Leadership is an influence process; therefore, leaders are people who, by their actions, encourage a group of people to move toward a common or shared goal. A leader is an individual; leadership is the function that the individual performs. Individuals within an organization who have authority are often referred to as leaders, regardless of how they act in their jobs. But, just because someone is supposed to be a formal leader in an organization, he or she may or may not exercise leadership. In fact, informal or emergent leaders can exhibit leadership even though they do not hold formal leadership positions. Harvard’s John Kotter compares management and leadership. Management, he says, is about dealing with complexity: drawing formal plans, designing organizational structures, and monitoring outcomes. Leadership, in contrast, is about coping with change. Leaders establish direction by developing a vision; then they communicate this vision to people and inspire them to overcome obstacles. Robert House of the Wharton School of Business concurs and says that mangers use formal authority to obtain compliance from organizational members. Management consists of implementing the vision and strategy provided by leaders, coordinating and staffing the organization, and handling day-to-day problems. While both management and leadership promote organizational effectiveness, most companies are over-managed and under-led.
The search for characteristics that would differentiate leaders from nonleaders occupied the early psychologists who studied leadership. But research efforts at isolating these traits were not successful. However, attempts to identify traits consistently associated with leadership have been more successful. Using traits alone to identify leaders will not be sufficient, however, because this method ignores situational factors. While possession of the appropriate traits makes it more likely that an individual will be an effective leader, he or she still has to take the right actions. And what is right in one situation may not be right in another.
A number of studies have considered leadership styles. One of the first was done by Kurt Lewin and his associates at the University of Iowa. This study analyzed three leadership behaviors: autocratic, democratic, and laissez-faire. A leader with an autocratic style centralizes authority, dictates work methods, makes unilateral decisions, and limits employee participation. A leader with a democratic style involves employees in decision making, delegates authority, encourages participation in setting goals and work methods, and uses feedback to coach employees. A democratic-consultative leader seeks input from and hears the concerns of employees but makes all of the final decisions. A democratic-participative leader allows employees to “have a say” when decisions must be made. (continued on next slide)
The laissez-faire leader gives employees complete freedom to make decisions and perform their jobs as they see fit. According to Lewin, a democratic style promotes higher quantity and quality of work. Does this mean that managers should always use a democratic style?
The most comprehensive of the behavioral theories resulted from research that began at Ohio State in 1940. These researchers sought to identify independent dimensions of leader behavior and discovered that two categories (initiating structure and consideration) accounted for most of the behavior of leaders. Initiating structure includes behavior that attempts to organize work, goals, and work relationships. The leader who is high in initiating structure could be described in terms such as “assigns group members to particular tasks,” or “emphasizes the meeting of deadlines.” Consideration includes concern for the comfort, status, satisfaction, and well-being of subordinates. A leader who is high in consideration helps subordinates with personal problems, is friendly and approachable, and treats all subordinates as equals.
Research at the University of Michigan intended to identify characteristics of leaders that appeared to relate to measures of performance effectiveness. Two dimensions of leadership behavior were identified. Employee-oriented leaders emphasized personal relationships; they cared about the needs of their subordinates and accepted individual differences among them. Production-oriented leaders emphasized the technical or task aspects of the job. Their main concern was accomplishing their group’s tasks, and the group members were a means to that end.
Fred Fiedler developed the least-preferred coworker (LPC) questionnaire can determine a person’s basic leadership orientation: either relationship-oriented or task oriented. Then, he isolated three situational criteria—leader-member relations, task structure, and position power—that can be manipulated to match properly with the behavioral orientation of the leader. The LPC questionnaire contains sixteen contrasting adjectives. The respondent must think of all the co-workers he or she has ever had and describe the one he or she least enjoyed working with by rating that person on a scale of 1 to 8 for each of the sixteen sets of contrasting adjectives. Fiedler believed that he could use the answers to the LPC questionnaire to determine the basic leadership style of the respondent. For example, if the LPC is described in positive terms, then the respondent is relationship-oriented. If, on the other hand, the LPC is described in unfavorable terms, then the respondent is task-oriented. Fiedler argued that leadership style is innate and cannot be changed according to situational variables. Therefore, after an individual’s basic leadership style has been determined, it is necessary to match the leader with the situation.
According to the path-goal model of leadership the leader assists his or her followers to set and attain goals that are compatible with organizational objectives. Workers accept a leader’s behavior to the degree that they believe that it will lead to future satisfaction. Workers are motivated by a leader’s behavior to the degree that it (1) makes the satisfaction of their needs contingent on effective performance and (2) provides the coaching, guidance, support, and rewards that are necessary for effective performance.
To test these ideas, House identified four leadership behaviors: A directive leader tells workers what is expected of them, schedules work to be done, and guides them as they work. A supportive leader is friendly and concerned for the needs of workers. A participative leader obtains suggestions from employees before making decisions. An achievement-oriented leader sets challenging goals and expects workers to perform at their highest levels.
A comprehensive framework related to leader behavior and participation in decision making is the leader-participation model (Vroom & Yetton, 1973). The leader-participation model assumes that a leader can adjust his or her style according to the situation. This model identifies five leadership behaviors: 1. The leader makes the decision alone. 2. The leader asks for information from group members but makes the decision alone. Group members may or may not be informed about the decision. 3. The leader shares the situation with each group member and asks for information and evaluation. Members do not meet as a group, and the leader alone makes the decision. 4. The leader and group members discuss the situation, but the leader makes the decision. 5. The leader and group members discuss the situation, and the group makes the decision. This model originally used seven contingencies (the relevance of which could be identified by making a series of “yes” or “no” choices) to determine the best leadership style from among the five alternatives.
The situational leadership model developed by Paul Hersey and Kenneth Blanchard reflects how leaders should adjust their leadership styles according to the readiness of their followers. As a reflection of how willing and able a follower is to complete a task, Hersey and Blanchard have identified four stages of readiness: 1. A follower is both unable and unwilling to do a job. 2. A follower is unable to do the job but willing to perform necessary tasks. 3. A follower is able to do the job but unwilling to be told what to do. 4. A follower is both able and willing to do the job.
Charismatic leadership theory asserts that followers attribute extraordinary or heroic abilities to persons who exhibit the following behaviors: extremely high confidence, dominance, and strong convictions. Jay A. Conger and Rabindra N. Kanguno at McGill University conducted a comprehensive analysis of charismatic leadership qualities. They propose that a charismatic leader has an idealized goal and a strong personal commitment to the goal. Moreover, this leader is unconventional, self-assured, assertive—an agent of radical change rather than a guardian of the status quo.
Charismatic leaders often emerge during times of crisis or massive change in business, politics, religion, or war. However, once the crisis is over, a charismatic leader may become a liability because overwhelming self-confidence and unconventional behavior can interfere with day-to-day business operations.
Visionary leadership requires the ability to create and articulate a realistic, credible, attractive vision that grows out of and improves upon the present. This vision almost “jump-starts the future by calling forth the skills, talents, and resources to make it happen.” A vision is not a dream. It is a reality that has not come to pass. Unlike a mission statement that conveys purpose but not direction, a vision offers means as well as ends. While goals point to a desired end, they are often value-neutral. A vision contains values and the actions needed to achieve the desired result.
Visionary leaders have three qualities: First, they can explain the vision to others. Second, they express the vision not only verbally but also by their behavior. Third, they can extend the vision to different leadership contexts. The key properties of a vision are inspirational possibilities that are value-centered, realizable, and conveyed with superior imagery and articulation. A vision that does not propose a future that is clearly better for the organization is likely to fail. In a survey of 1,500 senior leaders, 870 of the CEOs from twenty different countries chose a “strong sense of vision” as the dominant characteristic for a CEO in the year 2000. Not everyone is so enthusiastic. Robert Eaton, CEO of Chrysler, believes that the concept is vague and wants Chrysler people to focus of quantifiable short-term results. The debate can be reconciled by recognizing that visionary leadership must be supported by detailed plans.
Transactional leaders guide their followers in the direction of established goals by clarifying role and task requirements. So, their actions closely parallel the more structured role of managers. Transformational leaders (1) inspire followers to transcend their own self-interests for the good of the organization and (2) affect their followers in profound, extraordinary ways. They are attentive to the concerns of individual followers; they urge followers to see old problems in new ways; and they motivate followers to exert extra effort to achieve group goals. These two leadership styles are not mutually exclusive. In fact, transformational leadership builds on the transactional leadership foundation. According to research, though, transformational leadership beats its transactional counterpart and fosters higher productivity, lower turnover, and higher employee satisfaction.
Leadership is increasingly taking place within the context of teams. The role of a team leader differs from the traditional leadership role performed by first-line supervisors. Even the most capable managers have trouble transitioning from a traditional command-and-control style to a team leadership style. The challenge, then, is to learn how to become an effective team leader. Research has shown that team leaders assume certain common responsibilities: coaching, facilitating, handing disciplinary problems, reviewing performance, training, and communication. Many of these responsibilities apply to managers in general. A better way to describe the team leader’s job is to focus on two priorities: managing the team’s external boundary and facilitating the team process.
National culture affects leadership style in two ways. It shapes the preferences of leaders, and it defines what is acceptable to subordinates. Therefore, leaders cannot choose their style at will. They are constrained by the cultural conditions in which they have been socialized and that their subordinates expect. Remember that most leadership theories were developed in the United States. Therefore, they have an American bias. The belief that some leadership style will always be effective, regardless of the situation, may not be true. In fact, leadership may not always be important. Certain individual, job, and organizational variables can substitute for formal leadership, negating the influence of the leader. For example, an employee’s experience, training, professionalism, or independence can neutralize the effect of leadership. These characteristics can replace the need for a leader’s support and negate his or her ability to create structure and reduce ambiguity. Similarly, jobs that are inherently unambiguous and routine or intrinsically satisfying may place fewer demands on the leadership variable. Organizational characteristics (formal goals, rigid rules and procedures, or cohesive work groups) can act in the place of leadership.