work and try to avoid it.
2. Fears can alone force action- People do not like work, so managers have to control, direct, coerce, and threaten employees to get them to work toward organisational goals.
3. Inbuilt dislike for responsibility- People prefer to be directed, to avoid responsibility, to want security, and have little ambition.
4. Living – off others – Mc Gregor used the term “Theory X” to explain the negative management attitude about the workforce. Such management see their workforce as lazy people who avoid work if possible also they lack ambition and do not enjoy work.
5. Obsession with security
6. Money alone can make the people to work
7. Labour is only a factor of production
8. Authority is synonymous with control- Theory X managers follow an authoritarian management style where emphasis is on output and productivity rather than on the people in the organization.
In Nutshell Theory “X”:
Autocratic leader shows following characteristic:
(i) Lacks flexibility
(ii) Controlling and demanding
(iii) “Carrot and stick” approach
(iv) Focused solely on productivity
(v) “My way or the highway”
(vi) Job stress; low satisfaction; unions form
Modern Theory or Theory Y:
It is the exact opposite of theory X, it gives workers a pride of place in the process of management. It emphasis fuel and active cooperation, between workers and management to accomplish the enterprise objectives as per theory if workers are properly maturated, they would willingly accept responsibility and show the sense of creativity and imagination in their work performance.
It can be said to be positive and optimistic outlook. Managers take a more positive approach and assume that employees are able to achieve organizational objectives out of their own accord and initiative. They believe that workers can gain satisfaction from work and that they are able to take on responsibility.
Assumptions of Theory Y:
1. Work is reward in itself
2. Inherent sense of responsibility
4. Sense of security.
5. Financial reward is not the only inspiration.
6. Decision – making ability is not the monopoly
7. Democratically inclined.
8. People do not naturally dislike work; work is a natural part of their lives.
9. People are internally motivated to reach goals to which they are committed.
10. People are committed to goals to the degree that they receive personal rewards when they reach their objectives.
11. People will seek and accept responsibility under favourable conditions.
12. People have the capacity to be innovative in solving organisational problems.
13. People are bright, but generally their potentials are under-utilised.
In Nutshell Theory “Y”:
Benevolent leader shows following characteristics:
(i) Very people oriented; encouraging.
(ii) Organizes around people.
(iii) Can be paternalistic.
(iv) “Country club” atmosphere: non-competitive.
(v) Low achievement; good people leave.
McGregor concluded that managers ought to adopt a Theory Y approach in order to get positive results for the whole organization.
Theories of Leadership – Trait, Behavioural and Situational Theory
The researches carried out by many behavioural scientists to find out what makes a leader effective have resulted in various theories of leadership.
However, we shall discuss only three categories of theories of leadership:
1. Trait theory.
2. Behavioural theory.
3. Situational theory.
(a) Fidler’s contingency theory
(b) Hersey-Blanchard’s Situational Leadership
(c) Path Goal Leadership Theory.
1. Trait Theory:
The trait theory seeks to determine the personal characteristics or traits of a successful leader. A successful leader is supposed to have the following traits – good personality, intellectual ability, initiative, imagination, emotional stability, desire to accept responsibility, flexibility, honesty, sincerity, integrity, ability to make quick decisions, courage, reliability, persuasive power, etc. To determine the personality traits of a successful leader, studies were conducted by selecting successful leaders and find out their traits. It was presumed that persons possessing these traits could become successful leaders.
But this theory suffers from many limitations.
i. It emphasises mainly personal traits and does not consider the environment or situation in which they have to be applied.
ii. It assumes that leadership is an in-born quality and cannot be acquired.
iii. There is no common list of traits found in all successful leaders.
iv. There is no objective criteria to measure individual traits of leaders.
In spite of the limitations, the trait theory of leadership is not completely invalid. Their theory indicates that a leader should have certain personal traits. This helps the management to develop such qualities in a leader through its various programmes of training and development.
The traits stated above can be consolidated into the following broad categories:
i. Intelligence including judgement and ability.
ii. Previous attainments in meritorious activities and sports.
iii. Initiative, drive to persist and achieve and reliance.
iv. Adaptability to social actions and participate in group events.
v. Emotionally matured and having consistency in thinking.
vi. Having exceptions about social recognition and stable economic position.
Traits theory considers only one dimension of leadership quality. But only traits cannot make a leader. Other aspects should be looked into.
In this approach, the emphasis is on the actual behaviour and action of the leaders and not on their traits or characteristics. In other words, this approach emphasises that strong leadership is the result of effective role behaviour.
This approach states that the leader uses three skills to lead his followers. These skills are – technical (refers to a person’s knowledge of the process of technique), human (refers to ability to interact with people) and conceptual (refers to manager’s ideas which enable a manager to set up models and design plans).
This approach assumes that a particular behaviour of a manager will make him a good leader while its opposite would discard him as a leader. Determining goals, motivating employees for achieving the goals, effective communication ability to interact effectively, building team spirit, etc. are the functional behaviour of a successful leader.
This theory emphasises the point that the favourable behaviour of a leader provides greater satisfaction to the followers and they recognise him as their leader. However, one limitations of this approach is that a particular behaviour and action of a leader may be relevant and effective at a particular point of time while at another, it may be irrelevant and ineffective. Thus, in this approach, the ‘time’ factor which is a vital element has not been considered.
Another characteristic that we may find, is the leader that surges from certain situations. These may be known as situational leaders, and there are many examples to illustrate this.
Let us assume that an aircraft crashes in an isolated forest. While still flying, the captain was the leader, holding the power of decision. From there on everything will depend on the situation. If there are many wounded passengers and a doctor is present, he will become the leader. After all the people are attended, leadership will then pass automatically to anyone who has the knowledge of surviving and a sense of orientation in that type of vegetation. He will be the only hope left and everyone will follow him.
This goes to show the importance of know-how in relation to the situation, and many times without anyone noticing, leadership flows from one place to the other. Great leaders know how to get people to share their knowledge;
We must not forget that although technical and professional skills are important in authority, it is not everything. To become a leader, you need to have leadership abilities, the power of decision and the facility to communicate with people. A person must be flexible and have the good sense to transfer certain decisions, when the mater gets out of your own knowledge sphere.
The true leader is a person who can adapt himself to many different situations, and never stops learning. He is always interacting with people, and getting everyone to work together with a common vision, so as to produce fantastic results. People will follow him without even recognising they have taken on the role of follower. This is what makes the leader different from the others.
According to this theory, leadership is affected by a situation from which a leader emerges and in which he works. In other words, the situation — the group, the problem and its environment — will affect the type of leadership. An important aspect of this theory is the interaction between the group and its leader and the people tend to follow the person who is capable of fulfilling their desires.
The leader recognises his followers’ desires and follows such methods (depending on the situation) which satisfy them. The main thrust of the situational theory is that the leadership style may be effective under one situation and ineffective under the other. In other words, situational theory emphasises that there is no one best style of leadership universally applicable to all situations and that the leader has to change his style of leadership from situation to situation.
If the leader adopts the same style under all situations, he may not be successful. For example, Winston Churchill was the most effective and successful Prime Minister of Britain during the period of the Second World War, but he was a flop afterwards when the situation changed.
Though this theory states leadership ability of an individual in a given situation and measures his leadership potentialities, it is silent on the point whether this individual will fit in another situation.
There are many situational or contingency theories out of which (a) Fiedler’s Contingency Theory, (b) Hersey and Blanchard’s situational leadership and (c) Path-Goal theory are considered as vital theories.
The Austrian psychologist Fred Edward Fiedler proposed this theory. The contingency model emphasizes the importance of both the leader’s personality and the situation in which that leader operates. A leader is the individual who is given the task of directing and coordinating task-relevant activities, or the one who carries the responsibility for performing these functions when there is no appointed leader.
Fiedler relates the effectiveness of the leader to aspects of the group situation. Fred Fiedler’s Contingency Model also predicts that the effectiveness of the leader will depend on both the characteristics of the leader and the favourable-ness of the situation.
Situational Leadership Theory (SLT) takes the Distributed Functions Model of leadership one step further by stating that there is a most effective style of leadership in any particular situation. SLT states that Task Behaviour is the extent to which a leader engages in one-way communication by explaining what participants are supposed to do as well as when, where, and how tasks are to be accomplished. Relationship Behaviour is the extent to which a leader engages in two-way communication by providing emotional support, “strokes” and facilitating behaviours.
SLT is based on an interplay between:
i. The amount of direction (task behaviour) the leaders give,
ii. The amount of emotional support the leaders provide, and
iii. The “maturity” level that participants exhibit on a specific task, function, or objective.
Participant Maturity is defined as the capacity to set high but attainable goals (achievement motivation), willingness and ability to take responsibility, and education and/ or experience of and individual or group. These variables should be considered only in relation to a specific task to be performed.
On the first day of a canoeing trip, the participants have a low maturity. Most have never done it before. They don’t know the strokes, the terminology, or how to canoe with a partner. Also the group is new to the area and not known each other. On the fourth day of the trip, the group probably has a high degree of maturity in canoeing. They have learned how to successfully maneuver the canoe and how to work together with a partner. They may be able to handle easily the water that you would not have taken them down the first day.
SLT defines four general styles of leadership based on the degree of Task Behaviour and the degree of Relationship Behaviour.
To the ‘X’ axis, we take the task behaviour and to the ‘Y’ the relationship behaviour. We do take a continuum of unmatured employees to matured employees, from right to left.
High Task/Low Relationship Behaviour – is referred to as “telling” because this style is characterised by one-way communication in which the leader defines the roles of participant(s) and tells them what, how, when, and where to do various tasks.
High Task/High Relationship Behaviour – is referred to as “selling” because with this style most of the direction is still provided by the leader. She also attempts through two-way communication and emotional support to get the participant(s) to buy into decisions that have to be made.
High Relationship/Low Task Behaviour – This is called “participating”. Because with this style the leader and the participant(s) now share in decision-making through two-way communication and much facilitating behaviour from the leader since the participant(s) have the ability and knowledge to do the task.
Low Relationship/Low Task Behaviour – is labelled “delegating” because the style involves letting participant(s) “run their own show.” The leader delegates since the participant(s) are high in maturity, being both willing and able to take responsibility for directing their own behaviour.
SLT connects the style of leadership with the maturity level of the group. That is, to determine the most effective style of leadership, first determine the maturity level of the group in relation to the specific task. Then draw a line from the maturity level axis to the bell-shaped curve in the drawing. The intersection of the line and the bell curve indicates the most effective leadership style for that situation. As the group matures, the most effective style of leadership changes along the bell curve.
Supposing, you are going on a trip to a place in a group. On the first day of a trip, the participants have a low maturity when it comes to setting up a camp. The most effective leadership style is High Task/Low Relationship (Telling) since participants need to be taught how and where to set things up. On the fourth day of the trip, the group probably has a high degree of maturity in relation to setting up camp. In this case the most effective leadership style is Low Task/Low Relationship (Delegating) since the participants can handle it on their own.
The important point to remember regarding SLT is that there is no one “best” way to be a leader. Rather, from one situation to the next there is a most effective style. As situations change, the tasks change and so do the maturity levels of the individual or group in relation to the task. Thus, throughout the trip, you will be changing your style in order to provide the most effective leadership. This also does not mean that using another style of the bell curve is “wrong” but it probably will be less effective or appropriate.
On the fourth day of the trip, the participants know what to do about setting up camp and are good at doing it themselves. If the leader(s) use a High Task/Low Relationship style the participants are likely to wonder why they are being “told” what to do and may get frustrated or angry with the leader(s).
As the group matures they take on more responsibility for running the group both in terms of tasks and relationships. The Distributed Functions Model comes in here because the participants have begun to take on many of the leadership roles originally provided by the leaders. As much as possible it is a goal to move to a Delegating style (as long as the participants are ready for it) since this helps to facilitate growth through the Cycle of Change.
Use of different leadership styles may vary with:
i. Age of group
ii. Motivation of participants
iii. Trip situations/activities
iv. Safety issues.
Assume that you are teaching skills to the group. When teaching an important skill, you would be more task-oriented. Also in any emergency situation you need to take quick charge of things via the task-oriented style. Remember to use your “leader’s radar” to assess not only the state of maturity of the group but also the maturity of each individual. You may need to use one style with the entire group and different styles with individuals within the group.
Thus, the situational theory, says that a successful leader will act according to the prevailing situation and mood of followers (workers) at that point of time. The theory denotes that it is a function of leader, workers and situations.
The American psychologist, Robert House proposed this theory. The Path Goal Theory contends that the leader must motivate subordinates by – (1) emphasising the relationship between the subordinates’ own needs and the organizational goals; (2) clarifying and facilitating the path subordinates must take to fulfill their own needs as well as the organisation’s needs.
House’s theory also attempts to predict the effect that structuring behavior will have under different conditions. Based on assumptions from Vroom’s Expectancy Theory, this model explains how behavior of the leader causes expectancies/motivations in the subordinate that create effort and satisfaction. The rationale is that followers will perform better if they think they are capable, and if they perceive the work will get results and be worth the effort.
In choosing which of the leadership behaviours to use, two variables influence the choice – the subordinate’s characteristics, and the characteristics of the task. The leader behaviour is contingent on these characteristics, making this a situational leadership theory. No one leadership behaviour works for motivating every person and the leader supplies what is missing to motivate the follower.
After this initial assessment of the follower and the task, the leader then helps the follower define goals and then reach them in the most efficient way. Leaders may even adapt their styles with an individual during the completion of a task, if one part of the job needs a different motivation from another.
Although it is a complex and sometimes confusing theory, it reminds leaders to continually think of their central purposes as a leader – to help define goals, clarifies paths to get there, remove obstacles that may exist, and provide support and encouragement for achievement of goals. Most of the responsibility is on the leader however, and there is little emphasis identified for the follower. Some argue this kind of leadership may be counterproductive over time, resulting in learned helplessness.
Path Goal theory is one of the most respected approaches of understanding leadership. It is a direct extension of expectancy theory of motivation. It proposes that the leader is a key individual in bringing about improved subordinate motivation, satisfaction and performance. According to this theory, the leader’s job is to assist his or her followers.in attaining their goals and provide the direction or support needed to ensure that their goals are compatible with the overall objectives of the group or organisation.
The Path goal theory of leadership suggests that the primary functions of a leader are to make valued or desired awards available in the workplace and to clarify for the subordinate, the kinds of behaviour that will lead to goal accomplishment and valued rewards — that is the leader should clarify the path to goal attainment.
According to this theory, the leader’s behaviour is acceptable to group members to the degree that they view it as an immediate source of satisfaction or as a means of future satisfaction.
According to House, there are four types of leadership styles depending on the situation.
Four Styles of Leading Subordinates are:
1. Directive – The leader directs and there is no subordinate participation in decision-making. The directive leader lets subordinates know what is expected, or gives specific guidance on how to accomplish tasks.
2. Supportive – The leader is friendly and shows concern for the needs of followers (subordinates).
3. Participative – The leader consults with group members and uses suggestions from subordinates (group members) before making decisions.
4. Achievement-oriented – The leader sets challenging goals and expects followers to perform at their highest level.
In Directive Leadership, the leader gives specific guidance of performance to subordinates. In Supportive Leadership, the leader is friendly and shows concern for the subordinates. In Participative Leadership, the leader consults with subordinates and considers their suggestions and in Achievement-oriented Leadership, the leader sets high goals and expects subordinates to have high-level performance.
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The path goal theory, unlike Fiedler’s theory, suggests that these four styles are used by the same leader in different situations.
In this theory, the most important factor is the way the leader affects the path between subordinate’s behaviour and goals.
The leader can affect the path by performing the following:
1. Recognising and stimulating subordinate’s need for rewards over which the leader has some control.
2. Rewarding goal achievement.
3. Supporting subordinates’ efforts to achieve the goals.
4. Helping to reduce frustrating barriers to achieving goals.
5. Increasing the opportunities for personal satisfaction for subordinates. Basically, the leader attempts to help the subordinate to find the best path, to set challenging goals and to remove stressful barriers along the path or way.
Theories of Leadership – Leader-Centered Theories and Followers Centered Theories
There are many theories on leadership propounded by thinkers. These theories have evolved with passage of time. In this article, we will try to understand the basics of some prominent theories associated with leadership.
1. Leader-Centered Theories:
Leader-centered theories focus on a leader’s traits, behaviors, personal characteristics and their relationship with the business environment.
a. The Great Man Theory:
The great man theory is one of the oldest theoretical expositions on leadership. The theory is based on the presumption that the traits of leadership are intrinsic. The theory was developed around the mid nineteenth century. This theory envisaged that great leaders were destined by birth to become a leader. The great leaders are born. Thomas Carlyle was one the advocates of this theory. According to the great man theory great leaders are born, and not made. They arise when there is a great need. This theory often depicts the great leaders as heroes who are destined to rise to leadership when needed. The theory was not backed by scientific explanations.
b. Trait Theories of Leadership:
Trait theories of leadership advocated that there are specific personality traits that distinguish leaders from non-leaders. Trait theories of leadership proposed that the leaders differ from the followers on account of certain traits. These leadership theories are based on the characteristics of the leaders. The traits of both successful and unsuccessful leaders are listed. The list of traits is thereafter compared to those of potential leaders so as to assess their likelihood of success or failure.
Certain traits are predominantly well-matched to leadership. The successful leaders have the correct combination of these traits. Trait theories identify particular personality or behavioural characteristics shared by leaders.
In the trait theories of leadership, it is interesting to note that there are numerous traits reported by different studies. Ralph M. Stodgill reviewed literature on leadership and prepared a list of main leadership traits and skills.
In general, different studies reflect that the major traits of leaders include sociability, persistence, initiative, self-confidence, knowing how to get things done, alertness to and insight into a situation, adaptability and good judgment and many more. Most of these traits cannot be measured. It has been observed that, there has been a shift from personality traits towards job-related skills.
Merits of Trait Theory of Leadership:
i. The trait theory provides complete information of characteristics of the leader.
ii. The theory forms the basis for further research and studies.
iii. It provides a benchmark on the basis of which the leadership traits of individuals can be assessed.
Demerits of the Trait Theory of Leadership:
i. The ability of this theory to predict leadership success is not very strong.
ii. The theory ignore the need of the followers.
iii. The theory is unsuccessful to identify the relative importance of various traits.
iv. The list of possible traits of leaders is very lengthy.
2. Followers Centered Theories:
Followers centered theories include situational theory and contingency theory in general.
They are explained as under:
a. Situational Theory:
Situational theories came up with suggestion that the leaders should choose the best course of action based upon situational variables. Different styles of leadership may be suitable according the situation. Factors that affect situational decisions include motivation and capability of followers. Situational theory of leadership operates on the premise that different situations demand different styles of leadership. Situational leadership theory focuses on the maturity of the followers.
Hersey and Blanchard contributed to the situational theory of leadership by developing the theory. In order to be successful and effective, a leader must be able to adapt different leadership style for different situations.
We have tried to use the same nomenclature used by Hersey and Blanchard. According to Hersey and Blanchard, there are four main leadership styles. The table 2.2 summarizes the leadership styles recommended by Hersey and Blanchard for people with different levels of maturity.
According to Hersey and Blanchard, knowing when to use each style is largely dependent on the maturity of the followers.
b. Contingency Theories:
The contingency theory of leadership advocates that the success of a leader is dependent upon various situational factors. The factors may include the leader’s preferred style, the skill and behaviors of followers and etc. No leadership style is best suited for all situations. One leadership style, which is effective in some situations, may not be successful in others. The contingency theory of leadership supports the idea that leadership is situational in nature, with a wide range of variables contained in a particular situation.
Leaders who might have been very successful at one place and period may fail to perform in another situation or when the factors around them change.
Theories of Leadership – According to Various Researchers: Charismatic Leadership Theory, Trait Theory, Behavioural Theory and Situational Theory
Many of the research studies, particularly by behavioural scientists, have been carried on to find out the answer of the following question:
i. What makes a leader effective?
ii. Is a leader’s success attributable to the person’s personality, behaviour or the types of followers one has?
iii. Can success be situation related or is it a result of combination of all the above factors?
These researchers, however, could not give a satisfactory answer of the question. Instead, their researches have resulted in various theories or approaches on leadership.
The prominent amongst these are the following:
I. Trait theory.
II. Behavioural theory.
III. Situational theory.
Age-old theories of leadership, known as great man theory or charismatic leadership theory, have been discarded long back by behavioural scientists. They have started attracting attention recently. Each of these theories has its own contributions, limitations, assumptions and framework of analysis.
Charismatic Leadership Theory:
Charismatic leadership theory, also called great man theory, can be traced back to ancient times. Plato’s Republic and Confucius’ Analects dealt with leadership. They provided some insights into the leadership theory. Subsequent studies based on these insights have suggested that a leader is born and is not made. A leader has some charisma which acts as influencer.
Charisma is a Greek word which means gift. Thus, charisma is a God- gifted attribute in a person which makes a person a leader irrespective of the situations in which the person works. Charismatic leaders are those who inspire followers and have a major impact on their organisations through their personal vision and energy. Occasionally, a leader emerges whose high visibility and personal charisma catches the public consciousness.
Robert House, who proposed a re-look on charismatic theory, suggests that charismatic leaders have very high levels of referent power and that some of that power comes from their need to influence others. According to him, a charismatic leader has extremely high levels of self-confidence, dominance and a strong conviction in the normal righteousness of his/her beliefs.
It has the ability to convince the followers that he/she possesses such confidence and conviction. He suggests further that charismatic leaders communicate a vision or higher-level goal that captures the commitment and energy of followers.
The basic assumptions and implications of charismatic leadership theory are as follows:
1. Leaders in general and great leaders in particular, have some exceptional inborn leadership qualities which are bestowed upon them by the divine power.
2. These inborn qualities are sufficient for a leader to be successful.
3. Since these qualities are inborn, these cannot be enhanced through education and training. Further, since these qualities are of personal nature, others cannot share these.
4. These leadership qualities make a leader effective and situational factors do not have any influence.
Implications of the Theory:
Charismatic leadership theory has re-emerged basically for two reasons. First, many large companies in USA have embarked on organisational transformation programmes of extensive changes that should be accomplished within a short period of time. It is believed that such transformations require transformational leaders. Second, many feel that by concentrating on traits, behaviours and situations, leadership theories have lost sight of the leaders. These theories discuss more about transactional leaders and not about transformational leaders.
A transactional leader determines what subordinates need to do to achieve objectives, classifies those requirements and helps subordinates become confident that they can reach their objectives. A transformational leader inspires his/her followers through vision and energy.
Trait, behavioural, and situational leadership theories fail to explain the reasons behind the deeds of great political leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Lenin, etc. These leaders have been known for transforming their nations. In India, Great industrialists like JRD Tata, GD Birla and Dhirubhai Ambani have created vast industrial empires because of their vision, energy and entrepreneurship. Charismatic leadership theory focuses on such qualities.
It is important to mention here that there are two basic limitations of this theory. Firstly, if we assume that there are certain inborn qualities of a great leader, it implies that nothing can be done to develop leaders in an organisation. In fact, its opposite is also true. Through various training and development programmes, leaders can be developed in an organisation. Secondly, a charismatic leader may fail in the changed situation.
For example, Winston Churchill, the late prime minister of Great Britain, was very effective during World War II. He, however, flopped afterwards. Thus, we can derive that the situational variables play their own role in determining leadership effectiveness.
The weaknesses of charismatic leadership theory gave way to a more realistic approach to leadership. Under the influence of the behaviourist psychological thought, researchers accepted the fact that leadership traits are not completely inborn but can also be acquired through learning and experience. Trait is defined as relatively enduring quality of an individual. The trait approach seeks to determine what makes a successful leader from the leaders own personal characteristics.
From the very beginning, people have emphasized that a particular individual was a successful leader because of certain qualities or characteristics. Trait approach leadership studies were quite popular between 1930 and 1950. The method of study was to select leaders of eminence and their characteristics were studied. It was believed that only people with certain specific traits could become successful leaders.
Various research studies suggest that intelligence; attitude, personality and biological factors are essential ingredients for effective leaders.
Various trait theories suggest the following traits of a successful leader:
i. Physical and constitutional factor such as height, weight, physique, energy, health, appearance
v. Will, initiative, persistence, ambition
vii. Other factors such as ability to talk, cheerfulness, geniality, enthusiasm, perseverance, alertness and originality
In a later study, researchers found supervisory ability, achievement motivation, self-actualisation, intelligence, self-assurance and decisiveness as the qualities related with leadership success.
The current research on leadership traits suggests that some factors do help differentiate leaders from non- leaders.
These traits are as follows:
i. High level personal drive
ii. Desire to lead
iii. Personal integrity
Cognitive or analytical ability, business knowledge, charisma, creativity, flexibility and personal warmth are also frequently desired. Anderson Consulting, a management consultancy firm, conducted a study of 90 global chief executives to find out the abilities required for an ideal chief executive in the present era of globalisation. The study highlighted 14 qualities.
Accordingly, a chief executive thinks globally, anticipates opportunity, creates a shared vision, develops and empowers people, appreciates cultural diversity, builds teamwork and partnership, embraces change, is technologically savvy, encourages constructive challenge, ensures customer satisfaction, achieves a competitive advantage, demonstrates personal mastery, shares leadership, and lives the values. Various studies show wide variation in leadership traits. Based on their source, traits can be classified as innate and acquirable traits.
An individual possesses innate qualities since birth. These qualities are natural and often known as God- gifted. On the basis of the 11 qualities, it is said that leaders are born and not made. Individuals cannot acquire these qualities.
The following are some of the innate qualities that a successful leader has:
i. Physical Features:
Physical features of a man are determined by heredity factors. Heredity is the transmission of the qualities from ancestor to descendant through a mechanism lying primarily in the chromosomes of the germ cells. Physical characteristics and rate of maturation determine the personality formation which is important factor in determining leadership success. To some extent, height, weight, physique, health and appearance are important for leadership.
For leadership, higher level of intelligence is required. Intelligence is generally expressed in terms of mental ability. Intelligence, to a very great extent, is a natural quality in the individuals because it is directly related with brain. The composition of brain is a natural factor. However, many psychologists claim that the level of intelligence in an individual can be increased through various training methods.
Acquirable qualities of leadership are those which can be acquired and increased through various processes. In fact, when a child is born, he/she learns many behavioural patterns through socialisation and identification processes. Such behavioural patterns develop in a child over a period time. Many of these traits can be increased through training programmes.
The following are certain major qualities that are essential for leadership:
i. Emotional Stability:
A leader should have high level of emotional stability. The person should be free from bias, consistent in action and refrain oneself from anger. It is important to be well adjusted and staying away from anti-social attitudes. Self- confidence and the ability to face all situations are important traits in this respect.
ii. Human Relations:
A successful leader should have adequate knowledge of human relations. Since an important part of a leader’s job is to develop people and get their voluntary cooperation for achieving work, a leader should have intimate knowledge of people and relationships within each group. The knowledge of how human beings behave and how they react to various situations is quite meaningful to a leader.
Empathy relates to observing the things or situations from others’ points of view. The ability to look at things objectively and understanding them from others’ point of view is an important aspect of successful leadership. When one is empathetic, the person is aware of what makes the other fellows think as they do.
Objectivity implies that what a leader does should be based on relevant facts and information. He should assess these without any bias or prejudice. The leader must base his relationship on his objectivity. He is objective and does not permit himself to get emotionally involved to the extent that he finds it difficult to make an objective diagnosis and implement the action required.
v. Motivating Skills:
Not only a leader is self- motivated, but the person also has the requisite quality to motivate his/her followers. Though there are many external forces which motivate a person for higher performance, there is inner drive in people also for motivation to work. The leader can play active role in stimulating these inner drives of the followers. Thus, a leader should understand people to the extent that the person knows his/her ability to activate others.
vi. Technical Skills:
Leading a group requires adherence to definite principles which should be understood and followed for greater success. The ability to plan, organise, delegate, analyse, seek advice, make decision, control and win cooperation requires the use of important abilities which constitute technical competence of leadership. The technical competence of leader may win support from the followers.
vii. Communicative Skills:
A successful leader knows how to communicate effectively. Communication has great force in getting the acceptance from the receivers of communication. A leader uses communication skillfully for persuasive, informative, and stimulating purposes. Normally, a successful leader is extrovert.
viii. Social Skills:
A successful leader has social skills. The leader understands people and knows their strengths and weaknesses. He/she has the ability to work with people and conducts oneself with confidence and loyalty. This helps in getting cooperation from people willingly.
Though all these qualities contribute to the success of leadership, the same cannot be applied to the relative contributions of these qualities. Moreover, it is not necessary that a successful leader in equal quantity possess all these qualities. The list of qualities may be only suggestive and not comprehensive. Leadership is too nebulous a concept to be definitely identified by listing of its important attributes.
Implications of the Theory:
This theory has two very important implications. Firstly, the theory indicates that a leader requires some traits and qualities to be effective. Secondly, many of these qualities may be developed in individuals through training and development programs. However, the theory suffers from two sets of limitations.
These are as follows:
a. Generalisation of traits
b. Applicability of traits
a. Generalisation of Traits:
There are problems in identifying traits which may be relevant for a leader to be effective in all situations. For example, Jennings has concluded that, fifty years of study has failed to produce a one- personality trait or set of qualities that can be used to discriminate leaders and non-leaders. The various studies on traits have failed to uncover any traits that clearly and consistently distinguish leaders and followers. Many other behavioural scientists hold similar views.
From this point of view, the theory suffers from the following limitations:
1. There cannot be generalisation of traits for a successful leader. This is evident through various researches conducted on leadership traits.
2. No evidence has been given about the degree of the various traits because people have various traits with different degrees.
3. There is a problem of measuring the traits. Though there are various tests to measure the personality traits, no definite conclusion can be drawn.
b. Applicability of Traits:
There is another set of problems that hinder full application of trait theory in practice. Leadership, as a process of influence, reflects in a leader’s behaviour and not in personal traits. There have been professionals with leadership traits who failed to become effective leaders.
The reason for this phenomenon is that there is no direct cause-effect relationship between a trait of a person and his/her behaviour. The trait may be only one of the factors shaping behaviour. The other factors, sometimes even more important, are situational variables. These situational variables are not incorporated in the trait theory.
Behavioural theory of leadership emphasizes on strong leadership qualities. These qualities are direct results of effective role behaviour. Leadership is shown by a person’s acts more than by his/her traits.
Researchers exploring leadership role have come to the conclusion that to operate effectively, groups need someone to perform the following two functions:
i. Task-related functions.
ii. Group maintenance functions.
Task-related functions, or problem solving functions, together provide solutions to the problems faced by the groups in performing jobs and activities. Group maintenance functions, or social functions, relate to actions of mediating disputes and ensuring that individuals feel valued by the group. An individual, who is able to perform both roles successfully, would be an effective leader. These two roles may require two different sets of behaviour from the leader, known as leadership styles.
Leadership behaviour may be viewed in the following two ways:
Functional behaviour influences followers positively and includes functions such as setting clear goals, motivating employees for achieving goals, raising their level of morale, building team spirit, effective two-way communication etc. Dysfunctional behaviour is unfavourable for the followers and denotes ineffective leadership. Such a behaviour may reflect inability to accept work force’s ideas, display emotional immaturity, poor human relations etc.
Implications of the Theory:
Behavioural theory of leadership has some important implications for managers. They can shape their behaviour which appears functional and discard the behaviour which appears dysfunctional. Researchers used the behavioural theory for analysing leadership behaviour, also known as leadership styles. They have prescribed various leadership styles which may be applied while managing people in organisations. This theory suffers from two basic limitations.
First, a particular behaviour may be functional at a point of time but it may be dysfunctional at another point of time. Thus, the time element is a decider of the effectiveness of a particular behaviour and not the behaviour itself. Second, effectiveness of leadership behaviour depends on various factors that are not innately present in a leader.
These factors are external to the leader like nature of followers or subordinates and the situations under which the leader’s behaviour takes place. These factors have not been given adequate consideration. To that extent, the theory does not explain leadership phenomenon fully.
Situational leadership approach was applied for the first time in 1920 in the armed forces of Germany. The objective was to get good generals under different situations. In the business organisations, much emphasis on the leadership researches was placed on the situations that surrounded the exercise of leadership since early 1950s.
The prime attention in situational theory of leadership, also known as contingency theory, is given to the situation in which leadership is exercised. Therefore, effectiveness of leadership is affected by factors that are associated with the leader and factors associated with the situation.
The factors that affect effectiveness of leadership can broadly be classified into the following categories:
i. Leader’s behaviour
ii. Situational factors
The combination of both these factors determines effectiveness of leadership.
i. Leader’s Behaviour:
Leader’s behaviour is affected by two variables—leader’s characteristics and the hierarchical position that a person has in the organisation.
a. Leader’s Characteristics:
An individual’s behaviour is influenced by intelligence and ability. It is also influenced by characteristics such as personality, attitudes, interest, motivation and physical characteristics such as age, sex and physical features. The behaviour of a leader is influenced by all these factors. These factors are internal to a leader.
b. Leader’s Hierarchical Position:
Leader’s hierarchical position in the organisation is important because people at different levels face different kind of problems. These affect the degree of participation from superior and subordinates. This degree of participation helps in arriving at decisions which later solve organisational problems.
Managers at higher levels are more concerned with long-run complex problems which require more participation in decision-making. Managers at lower levels are more concerned with short-run problems involving the daily operations which may not require high level of participation. The degree of this participation affects the leader’s behaviour.
ii. Situational Factors:
Besides the leader’s related factors, leadership effectiveness is affected by situational factors. These factors affect a leader’s behaviour. If a leader matches the requirement of these factors, his/her leadership will be effective.
The various situational factors may be grouped into the following four categories:
a. Subordinate’s characteristics
b. Leader’s situation
c. Group factors
d. Organisational factors
a. Subordinate’s Characteristics:
Various factors which affect an individual’s behaviour, as discussed in the case of a leader, are relevant for the subordinate too.
b. Leader’s Situation:
The leader’s situation, with respect to his/her subordinates, is an important factor affecting leadership effectiveness. There are two main variables which determine the leader’s situation.
These are as follows:
1. Leader’s position power
2. Leader-subordinate relations
Leader’s position power helps or hinders in influencing others. Thus, high-position power simplifies the leader’s task of influencing others, while low-position power makes the leader’s task more difficult. Another factor is leader subordinate relation. It is based on the classic exchange theory which suggests that there is a two-way influence in social relationships.
Thus, good followers need to succeed in their own jobs with the help of the leader while helping their leaders to succeed at theirs. Thus, if the leader has good subordinates and good relations with them, he/she is likely to be more effective.
c. Group Factors:
Various group factors like task design, group composition, group norms, group cohesiveness and peer-group relationship affect leadership effectiveness and performance. If these factors are favorable, the leader will be effective.
d. Organisational Factors:
Organisational factors like organisational climate and organisational culture affect leadership effectiveness. If these are conducive, the leader will be effective.
Implications of the Theory:
Situational theory has wide implications for managers. It offers clues to why a manager, who is successful in one situation, fails when there is change in the situation. Therefore, the managers may do better by adopting management practices including leadership which match with the situational variables. In fact, the systems and contingency approach has become the way of thinking in management and leadership is no exception.
This theory, however, should not be taken as the final word in leadership. The theory appears to be good on the surface but becomes quite complex in practice because of the presence of numerous contingent factors. However, managers can overcome this problem by diagnosing these factors suitably. This is not necessarily provided by the theory but experience has a major role to play in this case.
There appears to be one more important lacuna in this theory. The theory loses the insight of leadership and the leader is overwhelmed by the contingent factors.
In the following section we will discuss various leadership styles:
Leadership styles are the patterns of behaviour which a leader adopts for influencing the behaviour of followers or subordinates in any organisational setting. These patterns emerge in a leader’s management style as one begins to respond in the same fashion under similar conditions.
The leader develops habits of actions that become somewhat predictable to those who work with the person. Various researchers have proposed different leadership styles. These styles are either based on behavioural approach or situational approach of leadership.
Some of the important theories or models which prescribe leadership styles are given below:
Leadership style based on behavioural approach:
i. Power orientation.
ii. Leadership as a continuum.
iii. Employee-production orientation.
iv. Likert’s management system.
v. Managerial grid.
vi. Path-goal model.
Such a classification does not necessarily mean that a particular theory or model, grouped under one particular approach of leadership, does not consider the tenets of the other approach. Tenets of other approaches are also considered. However, such a consideration is secondary and the theory has not been built on such a consideration.