Leadership . By John B. . Introduction to key leadership theories Communicating as a leader Conflict resolution and leadership Effective Leadership Styles Personal Leadership Philosophy . Outline . Interest in leadership increased during the early part of the twentieth century.
By John B.
Interest in leadership increased during the early part of the twentieth century.
Early leadership theories focused on what qualities distinguished between leaders and followers, while subsequent theories looked at other variables such as situational factors and skill levels.
While many different leadership theories have emerged, most can be classified as one of eight major types:
"...Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them".~ Shakespeare
“Men are marked out from the moment of birth to rule or be ruled.” ~Aristotle
Great Man Theories of Leadership (Aristotle,1000 BC; Machiavelli,1518; Carlyle,1840; James,1880)
The Great Man Theory argued that successful leaders possessed traits of personality and character that set them apart from ordinary followers.
Leaders are born with the necessary attributes which set them apart from others and their traits are responsible for their assuming positions of power and authority.
History can be primarily explained by the impact of “great men” or “heroes”: highly influential individuals who, due to their personal charisma, intelligence, and wisdom, or political ability, utilized their power in way that had a decisive historical impact.
Heavily influenced by Galton’s study of the hereditary background of great men, the theory supports the notion that humans cannot develop talents that they do not have. It further suggests that no matter how much effort individuals exert in learning, they will not be successful, in their efforts to lead if they were not born with certain talents that could be nurtured and developed (Watson & Rosser, n.d.). Essays by Carlyle reinforced this belief that a leader was an individual who was born with certain unique qualities that allowed him to capture the imagination of the masses.
Arguments Against the Great Man Theory of Leadership
The counter argument for this theory proposed that the effectiveness of leadership is determined not only by one’s leadership attributes but also by the environmental factors. Based on these perspectives, begin a dialogue about the individual characteristics of leaders empirically found to be significant. What traits, behaviors, and styles are appropriate for what situations? What societal factors may contribute to the “heroic” aspects of leadership?
The trait approach to personality is one of the major theoretical areas in the study of personality. The trait theory suggests that individual personalities are composed broad dispositions. Consider how you would describe the personality of a close friend. Chances are that you would list a number of traits, such as outgoing, kind and even-tempered. A trait can be thought of as a relatively stable characteristic that causes individuals to behave in certain ways.
The trait theory (Stogdill, 1948) synthesized more than 124 trait studies conducted between 1904 and 1947. Traits that differentiate leaders include: intelligence, alertness, insight, responsibility, initiative, persistence, self-confidence, and sociability.
Having a leader with the right set of traits ensures leadership effectiveness; selecting the right leader increases organizational effectiveness.
Stogdill (1974)—synthesized 163 studies conducted between 1948 and 1970. Traits include: drive for responsibility and task completion, vigor and persistence in problem solving, drive to exercise initiative in social situations, self-confidence and sense of personal identity, willingness to accept consequences of decision and action, readiness to absorb interpersonal stress, willingness to tolerate frustration and delay, ability to influence other persons’ behavior, and capacity to structure social interaction systems to the purpose at hand.
Arguments Against the Trait Theories of Leadership
While most agree that people can be described based upon their personality traits, theorists continue to debate the number of basic traits that make up human personality. While trait theory has objectivity that some personality theories lack (such as Freud’s psychoanalytic theory), it also has weaknesses. Some of the most common criticisms of trait theory center on the fact that traits are often poor predictors of behavior. While an individual may score high on assessments of a specific trait, he or she may not always behave that way in every situation. Another problem is that trait theories do not address how or why individual differences in personality develop or emerge.
Contingency theories of leadership focus on particular variables related to the environment that might determine which particular style of leadership is best suited for the situation. According to this theory, no leadership style is best in all situations. Success depends upon a number of variables, including the leadership style, qualities of the followers and aspects of the situation.
Fiedler (1964, 1967)—a “leader-match” theory in that it tries to match leaders to appropriate situations. Assumes a leader’s effectiveness depends on how well the leader’s style fits the context. Thus, “effective leadership is contingent on matching a leader’s style to the right setting”. Unlike situational leadership, it assumes the leader’s style is relatively fixed and unchanging. Measured by the Least Preferred Coworker (LPC) scale.
Two Leadership Styles:
Task-motivated leaders—concerned primarily with reaching a goal.
Relationship-motivated leaders—concerned with developing close interpersonal relationships.
Leader-member relations—group atmosphere, degree of confidence and loyalty among followers toward the leader, measured from good to poor.
Task structure—degree to which the requirements of a task are clear and spelled out, measured from high to low structure.
Position power—amount of authority a leader has to reward and punish, measured from strong to weak.
Arguments Against the Contingency Theories of Leadership
Fails to explain why theory works, LPC scale does not seem best measure of leadership style, cumbersome in application, fails to explain what to do when a mismatch occurs.
“Leaders aren't born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that's the price we'll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal.”~ Vince Lombardi
Behavioral theories of leadership are based upon the belief that great leaders are made, not born. Rooted in behaviorism (Watson, 1913), this leadership theory focuses on the actions of leaders not on mental qualities or internal states. According to this theory, people can learn to become leaders through teaching and observation.
Behaviorism, also known as behavioral psychology, is a theory of learning based upon the idea that all behaviors are acquired through conditioning. Conditioning occurs through interaction with the environment. Behaviorists believe that our responses to environmental stimuli shapes our behaviors.
According to behaviorism, behavior can be studied in a systematic and observable manner with no consideration of internal mental states. This school of thought suggests that only observable behaviors should be studied, since internal states such as cognitions, emotions and moods are too subjective.
Major Thinkers in Behaviorism (Pavlov, Skinner, Thorndike, Watson, Hull)
1863 - Ivan Sechenov's Reflexes of the Brain was published. Sechenov introduced the concept of inhibitory responses in the central nervous system.
1900 - Ivan Pavlov began studying the salivary response and other reflexes.
1913 - John Watson's Psychology as a Behaviorist Views It was published. The article outlined the many of the main points of behaviorism.
1920 - Watson and assistant Rosalie Rayner conducted the famous "Little Albert" experiment.
1943 - Clark Hull's Principles of Behavior was published.
1948 - B.F. Skinner published Walden II in which he described a utopian society founded upon behaviorist principles.
1959 - Noam Chomsky published his criticism of Skinner's behaviorism, "Review of Verbal Behavior."
1971 - B.F. Skinner published his book Beyond Freedom and Dignity, in which he argued that free will is an illusion.
Arguments Against the Behavioral Theories of Leadership
Many critics argue that behaviorism is a one-dimensional approach to understanding human behavior and that behavioral theories do not account for free will and internal influences such as moods, thoughts and feelings. Behaviorism does not account for other types of learning, especially learning that occurs without the use of reinforcement and punishment. People and animals are able to adapt their behavior when new information is introduced, even if a previous behavior pattern has been established through reinforcement. Outside of psychology, animal trainers, parents, teachers and many others make use of basic behavioral principles to help teach new behaviors and discourage unwanted ones.
Participative leadership theories suggest that the ideal leadership style is one that takes the input of others into account. These leaders encourage participation and contributions from group members and help group members feel more relevant and committed to the decision-making process. In participative theories, however, the leader retains the right to allow the input of others.
Kurt Lewin classified management styles and cultures into three categories - autocratic, democratic and laissez-faire. He conducted an experiment on a group of children who were guided by leaders, following the three leadership styles. He concluded, at the end of the experiment, that the democratic leadership style is the most effective one as all the group members participated in the final decision-making process.
A Participative Leader, rather than taking autocratic decisions, seeks to involve other people in the process, possibly including subordinates, peers, superiors and other stakeholders. Often, however, as it is within the managers' whim to give or deny control to his or her subordinates, most participative activity is within the immediate team.
There are many varieties on this spectrum, including stages where the leader sells the idea to the team. Another variant is for the leader to describe the 'what' of objectives or goals and let the team or individuals decide the 'how' of the process by which the 'how' will be achieved (this is often called 'Management by Objectives').
The level of participation may also depend on the type of decision being made. Decisions on how to implement goals may be highly participative, whilst decisions during subordinate performance evaluations are more likely to be taken by the manager.
Arguments Against the Participative Theories of Leadership
Managers might not be inclined to inform every employee about sensitive business information. Another disadvantage of participative leadership theories is that they don't work on every type of workplace environment. The challenge to participative theory is that when a leader asks for opinions and does not find them suitable, which can lead to reduced motivation and level of commitment.
Management theories, also known as transactional theories (Burns, 1978), focus on the role of supervision, organization and group performance. A reciprocal exchange between leaders and followers. "Quid pro Quo“. Conventional reward and punishment are used to gain compliance from the employees. Transactional leadership involves giving employees something in return for their compliance and acceptance of authority, usually in the form of incentives such as pay raises or an increase in status.
Four Types of Leader Behaviors:
Contingent Reward: Refers to leadership behaviors focused on exchange of resources. That is, leaders provide tangible or intangible support and resources to followers in exchange for their efforts and performance. A “positive-reinforcement” approach – “Let’s focus on reward”.
Management by Exception – Active: Refers to monitoring performance and taking corrective action as necessary. The focus of management by exception is on setting standards. A “hands-on ” approach – “I’m going to make sure performance doesn’t falter.”
Management by Exception – Passive: A less active version of management by exception in which leaders take a passive approach, intervening only when problems become serious. A “wait-and-see” approach – “If performance falters, I’ll get involved…& head’s are gonna role!”
Laissez-faire: Can be thought of as non-leadership or the avoidance of leadership responsibilities. A “who cares?” approach – “I’m not interested in the outcome”.
Notes: Appeals to followers self-interests. Can involve values, but in context of the exchange. Some forms of transactional leadership is are incorporated in transformational leadership.
Arguments Against Management / Transactional Theories
In transactional leadership, rewards and punishments are contingent upon the performance of the followers. The leader views the relationship between managers and subordinates as an exchange - you give me something for something in return. When subordinates perform well, they receive some type of reward. When they perform poorly, they will be punished in some way. Rules, procedures and standards are essential in transactional leadership. Followers are not encouraged to be creative or to find new solutions to problems. Research has found that transactional leadership tends to be most effective in situations where problems are simple and clearly-defined. While transactional leadership can be effective in some situations, it is generally considered an insufficient and may prevent both leaders an followers from achieving their full potential.
Transformational leadership (Burns, 1978; Bass, 1985; Avolio, 1996) is a type of leadership style that leads to positive changes in those who follow. Transformational leaders are generally energetic, enthusiastic and passionate. Not only are these leaders concerned and involved in the process; they are also focused on helping every member of the group succeed as well.
Four Types of Leadership Behaviors:
Idealized influence - The transformational leader serves as a role model for followers. Because followers trust and respect the leader, they emulate this individual and internalize his or her ideals. Charisma, strong role models for followers. High moral standards. (Nelson Mandela)
Inspirational motivation - Transformational leaders have a clear vision that they are able to articulate to followers. These leaders are also able to help followers experience the same passion and motivation to fulfill these goals. Leaders inspire through Inspirational motivation, have high expectations of followers. Inspire to a shared vision. (sales manager)
Intellectual Stimulation - Transformational leaders not only challenge the status quo; they also encourage creativity among followers. The leader encourages followers to explore new ways of doing things and new opportunities to learn. Stimulates followers to be innovative and creative. Challenges status quo. (promoting a worker because of his problem solving skills).
Individual consideration - Transformational leadership also involves offering support and encouragement to individual followers. In order to foster supportive relationships, transformational leaders keep lines of communication open so that followers feel free to share ideas and so that leaders can offer direct recognition of each followers unique contributions. The leader listens to individual, creates a supportive climate Coaches and advises. (manager that spends time with people to care for them).
Arguments Against Relationship Theories
Transformational leadership makes use of impression management and therefore may lend itself to amoral self promotion by leaders. These theories are very difficult to be trained on, many of them are considered art forms of application developed with practice requiring a combination of many leadership theories. Followers might be manipulated by leaders and there are chances that they lose more than they gain.
A common and expected method of informal communication within organizations
(Michelson & Mouly, 2000; Mishra, 1990) which like the grapevine, spreads in all
directions within an organization. It arises from social interaction, and is as
inconsistent, vibrant, and diverse as the people in the network (Mishra, 2005)
The grapevine helps to foster a sense of belonging in an organization(Davis, 1953,
Mishra, 1990). “ The degree of grapevine activity is a measure of a company's spirit
and vitality.” (Davis, 1973)
Rumors are often about issues, events, processes, etc. while gossip is about
individual people. The most frequently defined characteristics of gossip are: “(a)
it is informal talk, (b) has some degree of veracity, and (c) it is personally focused
(usually on an absent third party)” (Mills, 2010, p.216)
Gossip is idle talk, especially about the personal or private affairs of others.
Workspace gossip occurs when workers indulge in inappropriate topics of
conversation (Grunert, 2010). Gossip is intimate and personal (Mills, 2010)
Leaders have 3 options to regarding the grapevine: 1) ignore it and not participate in it; 2) participate in it only when it’s in their best interest, or 3) engage in it fully on a consistent basis (Mishra, 1990). Leaders cannot control the grapevine but can influence it (Davis, 1953, 1969)
Leaders must harness the power of the grapevine to diffuse rumors (Denning, 2004) accepting and respecting it as a natural part of corporate life, while fostering open channels of communication to compensate for its effects (Davis, 1973).
Thomas and Kilmann's styles arebased on team work (cooperation) and goal sharing (assertiveness/passive)
Third-Party Negotiations – Four types;
Three concepts are vital to understanding the social and psychological processes involved in cooperation and competition (Deutsch, et al., 2006)