following are the Theories of Leadership
0 Role Theory
O Lewin’s leadership styles
O Likert’s leadership styles
O Hersey and Blanchard’s Situational
O Vroom and Yetton’s Normative Model
O House’s Path-Goal Theory of Leadership
O Fiedler’s Least Preferred Co-worker (LPC)
O Cognitive Resource Theory
O Strategic Contingencies Theory
O Leader-Member Exchange (LMX) Theory
O Bass’ Transformational Leadership Theory
O Burns’ Transformational Leadership Theory
O Kouzes and Posner’s Leadership
1. Great Man Theory
All Leaders are born and not made.
A Great leader will arise when there is a
The research on leadership was manly based
on the study of people who were great leaders. These people were often from the
aristocracy, as few from lower classes had the chance to lead. This contributed
more to the notion that leadership had something to do with breeding.
The idea of the Great Man also drifted into the mythic domain, with notions that in
times of need, a Great Man would arise, almost by magic. This was easy to
verify, by pointing to people such as Eisenhower and Churchill, let alone those
further back along the timeline, even to
Jesus, Moses, Mohammed and the Buddha.
The ‘great man’ theory was initiallysuggested
by Thomas Carlyle.
The Gender issues were not on the stand
when the ‘Great Man’ theory was projected. Most leaders were male and the
thought of a Great Woman was normally in areas other than leadership. Most
researchers were also male, and concerns about androcentric bias were a long
way from being realized.
It has been said that history is nothing
but stories of great men. Certainly, much has this bias, although there is of
course also much about peoples and broader life.
2. Trait Theory
People are born with inherited characters.
Some traits are particularly matched to
The People who make good leaders have the
right (or sufficient) mixture of traits.
Primary research on leadership was based on
the psychological focus of the day, which was of people having hereditary
characteristics or traits. Attention was then put on discovering these traits,
often by studying successful leaders, but with the underlying postulation that
if other people could also be found with these traits, then they, too, could
also become great leaders.
Stogdill (1974) recognized the following
traits and skills as critical to leaders.
to social environment
to influence others
Lombardo (1983) researched both
success and failure identified four primary traits by which leaders could
• Expressive stability and composure:
Calm, confident and predictable,
particularly when under stress.
• Admitting error:
Owning up to mistakes, rather than putting
energy into covering up.
• Good interpersonal skills:
to communicate and persuade others without resort to negative or coercive tactics.
Able to understand a wide range of areas,
rather than having a narrow (and narrow-minded) area of expertise.
There have been many dissimilar studies of
leadership traits and they agree only in the general saintly qualities needed
to be a leader.
For a long period, inherited traits were side-lined
as learned and situational factors were considered to be far more realistic as
reasons for people acquiring leadership positions.
Illogically, the research into twins who
were separated at birth along with new sciences such as Behavioural Genetics
have shown that far more is inherited than was previously supposed. Perhaps one
day they will find a ‘leaders
3. Behavioural Theory
All Leaders can be made, rather than are
Successful leadership is based in
definable, learnable behaviour.
Behavioural theories of leadership do not pursue
inborn traits or capabilities. Rather, they look at what leaders actually do.
If success can be defined in terms of describable
actions, then it should be relatively easy for other people to act in the same
way. This is easier to teach and learn then to adopt the more ephemeral ‘traits
Behavioural is a big leap from Trait
Theory, in that it assumes that leadership capability can be learned, rather
than being inherent. This opens the floodgates to leadership development, as
opposed to simple psychometric assessment that sorts those with leadership
potential from those who will never have the chance.
A behavioural theory is relatively easy to
develop, as you simply assess both leadership success and the actions of
leaders. With a large enough study, you can then correlate statistically importantbehaviours
with success. You can also identify behaviours which contribute to failure,
thus adding a second layer of understanding.
People define roles for themselves and
others based on social learning and reading.
People form prospects about the roles that
they and others will play.
People subtly encourage others to act
within the role expectations they have for them.
People will act within the roles they
We all have internal schemas about the role
of leaders, based on what we read, discuss and so on. We subtly send these
expectations to our leaders, acting as role senders, for example through the
balance of decisions we take upon ourselves and the decisions we leave to the
Leaders are influenced by these signals,
particularly if they are sensitive to the people around them, and will
generally conform to these, playing the leadership role that is put upon them
Within organizations, there is much formal
and informal information about what the leader’s role should be, including
‘leadership values’, culture, training sessions, modelling by senior managers,
and so on. These and moreact to shape expectations and behaviours around
Role conflict can also happen when people
have differing potentials of their leaders. It also happens when leaders have
different ideas about what they should be doing vs. the expectations that are
put upon them.
Role expectations of a leader can vary from
very specific to a broad idea within which the leader can define their own
4. Participative Leadership
Participation in decision-making advances
the understanding of the issues involved by those who must carry out the
A Participative Leader, rather than taking
autocratic choices, seeks to involve other people in the process, possibly counting
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. The question of how
much influence others are given thus may vary on the manager’s preferences and
beliefs, and a whole spectrum of participation is possible, as in the table
There are many possible benefits of
participative leadership, as indicated in the assumptions, above.
This approach is also known as discussion,
empowerment, joint decision-making, democratic leadership, Management by Objective (MBO) and power-sharing.
Participative Leadership can be a sham when
managers ask for opinions and then ignore them. This is likely to lead to
cynicism and feelings of betrayal.
Michigan Leadership Studies, Theories about
decision-making, Lewin’s leadership styles, Vroom and Yetton’s Normative Model
|Lewin’s leadership styles
Kurt Lewis and colleagues did leadership
decision experiments in 1939 and identified three different styles of
leadership, in particular around decision-making.
In the autocratic style, the leader takes
decisions without consulting with others. The decision is made without any form
of consultation. In Lewin’s experiments, he found that this caused the most
level of discontent.
An autocratic style works when there is no
need for input on the decision, where the decision would not change as a result
of input, and where the motivation of people to carry out subsequent actions
would not be affected whether they were or were not involved in the
In the democratic style, the leader
involves the people in the decision-making, although the process for the final
decision may vary from the leader having the final say to them facilitating
consensus in the group.
Democratic decision-making is usually
appreciated by the people, especially if they have been used to autocratic
decisions with which they disagreed. It can be problematic when there are a
wide range of opinions and there is no clear way of reaching an equitable final
5. Participative Leadership
* Negotiation tactics
* Objection handling
* Public speaking
* Using repetition
* Resisting persuasion
* Sequential requests
* Stress Management
* Using humor
ResinsLikert identified four main styles of
leadership, in particular around decision-making and the degree to which people
are involved in the decision.
In this style, the leader has a low concern
for people and uses such methods as threats and other fear-based methods to
achieve conformance. Communication is almost entirely downwards and the
psychologically distant concerns of people are ignored.
When the leader adds concern for people to
an authoritative position, a ‘benevolent dictatorship’ is formed. The leader
now uses rewards to encourage appropriate performance and listens more to
concerns lower down the organization, although what they hear is often
rose-tinted, being limited to what their subordinates think that the boss wants
to hear. Although there may be some delegation of decisions, almost all major
decisions are still made centrally.
The upward flow of information here is
still cautious and rose-tinted to some degree, although the leader is making
genuine efforts to listen carefully to ideas. Nevertheless, major decisions are
still largely centrally made.
At this level, the leader makes maximum use
of participative methods, engaging people lower down the organization in
decision-making. People across the organization are psychologically closer
together and work well together at all levels.
This is a classic 1960s view in that it is
still very largely top-down in nature, with the cautious addition collaborative
elements towards the Utopian final state.
The best action of the leader depends on a
range of situational factors.
When a decision is needed, an effective
leader does not just fall into a single preferred style, such as using
transactional or transformational methods. In practice, as they say, things are
not that simple.
Factors that affect situational decisions
include motivation and capability of followers. This, in turn, is affected by
factors within the particular situation. The relationship between followers and
the leader may be another factor that affects leader behavior as much as it
does follower behavior.
The leaders’ perception of the follower and
the situation will affect what they do rather than the truth of the situation. The
leader’s perception of themselves and other factors such as stress and mood
will also modify the leaders’ behavior.
Yukl (1989) seeks to combine other
approaches and identifies six variables:
effort: the motivation and actual effort expended.
ability and role clarity: followers knowing what to do and how to do it.
of the work: the structure of the work and utilization of resources.
and cohesiveness: of the group in working together.
and support: the availability of tools, materials, people, etc.
coordination: the need to collaborate with other groups.
Leaders here work on such factors as
external relationships, acquisition of resources, managing demands on the group
and managing the structures and culture of the group.
Tannenbaum and Schmidt (1958) identified
three forces that led to the leader’s action: the forces in the situation, the
forces in then follower and also forces in the leader. This recognizes that the
leader’s style is highly variable, and even such distant events as a family
argument can lead to the displacement activity of a more aggressive stance in
an argument than usual.
Maier (1963) noted that leaders not only
consider the likelihood of a follower accepting a suggestion, but also the
overall importance of getting things done. Thus in critical situations, a
leader is more likely to be directive in style simply because of the
implications of failure.
The leader’s ability to lead is contingent
upon various situational factors, including the leader’s preferred style, the
capabilities and behaviors of followers and also various other situational
Contingency theories are a class of
behavioral theory that contend that there is no one best way of leading and
that a leadership style that is effective in some situations may not be
successful in others.
An effect of this is that leaders who are
very effective at one place and time may become unsuccessful either when
transplanted to another situation or when the factors around them change.
This helps to explain how some leaders who
seem for a while to have the ‘Midas touch’ suddenly appear to go off the boil
and make very unsuccessful decisions.
Contingency theory is similar to
situational theory in that there is an assumption of no simple one right way.
The main difference is that situational theory tends to focus more on the
behaviors that the leader should adopt, given situational factors (often about
follower behavior), whereas contingency theory takes a broader view that
includes contingent factors about leader capability and other variables within
People are motivated by reward and punishment.
Social systems work best with a clear chain
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.
The transactional leader works through
creating clear structures whereby it is clear what is required of their
subordinates, and the rewards that they get for following orders. Punishments
are not always mentioned, but they are also well-understood and formal systems
of discipline are usually in place.
The early stage of Transactional Leadership
is in negotiating the contract whereby the subordinate is given a salary and
other benefits, and the company (and by implication the subordinate’s manager)
gets authority over the subordinate.
When the Transactional Leader allocates
work to a subordinate, they are considered to be fully responsible for it,
whether or not they have the resources or capability to carry it out. When
things go wrong, then the subordinate is considered to be personally at fault,
and is punished for their failure (just as they are rewarded for succeeding).
The transactional leader often uses
management by exception, working on the principle that if something is
operating to defined (and hence expected) performance then it does not need
attention. Exceptions to expectation require praise and reward for exceeding
expectation, whilst some kind of corrective action is applied for performance
Whereas Transformational Leadership has
more of a ‘selling’ style, Transactional Leadership, once the contract is in
place, takes a ‘telling’ style.
Transactional leadership is based in
contingency, in that reward or punishment is contingent upon performance.
Despite much research that highlights its
limitations, Transactional Leadership is still a popular approach with many
managers. Indeed, in the Leadership vs. Management spectrum, it is very much
towards the management end of the scale.
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. The underlying psychology is
Behaviorism, including the Classical Conditioning of Pavlov and Skinner’s
Operant Conditioning. These theories are largely based on controlled laboratory
experiments (often with animals) and ignore complex emotional factors and
In practice, there is sufficient truth in
Behaviorism to sustain Transactional approaches. This is reinforced by the
supply-and-demand situation of much employment, coupled with the effects of
deeper needs, as in Maslow’s Hierarchy. When the demand for a skill outstrips
the supply, then Transactional Leadership often is insufficient, and other
approaches are more effective.
People will follow a person who inspires
A person with vision and passion can
achieve great things.
The way to get things done is by injecting
enthusiasm and energy.
Working for a Transformational Leader can
be a wonderful and uplifting experience. They put passion and energy into
everything. They care about you and want you to succeed.
Developing the vision
Transformational Leadership starts with the
development of a vision, a view of the future that will excite and convert
potential followers. This vision may be developed by the leader, by the senior
team or may emerge from a broad series of discussions. The important factor is
the leader buys into it, hook, line and sinker.
Selling the vision
The next step, which in fact never stops,
is to constantly sell the vision. This takes energy and commitment, as few
people will immediately buy into a radical vision, and some will join the show
much more slowly than others. The Transformational Leader thus takes every
opportunity and will use whatever works to convince others to climb on board
In order to create followers, the
Transformational Leader has to be very careful in creating trust, and their
personal integrity is a critical part of the package that they are selling. In
effect, they are selling themselves as well as the vision.
Bass’ Transformational Leadership Theory
Awareness of task importance motivates
A focus on the team or organization
produces better work.
Bass defined transformational leadership in
terms of how the leader affects followers, who are intended to trust, admire
and respect the transformational leader.
He identified three ways in which leaders
their awareness of task importance and value.
them to focus first on team or organizational goals, rather than their own
their higher-order needs.
Charisma is seen as necessary, but not
sufficient, for example in the way that charismatic movie stars may not make
good leaders. Two key charismatic effects that transformational leaders achieve
is to evoke strong emotions and to cause identification of the followers with
the leader. This may be through stirring appeals. It may also may occur through
quieter methods such as coaching and mentoring.
Bass has recently noted that authentic
transformational leadership is grounded in moral foundations that are based on
…and three moral aspects:
moral character of the leader.
ethical values embedded in the leader’s vision, articulation, and program
(which followers either embrace or reject).
morality of the processes of social ethical choice and action that leaders and
followers engage in and collectively pursue.
This is in contrast with
pseudo-transformational leadership, where, for example, in-group/out-group ‘us
and them’ games are used to bond followers to the leader.
In contrast to Burns, who sees transformational
leadership as being inextricably linked with higher order values, Bass
originally saw it as amoral, and attributed transformational skills to people
such as Adolf Hitler and Jim Jones, although later changed his view after
discussion with Burns