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Major Leadership Theories

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These slides present major leadership theories namely; trait theory, behavioural theories, contingency theories, transactional theories, and relationship theories.

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Major Leadership Theories

  1. 1. Leadership Theories IL329
  2. 2. Meaning of Leadership • Yukl (2006) defines leadership as “the process of influencing others to understand and agree about what needs to be done and how to do it, or the process of facilitating individual and collective efforts to accomplish shared objectives”. • Leadership is “a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal” (Northousem, 2010).
  3. 3. Meaning of Leadership • The two definitions suggest several components central to the phenomenon of leadership. Some of them are: • Leadership involves influencing others, • Leadership is a process, • Leadership happens within the context of a group, • Leadership involves goal attainment, and • These goals are shared by leaders and their followers.
  4. 4. Models and Theories of Leadership • Trait Theory (30’s) • Behavioral Theory (40’s and 50’s) • Contingency Theory (60s and 70s) • Transformational Theory (80s up) • Others: emergent, distributed, shared, level 5 leadership, etc.
  5. 5. Great Man Theory (1840’s) • This theory is linked to the work of the historian “Thomas Carlyle” and was proposed during the 19th century (1840’s) when history can be largely explained by the impact of great men or heroes and that great leaders are born and not made. • Carlyle had a major influence on this theory of leadership, at one point stating that, "The history of the world is basically the combined biographies of great men." In his book "On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History", he compared a wide array of heroes.
  6. 6. Great Man Theory Cont.. • This theory was called “great man” because it focused on identifying the innate qualities and characteristics possessed by great social, political, and military leaders. • According to this theory, capacity for leadership is inborn, that is, a person is a natural born leader. These born leaders are highly influential individuals, gifted with divine inspiration and the right characteristics like charisma, intelligence, wisdom, political skills etc. with a capability to have a decisive historical impact.
  7. 7. Assumptions of Great Man Theory • The Great Man Theory centres on two main assumptions:  Great leaders are born possessing certain traits that enable them to rise and lead.  The theory assumes that the traits of leadership are intrinsic. That simply means that great leaders are born... they are not made. This theory sees great leaders as those who are destined by birth to become a leader.  Great leaders will arise when there is a great need.  The belief was that great leaders will rise when confronted with the appropriate situation.
  8. 8. Criticism of The Great Man Theory • Not everyone in Carlyle’s time, however, agreed with the theory’s assumptions. • Herbert Spencer, a noted philosopher, sociologist, biologist and political theorist of the Victorian era, countered that the Great Man Theory was childish, primitive and unscientific. He believed leaders were products of their environment or the society in which they lived. He advocated that before a “great man” can remake his society, that society has to make him.
  9. 9. Traits Theory (1930's - 1940's) • Essentially, the Traits Theory postulates that personal characteristics (e.g. personality traits, cognitive skills, interpersonal skills) determine an individual’s potential for leadership roles (Furham, 2005). Thus, leadership is something intrinsic to the individual. • This approach emphasizes leaders attributes such as personality, motives, values, and skills (Yukl, 2006).
  10. 10. Assumptions of Traits Theory  People are born with inherited traits.  Some traits are particularly suited to leadership.  People who make good leaders have the right (or sufficient) combination of traits. • Stogdill (1974) identified several traits and skills as critical to leaders.
  11. 11. Leadership Traits and Skills Traits Skills • Adaptable to situations • Cooperative • Decisive • Dependable • Persistent • Self-confident • Tolerant of stress • Willing to assume responsibility • Clever (intelligent) • Conceptually skilled • Creative • Diplomatic and tactful • Fluent in speaking • Knowledgeable about group task • Organised (administrative ability) • Persuasive • Socially skilled
  12. 12. Application of Trait Theory • Lot of research has validated the foundation and basis of the theory and it can be applied by people at all levels in all types of organizations. • Managers can utilize the information from the theory to evaluate their position in the organization and to assess how their position can be made stronger in the organization. • It serves as a yardstick against which the leadership traits of an individual can be assessed and individuals can get an in-depth understanding of their identity and the way they will affect others in the organization. • Managers can be aware of their strengths and weaknesses and thus they get an understanding of how they can develop their leadership qualities.
  13. 13. Criticism of Trait Theory • Some of the most common criticisms of trait theory centre on the fact that traits are often poor predictors of behaviour (Cherry, 2016). While an individual may score high on assessments of a specific trait, he or she may not always behave that way in every situation. • Trait theories do not address how or why individual differences in personality develop or emerge. • Although the followers have a significant effect on the job accomplished by the leader, Trait theory completely ignores them and the situations that also help a leader to be successful.
  14. 14. Behavioural Theories (1940's - 1950's) • As there were inherent limitations with the Trait approach to leadership, when early researchers ran out of steam in their search for traits, they turned to what leaders did, how they behaved and came with behavioral theory of leadership. • This became the dominant way of approaching leadership within organizations in the 1950s and early 1960s. • The behavioural theories are offering a new perspective, one that focuses on the behaviours of the leaders as opposed to their mental, physical or social characteristics.
  15. 15. Behavioural Theories Cont.. • Behavioural theories of leadership are based upon the belief that great leaders are made, not born (Krumm, 2001). Consider it the flip-side of the Great Man theories, in that it assumes that leadership capability can be learned, rather than being inherent. • This leadership theory focuses on the actions of leaders not on mental qualities or internal states (Krumm, 2001). According to this theory, people can learn to become leaders through teaching and observation.
  16. 16. Assumptions of Behavioural Theories • Leaders can be made, rather than born. • Successful leadership is based in definable, learnable behaviour.
  17. 17. Strengths of Behavioral Theory • Promotes the value of leadership styles with an emphasis on concern for people and collaboration. • Promotes participative decision making and team development by supporting individual needs and aligning individual and group objectives. • Helps managers evaluate and understand how their behavioral style as a manager affects their relationship with the team and promotes commitment and contribution towards organizational goals. • Helps managers find the right balance between different styles of leadership, and helps them decide how to behave as a leader, depending on concerns for people and for productivity.
  18. 18. Arguments against Behavioral Theory • The theory proposes leadership styles but a specific leadership style may not be best in all circumstances. While behavioral theories may help managers develop particular leadership behaviors but they provide little guidance as to what constitutes effective leadership in different situations. • The styles that leaders can adopt are far more affected by those they are working with, and the environment they are operating within, than had been originally thought. Most researchers today conclude that no one leadership style is right for every manager under all circumstances.
  19. 19. Contingency Theories (1960's) • Contingency theory is a class of behavioral theory that claims that there is no best way to organize a corporation, to lead a company, or to make decisions. Instead, the optimal course of action is contingent (dependent) upon the internal and external situation. • It is called contingency because it suggests that a leader’s effectiveness depends on how well the leader’s style fits the context or the situation. • This theory suggests that no leadership style is best in all situations. In other words, the leader modifies the best course of action based upon his or her own personal characteristics and the context, i.e., the current situation (Krumm, 2001).
  20. 20. Contingency Theories (1960's) • According to contingency theory, leader’s success depends upon a number of variables, including the leadership style, qualities of the followers and aspects of the situation. • Different styles of leadership may be more appropriate for certain types of decision-making. • For example, an authoritarian style might be most appropriate in a situation where the leader is the most knowledgeable and experienced member of a group. In other instances where group members are skilled experts, a democratic style would be more effective.
  21. 21. Path-Goal Theory (1971) • Several contingency approaches were developed concurrently in the late 1960s, such as the Path-Goal Theory (1971) and the Vroom and Yetton’s Decision- Making Model (1973). • Path-Goal theory was developed by House (1971) to describe the way that leaders encourage and support their followers in achieving the goals they have been set by making the path that they should take clear and easy. • According to the Path-Goal Theory, an effective leader guides his employees to help them attain shared goals: he or she supports employees in order to ensure that their goals and collective goals coincide (Langton & Robbins, 2007).
  22. 22. Assumptions • Path-Goal Theory assumes that there is one right way of achieving a goal and that the leader can see it and the follower cannot. This casts the leader as the knowing person and the follower as dependent. • It also assumes that the follower is completely rational and that the appropriate methods can be deterministically selected depending on the situation.
  23. 23. Path-Goal Theory Cont.. • House and Mitchell (1975) identified four leadership styles: directive, supportive, participative and results oriented. The choice of style depends upon a combination of subordinates’ personal goals, subordinates’ personal characteristics, and the work situation (Krumm, 2001). • According to the situation (e.g. hazy work instructions with an unmotivated subordinate), the leader will choose which leadership style to favour (e.g. directive, supportive, participative, or results oriented).
  24. 24. Vroom and Yetton’s Decision-Making Model (1973) • This model was originally described by Victor Vroom and Philip Yetton in their 1973 book titled Leadership and Decision Making. • As stated by Krumm (2001), the Vroom and Yetton Theory is classified as a prescriptive theory, meaning that it provides leaders with a way to choose the best decision-making method before going ahead.
  25. 25. Vroom and Yetton’s Model Cont.. • A series of questions allows to the leader to choose from among five methods of decision-making, ranging from entirely authoritative to completely participatory (Krumm, 2001). The method of choice depends upon the leader’s answers to seven types of questions. • The Decision Making Model of Vroom and Yetton (1973) noted that it was important for the leader to determine how much participation subordinates would have in the decision making process. • The model was predicated on the idea that there was a direct link between subordinate acceptance of decisions and worker productivity.
  26. 26. Vroom and Yetton’s Model Cont.. • The underlying assumption of the Vroom-Yetton Decision Models is that no leadership style or decision making process fits all situations. By analyzing the situation and evaluating the problem based on time, team buy-in, and decision quality, a conclusion about which style best fits the situation can be made. • The model defines a very logical approach to which style to adopt and is useful for managers.
  27. 27. Key Strengths of Contingency Theory • Contingency theory is grounded in research as many researchers have tested it and found it to be a valid and reliable approach to explaining how effective leadership can be achieved. • This theory considers the impact of situations on leaders and focuses on the relationship between the leader’s style and the demands of various situations.
  28. 28. Application of Contingency Theory • It can be used to assess the effectiveness of an individual in a particular role and look at the reasons for one’s effectiveness or ineffectiveness. • It can be used to predict whether a person who has worked well in one position in an organization will be equally effective in another position having different situational variables when compared to the existing position based on the contingencies that make one’s style effective.
  29. 29. Weaknesses of Contingency Theory • As now we have more understanding of leadership and its challenges in the 21st century organizational context, contingency model might not be the best leadership model to use in most situations, but still can be a powerful tool to analyze a particular situation to determine whether to focus on tasks or relationships. • Further, this model does not fully explain how organizations can use the results of this theory in situational engineering and hence it is recommended to take a cautious approach and use own judgment to analyze the situation from all angles.
  30. 30. New Leadership Approaches • Beginning around the 1980s, the concept of leadership changed direction with what is referred to as the New Leadership. Researchers have most often tended to include Transactional Leadership, Transformational Leadership, Charismatic Leadership and Visionary Leadership in this trend.
  31. 31. Transactional Theories (1970's) • Transactional theories, also known as exchange or management theories are characterized by a transaction made between the leader and the followers. They focus on the role of supervision, organization and group performance. • These theories base leadership on a system of rewards and punishments. Managerial theories are often used in business; when employees are successful, they are rewarded; when they fail, they are reprimanded or punished.
  32. 32. Assumptions of Transactional Theories • People are motivated by reward and punishment. • When people have agreed to do a job, a part of the deal is that they cede all authority to their manager. • The prime purpose of a subordinate is to do what their manager tells them to do.
  33. 33. Transactional Theories Cont... • For the transactional theories to be effective and as a result have motivational value, the leader must find a means to align to adequately reward (or punish) his follower, for performing leader- assigned task. • In other words, transactional leaders are most efficient when they develop a mutual reinforcing environment, for which the individual and the organizational goals are in sync.
  34. 34. Limitation of Transactional Theories • The main limitation is the assumption of 'rational man', a person who is largely motivated by money and simple reward, and hence whose behavior is predictable. • Despite much research that highlights its limitations, Transactional Leadership is still a popular approach with many managers.
  35. 35. Relationship Theories (1970's) • Relationship theories, also known as transformational theories, evolved in the late 1970s and early 1980s (Hickman, 1990). They focus on the connections formed between leaders and followers. • In these theories, leadership is the process by which a person engages with others and is able to “create a connection” that results in increased motivation and morality in both followers and leaders.
  36. 36. Assumptions • People will follow a person who inspires them. • A person with vision and passion can achieve great things. • Transformational Leadership starts with the development of a vision, a view of the future that will excite and convert potential followers.
  37. 37. Relationship Theories Cont.. • Essentially, Transactional Leadership is distinct from Transformational Leadership in its use of a reward system (Ashkanasy & Tse, 2000), while Transformational Leadership (as its name suggests) implies the transformation of subordinates.. • Leaders of this style often have high ethical and moral standards (Charry, 2012).
  38. 38. Charismatic Leadership • In the latter part of the 1970s and early 1980s, the field showed renewed interest in the idea of the “charismatic leader,” a concept first introduced by Max Weber (Hollander & Offermann, 1990). • Charismatic leaders are typically thought to exert enormous influence and power over their followers as a result of their emotional appeal, especially in crisis-type situations where conventional wisdom suggests strong leadership is sought out (House, 1977).
  39. 39. Assumptions of Charismatic Leadership • Charm and grace are all that is needed to create followers.  The Charismatic Leader gathers followers through dint of personality and charm, rather than any form of external power or authority. • Self-belief is a fundamental need of leaders. • People follow others that they personally admire.
  40. 40. Charismatic Leadership Cont.. • Charismatic Leadership is also very closely related to Transformational Leadership; in short, these approaches are differentiated mainly by the fact that the charismatic leader transforms the subordinates’ interests to match those of the leader, while the transformational leader transforms the organization and, quite possibly, their followers.

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