Everything you need to learn about the theories of leadership! Leadership may be defined in terms of a totality of functions performed by executives as individuals and as a group.
‘Leadership is interpersonal influence exercised in a situation and directed through a communication process, towards the attainment of a specialized goal or goals.’
Thus, leadership is the process of influencing the activities of an individual or a group of individuals for goal achievement in a given situation. The leadership process comprises three factors—the leader, the follower, and other variables.
Some of the theories of leadership are:-
1. Freudian Theories of Leadership 2. Interactional Theory of Leadership 3. Trait Theory 4. Behavioural Theory 5. Group and Exchange Theory 6. Situational Theory
7. The Follower’s Theory 8. The System Theory 9. The Contingent Theory 10. Style Theories 11. Universalist Theories 12. Vroom-Yetton Leadership Model 13. Leader-Member Exchange Model.
Top 11 Theories of Leadership
Theories of Leadership – Freudian and Interactional Theories of Leadership
(i) Freudian Theories of Leadership:
Sigmund Freud has tried to explain the phenomenon of leadership by psychoanalytic concepts.
Freud has categorized groups into:
(1) Splitting group and extremely lasting group.
(2) Natural group and artificial group.
(3) Primitive group and civilized group.
(4) Leaderless group and group with leaders.
Freud has highly emphasized the last category i.e., groups with and without leaders.
One cannot conceive the continuance of a group without a proper leader. A leaderless group soon disintegrates and there is nobody to coordinate the functions of the group and give it a direction at the time of need.
The leader is the fountain head, the crux, centre of the group. The leader as a father figure is the focus of identification of all positive emotional responses. The leader has to take into consideration the structure of the group so that he may follow his plan successfully. In other words, Freud emphasizes that the leader has to be aware of the field properties of the group.
If there is a misbalance in the group, it spreads out in all directions. The tension returns back to its original balance by spreading up to different direction. The tension may give rise to factionalism and conflicts. So the leader has to take into account the tension or under current going inside the group.
Freud maintained that there is a consistent relationship between love and leadership in the sense that both love and leadership have hypnotizing effect. A leader who is loved by all the members, everyone is ready to obey his orders. Freud stresses the impact of suggestion on the followers.
When the leader is able to suggest the members of the organisation, he brings tremendous success to his job. Whether or not a leader will be successful, depends on how the suggestion of the leader is carried out by the individual members.
While discussing the effect of suggestion on members Freud has also talked of the ambivalent attitudes of the individuals in a group situation which hints that the leader is both a target of love and hatred of his followers.
Following the psychoanalytic interpretation of leadership some have tried to explain the behaviour of well known leaders like Hitler, Stalin, Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Patel and Pandit Nehru. Eric Formm has attempted to give a psychoanalytic explanation of rise of Nazism in Germany and the paramount power of Hitler.
Certain casual attributes like intelligence and psycho sexual appeal have also been maintained by Freud. The leader should not only be intellectually alert, but he should also have psycho sexual appeal. The psycho sexual appeal according to Freud is basic to the theory of leadership.
(ii) Interactional Theory of Leadership:
Gibb and other hold that leadership is an interactional phenomena. However, as already seen the same individual may show different attitudes depending upon the circumstances. A comprehensive theory of leadership must incorporate a number of variables such as the personality of the leader, the attitudes and the needs of the followers, the particular situation and the nature of the job. Leadership is, therefore, a function of the social situations and personality of the leader.
According to Jennings (1950), “The why of leadership appears not to reside in a personality trait considered singly nor even in a constellation of related traits but in the interpersonal contribution of which the individual becomes capable in a specific setting eliciting such contributions from him.”
Perception of the leader of himself and how the group members perceive him or accept him are of vital importance in determining the why of a leadership.
Experimental Studies on Leadership
Lippitt (1940) and associates under the guidance of Kurt Lewin conducted a number of experiments on children groups to throw light on different aspects of group functioning under different types leadership and group atmosphere. Small genuine groups of children led by adults were set up in such a way to induce different types of group atmosphere. The children were given the job of mask making and other similar tasks.
The groups were observed intensively with special attention on the nature of the group structure the attitudes and morales of members, their relations to the leader and to one another and similar other facts.
The behaviour of these 10-11 years olds were studied by submitting them to an alternation of authoritarian, democratic, laissez-faire leadership.
Results indicated that in a democratic atmosphere there was more ego involvement and the group used the words ‘We’, ‘Us’ and Ours’ more often than in the group under the authoritarian atmosphere. The autocratic group demonstrated two kinds of reactions such as apathy and aggression.
The apathetic group showed more aggression when the atmosphere changed to the democratic or to the laissez-faire type. The leader of the laissez-faire group on the other hand, spent a lot of time in play but difficulty was noticed incorporating the action of the group.
It was further found that the conduct of the group is a function of its structure. Aggressive tendency was at the lower side under the democratic leadership. However, some boys preferred the autocratic to the democratic leadership perhaps because of their home background.
Peak (1945) conducted a study on Nazi membership in Germany. He found that persons born and brought up in authoritative family find lot of security and satisfaction when they work under an authoritarian leader or manager and are dominated by him.
Similar results have also been obtained in India. This suggests that the background in which people are reared is an important determinant of the way in which people or group members react to authoritarian and democratic leadership.
The question whether leadership is a trait in a human being has raised a lot of controversy. Some attempts have been made to identify the traits which help in becoming a successful leader. Terman (1904) made a preliminary study on leadership qualities.
He observed that a leader is good looking with physical disposition, less selfish, less emotional and more courageous. Bird has also conducted a study on leadership qualities. He says that different leaders for different types of organisations cannot said to have the same traits.
Adler (1925) has pointed out that a man with strong feeling of inferiority may seek a higher position where he can direct and control people. By this it compensates his intense feeling of inferiority. The biography and life history of several prominent leaders of the world support this view.
Studies conducted on the relationship between intelligence and leadership show that leaders are superior in intelligence than nonleaders, Keeping other factors constant.
Gibb (1947) says “In general we conclude that leaders are more intelligent than followers but one of the most interesting results emerging from studies in this area is the discovery that they must not exceed the followers by too large a margin, for great discrepancies between the intelligence of leaders and followers militate against the emergence of the leadership relation, presumably because such wide discrepancies render improbable the unified purpose of the individuals concerned.”
Jenkins (1947) and Stogdill (1948) have indicated that the leaders excel the other group members in skills or personality characteristics relevant to the activities of the particular group. The individual who can help the group better in achieving the group goal can command the confidence of other group members and prove as an effective leader.
Keeping in view the trait approach of leadership various countries made use of various psychological tests for selection of persons for leadership positions through various selection boards. According to Harris (1949) leadership is the measure and degree of an individual’s capacity to influence and to be influenced by a group in the implementation of a common task.
The ability to perform jobs, the ability to bind the group, group cohesiveness in the direction of the common task. It is the ability to perform jobs, the ability to bind the group, group cohesiveness in the direction of the common task and the stability of the individual to with stand frustration.
In various selection boards various tests are used to find out the extent to which leadership qualities are present in particular person relating to a particular situation. Factor analysis technique has been used by Carter (1953), Halpin and Winer (1952) and other social psychologists to find out the factors responsible for leadership behaviour.
Katz, Maccaby and Morse (1950) observed that leaders and supervisors in charge of high performance groups were found to be employee or worker centred in terms of their attitude and the reverse was found for production centred supervisors.
Lawshe and Nagles study (1953) clearly suggests the attitude of supervisors appeared to be related to the productivity of the group.
Kipnis and Cosentino (1969) examined the use of leadership powers in industry. Results indicated that both situational and personal factors such as the number of employees supervised, years of experience as a supevisor and the nature of problems presented by the subordinates influence the supervisor’s choice of corrective power.
Meade (1967) observed that both productivity and morale were higher under authoritarian leadership. Here the leader’s effectiveness is related to the satisfaction of the followers needs.
England and Lee (1975) investigated the relationship between the managerial values and managerial success in the United States, Japan, India and Australia. Results indicated that value patterns significantly related to managerial success can be successfully used as a basis for selection and placement decisions.
Further it was noted that managers of the above four countries had similar personal values that were related to success. More successful managers had dynamic, pragmatic and achievement oriented values and the less successful managers had passive and static values.
Theories of Leadership – Trait Theory, Behavioural Theory, Group Theory and Situational Theory
Various theories have been developed to analyze and explain ‘what makes an effective leader.’
The important approaches to leadership are as under:
1. Trait Theory
2. Behavioural Theory
3. Group and Exchange theory
4. Situational Theory.
Approach # 1. Trait Theory of Leadership:
One of the oldest theories of studying leadership is known as the trait theory.
This theory includes two approaches:
(i) The great man approach, and
(ii) The personality trait approach.
i. The Great Man Approach:
Thomas Carlyle has said- “The history of the world is but the biography of great men.” There have been great- man leaders in business world—Rockefeller, Carnegie, Ford etc. The great-man view emphasizes “who’ the person is and what makes the person great. Researchers tried to find out the specific traits that characterized “the great person”.
This approach implies that we can learn how to become effective leaders by studying great people and emulating their characteristics. This approach lost its value with the rise of behavioural sciences. These made it clear that people are not born with traits, other than inherited physical features.
ii. The Personality Trait Approach:
The “great man” theory (that leaders were born, not made) finally gave way to this more realistic trait approach. Many studies in the past several decades have been conducted to isolate personality traits common to many leaders. This approach is based on the premise that there are certain personality traits that are essential for a person to possess in order to be a leader.
It assumes that leadership traits are not completely inborn, but can also be acquired through learning and experience. These traits are supposed to differentiate leaders and non-leaders. It emphasizes what a person is in terms of personality traits. Research is still continuing for that set of universal leadership traits that will assure success.
Warren Bennis recently made a study of ninety outstanding leaders. He concluded that leaders empower their organisations to create an environment where people feel significant, learning and competence matter, people are part of the team, and work is exciting.”
Kirkpatrick and Locke also suggest that some factors do differentiate leaders from non-leaders. Fulmer says that the traits do exist – in many cases they have become the identifying mark of leaders. He indicated, ask the person on the street why he votes for one person over another, and you will get an answer in terms of traits.
Many researchers feel that “traits focus on performance rather than on personal characteristics.” McFarland writes, “Trait theory gained wide credence, but convincing evidence failed to emerge. It was highly plausible theory, corresponding closely with commonly observed experiences.”
Yukl has observed, “It is now recognized that certain traits increase the likelihood that a leader will be effective, but they do not guarantee effectiveness, and the relative importance of different traits is dependent upon the nature of the leadership situation.” Eugene E. Jennings also concluded, “Fifty years of study have failed to produce on personality trait or set of qualities that can be used to discriminate leaders and non-leaders.”
In fact, the trait theory suffers from the following weaknesses:
(a) It has not been possible to identify universal or specific traits common to all leaders.
(b) It does not make clear as to how much of any trait a person should have.
(c) Not all leaders possess all the traits, and many non-leaders may possess most or all of them.
(d) It failed to consider the influence of situational factors.
(e) It has been noticed that there is no significant correlations of traits with actual instances of leadership.
(f) There is uncertainty as to whether the trait made the leader a success or the leader’s success made the trait noticeable. (Fulmer)
(g) It does not indicate which of the traits most important one are and which are the least important.
(h) Trait studies do not distinguish between traits that are needed for acquiring leadership and those that are necessary for maintaining it. (Gouldner)
(i) Trait studies describe, but do not analyze, behaviour patterns.
(j) Traits are usually poorly defined and overlapping. There is the problem of measuring traits also.
Nevertheless, this approach to leadership offers some basis for developing leaders. Koontz and O’Donnell have concluded, “Most of these so-called traits are really patterns of behaviour that one would expect from a leader and particularly from a leader in a managerial position.” Stogdill also remarks, “The pattern of personal characteristics of the leader must bear some relevant relationship to characteristics, activities and goals of the followers.”
Approach # 2. Behavioural Theory of Leadership:
When it became clear that the trait approach was unable to explain what caused effective leadership, the researchers, in the late 1940s, began to study the behaviour of leader. According to this theory, successful leadership depends more on behaviour, skills, and actions, and less on personality traits. It emphasizes that strong leadership is the result of role behaviour. It is shown by a person’s acts rather than by his traits.
In this view, rather than trying to find out who effective leaders are, researchers tried determine what effective leaders do—how they carry out their tasks, how they motivate their subordinates, how they behave and influence, how they communicate with, and so on. Behavioural theory is also known as leadership-style approach, since it describes the patterns of leader behaviour.
Features and Implications:
i. This approach focuses on two aspects of leadership behaviour—leadership functions and leadership styles.
ii. It assumes that effective leaders utilize a particular style to lead individuals to achieve certain goals.
iii. Traits provide the latent potential, while the behaviour is the release and expression of these traits. Behaviour can be learned and changed, but many traits, on the other hand, are relatively fixed.
iv. This approach focuses on leader effectiveness, not the emergence of an individual as a leader. (Szilagyi and Wallace)
v. This theory implies that leadership is multidimensional concept. Concern for people and concern for task have been identified as important components of leadership.
vi. There is no one best way to lead others. Effective leadership behaviour varies according to the situation.
vii. Leadership is a learned managerial skill. In other words, leadership skills can be taught.
viii. Behavioural approach also focuses on the relationship between leader’s behaviour and subordinate’s performance and satisfaction.
In brief, this approach is concerned specifically with what leaders actually do in their leadership roles. A number of studies were made during the 1950s and 1960s that looked at leadership from the standpoint of identifying the types of behaviour or styles of leaders. These included Ohio State and Michigan studies, Likert’s systems of management, Blake and Mouton’s Managerial Grid, and Tannenbaum and Schmidt’s continuum of leadership styles.
Behavioural approach, like trait theory, has not provided universally applicable guidelines for identifying leaders. The basic weakness of this approach was the tendency to assume that there is a single best style of leadership. But, later researchers recognized that an effective style depends on the nature of the situation.
Approach # 3. Group and Exchange Theory of Leadership:
This approach is based on social psychology. This theory connotes that leadership is an interpersonal influence. It is a positive exchange between the leader and followers in order to achieve group objectives. It is a two- way influence relationship. It indicates that subordinates affect leaders and their behaviours as much as leaders and their behaviours affect subordinates.
Thus, according to this view, leadership is an exchange process between the leader and followers. The leader provides more benefits than costs for followers. This creates his influence. Hollander and Julian state, “The very sustenance of leadership depends upon some yielding to influence on both sides.”
Approach # 4. Situational Theory of Leadership:
The limitations of the trait and behavioural theories led managers to refocus their efforts on the study of leadership. This concluded that- (a) no one trait was common to all successful leaders and (b) no one style was effective in all situations. Hence, researchers started to identify those factors in each situation that influenced the success of a particular leadership style.
According to situational theory, leadership is relative to the situation in which it occurs. The success of a leader is often determined by his ability to analyze the situation and adapt his leadership style to it. Situational variables put impact on leadership roles, skills and behaviour. They also affect followers’ performance and satisfaction.
Schriesheim and Behling have stated, “a situational view is necessary to portray accurately the complexities of the leadership process.” Vroom observes, “I do not see any form of leadership as optimal for all situations. The contribution of a leader’s actions to the effectiveness of his organisation cannot be determined without considering the nature of the situation in which that behaviour is displayed.”
(i) Situational theory recognizes that ‘situation’ greatly influences leadership behaviour.
(ii) It emphasizes interpersonal relationships and defines leadership as a process of influence.
(iii) It assumes that leaders are the product of given situations. Leader emerges out the situation.
(iv) It focuses on observed behaviour, not on any hypothetical inborn or acquired ability or potential for leadership. (Paul Hersey)
(v) It examines the interplay among three components of leadership—the leader, the follower, and the situation.
(vi) It requires the leader to behave in a flexible manner.
(vii) It declares that the effectiveness in leadership roles can be increased through education and training.
(viii) It assumes that appropriate leader behaviour varies from one situation to another. It establishes the relationship between the leader and the situation.
Situation theory requires the leader to examine at least four factors to determine the effective style of leadership:
(i) Leader characteristics – These include the leader’s personality, needs, past experience, expectations and motivation.
(ii) Followers characteristics – Important features to consider are the follower’s nature, his outlook, needs, experience, goals, values etc.
(iii) Characteristics of the situation – A leader should consider the complexity, cultural climate, time pressure, social impact, practicality of style and new changes in the outer environment.
(iv) Organisational characteristics – The leader should consider the various aspects within the organisation such as rules and policies, professionalism, objectives, task structure, managerial philosophy work freedom, permissiveness etc.
The situational view points out that the leadership is a complex process. It is the outcome of various factors. Various models and theories have been developed on the basis of situational view.
Important ones are the following:
(i) Fiedler’s Contingency Model,
(ii) House’s Path-Goal Theory,
(iii) Vroom—Yetten Contingency Model, and
(iv) Hersey—Blanchard Tri-Dimensional Leader Effectiveness Model.
The situational theory of leadership has some shortcomings also. It fails to take into account that leadership is a complex process in which the individual’s traits may well play a role. Gouldner says, “The theory of leadership can and should involve both traits and situations. Some traits could be specific and unique to groups; others might be common to all leaders.” This theory does not emphasise the process by which good leaders can be made in the organisation. It does not answer how an individual will fit in different situations.
However, this theory represents a deeper development of ideas. It extends the manager’s capabilities to consider the practical situations. Situational approach is in accord with psychological and sociological theories dealing with motivation, teams, groups and other aspects of human behaviour.
Theories of Leadership – 5 Approaches
Leadership is the process of influencing the behaviour and activities of an individual or group for achieving common goals. Thus, the existence of leader is very essential to guide, to inspire and direct the activities of a group. Now, the question arises that how leaders are developed. Basically there are five approaches or theories to leadership.
They are as follows:
(1) The Trait Theory.
(2) The Situational Theory.
(3) The Follower’s Theory.
(4) The System Theory.
(5) The Contingent Theory.
This is a classical theory, which owes its base to different traits in a human being. This theory believes that leadership behaviour is sum total of the traits (the qualities) the leader possesses.
A leader cannot behave other than what his personnel traits are. He may either inherently possess these traits or may have acquired through learning, training and experiences. But he himself is what his traits are and he therefore behaves within the limits of his traits.
A leader is expected to possess the following traits- (i) Good personality, (ii) Ability of quick decision, (iii) Alertness, (iv) Courage, (v) Intelligence, (vi) Persuasive voice, (vii) Physically fit. (viii) Intellectually sound, etc.
It has been maintained by the treatises that these traits can either be inherited or can be developed with the help of training and experience or can both be inherited and acquired.
Some of the traits cannot be wholly acquired through training and experience. Inheritance is also a must. It has therefore been widely accepted that the leadership traits can both be inherited. This is why it has been maintained that a leader is not only born but he is made also.
The traitists theory is widely accepted.
But it suffers from certain weaknesses which are as follows:
(i) Traitists have not supplied at exhaustive list of leadership qualities- Various thinkers have supplied different list of qualities of leadership. Neither of the thinkers has listed them in order of their importance. The list sometimes confuses the students and practitioners alike.
But this weakness does not take away the merits of the theory. The traitists have not agreed on a common list of leadership qualities. But he should not forget that management is a behavioural science and it changes with the dictate of time, situation and human behaviour. Trait may be added and deleted as when found necessary.
(ii) Leadership traits are neither common in nature nor are universal.
(iii) This theory has assumed that leaders are born- The traits cannot be acquired and developed. This approach reveals that leaders are not only born but they are made also. Therefore, they accept the theory that leadership qualities can be acquired and developed.
(iv) Traitists do not consider situational factors which influence the leader more than their own traits. In fact traits are helpful in facing the situation but traits cannot wipe off the situation, which may arise from time to time and which a leader is required to face time and again. Situation forces a decision. A leader possessing requisite traits of leadership may come out from all the situations with flying colours.
The theory believes in situational behaviour of the leader and hold that leadership is strongly affected by the situation in which he works. The theory believes that it is the situation which develops a leadership and from which a leader emerges. A leader is made as per the thinking of this theory. Traits are only helpful. A leader is made as per the thinking of this theory.
Traits are only helpful. A leader is he who succeeds. But situationalists believe that a leader may succeed in a given situation but he may not succeed in some different situation. This thinking amply proves that it is the situation which produces a leader.
This theory further believes that there exists an interaction between a group and its leader. The people are prepared to follow only the leader who is capable of fulfilling their aspirations. For acquiring such a capacity the leader is required to recognise the needs, to study the situation and to visualize the aspirations of his followers.
This theory suffers from the following weaknesses:
(a) Over-Emphasis on Situation:
The leadership is the product of situation and a leader emerges as per the dictate of the situation. The thinking over-emphasises on the situation aspect and over-looks the qualities needed in a successful leader.
(b) Completely Overlooks the Traits:
This theory over-emphasises the situational aspect, therefore, it completely overlooks the traits which obviously play a significant role in the emergence of a particular leader. The head and heart of a leader plays a definite role in every situation. But this theory completely ignores this fact.
(3) The Follower‘s Theory:
This theory is also known as “Acceptance Theory”. The followers must accept their leader and his leadership. “A leader or his leadership cannot exist without followers”, asserts this theory. This theory tells us that leadership is developed on the basis of acceptance from followers. Leadership cannot exist without a group. A study of the characteristics of follower’s group is also necessary to understand the nature of leadership.
If a leader is successful in leading his group, satisfying them and moving them; he will be assumed to be a good leader. This seems to be some justification regarding the followers as the most crucial factor in a leadership event.
It is therefore, necessary that leadership function is analysed and understood in terms of the characteristics of the group of followers and their dynamic relationship between leader and his group. Here the need of the follower’s theory is most important and a guiding factor in deciding the leader and his leadership.
Weakness of the Follower’s Theory:
The major weakness of this approach is that it overlooks the quality aspect of leadership. A leader has certain qualities whether earned or inherited, that is why he is able to lead the group. But modern business managers are of this opinion that it is the follower’s theory which is now playing a significant role in managing the people today.
The traitist and the ‘Situationalist Theories’ have taken a back seat. In India since 1967 it is the followers’ theory which is dominating the Indian political science and it had an impact on the business and industrial leadership.
This theory is also known as “Modern Theory of Leadership.” This theory is based on all the variables of leadership, i.e., the leader, his leadership traits, situation in which he acts, goals which he has to attain, the environment in which he works, the follower’s theory which have been formed its contents, nature, characteristics and needs, role, behaviour of the leader and his coordinating efforts.
The theory believes that it is the act of the leader which influences his followers most, instead of his leadership traits. His act, the role he plays and the role-behaviour stimulates his followers to act and try to attain the objectives.
The modern business world feels that we are in an era where the system theory is rather more acceptable to those who are being led as compared to other theories of leadership.
Fred E, Fiedler developed a contingency model of leadership assuming that the effectiveness of the leadership is based on his ability to act in terms of situational requirements. To approach his study, Fiedler postulated two major styles of leadership- (a) Lenient or human relations approach, and (b) Task-oriented style.
Human Relations Approach-This is oriented primarily towards achieving good personal relations and towards achieving a position of personal prominence.
Task oriented Style-This is primarily concerned towards achieving tasks performed. Fiedler feels that “the group performance will be contingent upon the appropriate matching of leadership style and the degree of favourableness of the group situation for the leader, that is, the degree of which the situation provides the leader with influence over his group members.”
Favourableness of situations has been defined as the degree to which a given situation enables the leader to exert influence over a group.
He has identified three dimensions of favourableness of solution:
(1) The leader, member relationship which is the most significant variable in determining the situation’s favourableness.
(2) The degree of task structure which is the second most important aspect in the favourableness of situation.
(3) The leader’s position power obtained through formal authority which is the third most critical dimension of the situation.
Situations are favourable if all three dimensions are high. The model presented by Fiedler has many significant implications to managers. It indicates that leadership effectiveness depends on various elements in the group environment.
Thus, the effectiveness of the group performance can be effected by changing the leadership style for the situation in accordance with the described relationships. This also helps in designing the selection and training programmes for managers to be suitable for given situations.
Theories of Leadership – With Managerial Grid and Leadership Styles
Theories of leadership can be classified as follows:
Traits are “distinctive internal qualities or characteristics of an individual, such as physical characteristics, personality characteristics, skills and abilities, and social factors.”
Physical characteristics are personal appearance, age, height, complexion etc.
Personality characteristics refer to intelligence, dominance, confidence etc.
Skills and abilities are the power of leaders to be clever, initiative, creative, persuasive and tactful.
Social factors include knowledge about social environment and interpersonal skills.
Based on these qualities, trait theories identify and compare:
I. Traits of leaders with those of non-leaders (followers).
II. Traits of effective leaders with those of ineffective leaders.
These theories emphasise on what leaders do rather than who the leaders are. Same leaders behave differently in different situations. Social skills may be important in one situation and task-related skills may be important in another situation.
While dealing with subordinates, leadership style is based on their behaviour.
They can be:
a. Task-oriented- This style focuses on work. It does not emphasise on growth and development of employees.
b. Employee-oriented- This style focuses on growth and development of employees. Leaders allow employees to participate in the decision-making processes and develop their creative skills to grow into potential managers.
i. The Managerial Grid:
This approach to leadership style was developed in 1960s by Robert Blake and Jane Mouton. According to them, leadership style (employee-oriented or production-oriented) depends on where the leader positions him on the managerial grid. Managerial grid is a two dimensional matrix with points ranging from 1 to 9 on either axis. Horizontal axis represents leader’s concern for production and vertical axis represents his concern for people. The grid appears as in Fig. 1.
Based on managerial grid, five leadership styles emerge with varying degree of concern for people and task.
These are as follows:
a. 1.1 Impoverished Management:
This represents leadership style where leader has low concern for both people and production. It is more of a laissez faire management style. Leader’s interference in task accomplishment is minimum and everything is done by group members themselves.
b. 1.9 Country Club Management:
This represents low concern for production and high concern for people. Leaders’ attitude is employee-oriented. They show concern, love, affection and friendliness towards the followers, satisfy their needs and motivate them to contribute towards group goals.
c. 9.1 Task Management:
Leaders have more concern for task or production and less for people. Autocratic style of management is adopted in task management. Leaders attempt to maximise output by setting a work environment where minimum attention is paid to human needs and their satisfaction.
d. 5.5 Middle of the Road or Organisation Man Management:
This style of leadership gives equal importance to production and people. It satisfies both organisational (production) and human needs.
e. 9.9 Team Management:
This is the most effective style of leadership where leaders have maximum concern for people and task. There is high focus on job satisfaction and workers’ contribution to the job. This approach results in low absenteeism and labour turnover rate, high job satisfaction, high morale and high contribution to productivity. This is similar to democratic style of leadership.
The ideal style of leadership, according to this approach is 9, 9 and training programmes should be conducted to help managers adopt this style of leadership.
The managerial grid has been successful in influencing leaders’ behaviour in specific situations, though no specific reasons can be identified with ‘why do leaders adopt one of the five styles of leadership’. Personality characteristics of leaders and followers, ability and willingness of leaders and followers to work with each other, environmental factors and other situational factors affect the leadership styles.
No common set of traits and behaviour can be identified with successful leadership. If one set of traits or behaviour is suitable in one situation, another set of traits or behaviour may be suitable for another situation. The situation is, thus, an important variable that affects leadership style. Leadership is a function of leader, follower and situation. Situational theories emphasise on the variable ‘situation’, in formulating situational theories. Situational theories are also called contingency theories as leadership style is contingent upon situational variables.
As Victor Vroom puts it, “I do not see any form of leadership as optimal for all situations. The contribution of a leader’s actions to the effectiveness of his organisation cannot be determined without considering the nature of the situation in which that behaviour is displayed.”
Through careful analysis of various situational factors like attitude of managers and workers towards each other, attitude towards work, nature of work, nature of workers etc., leaders adopt a style most appropriate to the situation. Leaders’ abilities to deal with different situations can be modified and enhanced through effectively devised training and development programmes.
A number of researches and consequently, a number of theories have developed that support situational approach to leadership. (Tannenbaum and Schmidt’s Leadership Continuum, Fidler’s Contingency theory, House’s Path Goal theory, Hersey and Blanchard’s Situational Leadership theory).
Two of these theories are discussed below:
One of the pioneering studies in situational theories is made by Robert Tannenbaum and Warren H. Schmidt. According to them, there is no best style of leadership. Leader chooses one amongst seven leader behaviours depending upon three important factors.
These factors are:
(a) The Leader:
The way an individual perceives himself as a leader, his source of power (expert, referent, legitimate etc.), attitude towards subordinates, attitude towards work; the extent to which he retains authority and how much he is willing to delegate to subordinates, his value systems and similar drives influence the leadership style.
(b) The Follower:
Leader studies the behaviour of subordinates. Whether or not followers take responsibility, whether or not they find the work interesting, to what extent they subordinate individual goals in favour of organisational goals and how much they want to participate in the decision-making processes are some of the factors that leaders consider before adopting a leadership style.
(c) The Situation:
Even if leaders and followers are ready to work together, the situation may not allow them to do so. The organisation structure, form of departmentalisation, extent of centralisation and decentralisation, desires of the top management, effectiveness of various committees and work groups (both formal and informal), determine leadership style to a large extent.
Depending on these three factors, the theory developed a leadership continuum with task-oriented, autocratic leadership style at one end of the continuum and employee-oriented democratic style at the other end. Depending on the situation as reflected by these three forces, leaders adopt a style varying between these two extremes.
Leadership continuum is shown in the following diagram:
At the extreme left authoritarian style of leadership, leaders derive power from legitimate source. The extreme right democratic style assumes that leaders derive power from expert or referent sources. Between these two extremes, leaders move from authoritarian to democratic style of leadership.
Even in the two extreme styles of leadership, some degree of freedom is enjoyed by subordinates, (howsoever little it may be) at the extreme left corner and managers exercise some authority at the extreme right corner of the leadership continuum.
The contingency theory propounded by Fred E. Fiedler asserts that leadership style depends on three elements in the work situation.
(A) Leader-Member Relations:
This aspect of work situation describes relationship between leader and the members. If people and the leader like each other, employee- oriented leadership style is more appropriate. If they do not like each other, leader adopts the task-oriented leadership style.
(B) Task Structure:
Task structure defines whether the task is structured or unstructured. In structured task, work is divided into well-defined units, every person knows his responsibility and accountability. In this situation, it is easy for the leader to exercise authority over fellow workers. In contrast, if the task is unstructured, the goals are not well defined, ways of achieving these goals are also not defined, leader and the followers do not know what is to be performed by whom, it becomes difficult for the leader to influence his followers.
(C) Position Power:
Leader derives power by virtue of his position. A leader who has more position power (legitimate power) can have more control over the activities of subordinates.
Based on three situational variables, Fiedler made eight combinations on the work environment.
i. The leader-member relations can be good or bad,
ii. Task can be structured or unstructured, and
iii. Power enjoyed by leader can be strong or weak.
Using these eight combinations and two styles of leader behaviour (employee-oriented or task-oriented), Fiedler concluded the following:
1. Task-oriented leadership style is more appropriate in extreme situations, that is, situations where leader-member relations are good, task is structured and position power of the leader is strong. (This is the favourable situation for leaders).
Even in case of unfavourable situation for leaders, where leader-member relations are not good, task is unstructured and position power of the leader is weak, autocratic or task-oriented approach to leadership style is preferred.
2. Situations between favourable and unfavourable that are situations which are intermediate in favourableness can be best managed by employee-oriented leaders.
Favourableness of a situation is “the degree to which the situation enables the leader to exert influence over his group”.
Fiedler drew conclusions on the basis of LPC scale (least preferred co-worker). The scale indicates the “degree to which a man described favourably or unfavourably his least preferred co-worker”. It specifies the employees with whom leaders can least get along well with. High LPC rating managers (where people rate their co-workers high or favourable) adopt employee-oriented leadership style and low LPC rating managers (where people rate their co-workers low or in unfavourable terms) perform better when task-oriented leadership style is adopted.
Theories of Leadership – According to Henry Fayol, Hill and Thomas Gordon
Different authors hold different views on the qualities that are considered essential for effective leadership. Some emphasize on the personal attributes and traits of the leadership. Others emphasis on the actual behaviour and action of the leader. There are still others who emphasis the situation on which the leadership is to be exercised.
The main theories or approaches that have evolved have been discussed in brief here:
1. The Trait Theory:
This approach represents the earliest notions of leadership and until up to three decades ago this approach was very popular. According to this theory, there are certain personal qualities and traits which are essential to be a successful leader. The advocates of this theory are of the opinion that persons who are leaders are psychologically better adjusted to display better judgment and to engage themselves in social activities.
They seek more information, give more information and take lead in interpreting or summing up a situation. Most of the Trait Theories believe that leadership traits are inherited or in-born and these cannot be acquired by learning.
Many researchers have given their views on the type of qualities that are considered essential for effective leadership.
Henry Fayol divided these qualities into physical, mental, moral, educational and technical and experience Ordway Tead has given a list of ten qualities:
(i) Physical and nervous energy;
(ii) A sense of purpose and direction;
(iv) Friendliness and affection;
(vi) Technical mastery;
(ix) Teaching skill; and
According to Hill, “Courage. Self-confidence, moral qualities, self- sacrifice, paternalism, fairness, initiative, decisiveness, dignity and knowledge of man are all essential qualities of a leader.” Stogdill classified the leadership qualities under six heads: capacity, achievement, responsibility, participation, status and situation.
But the trait theory has many shortcomings and has been generally criticized on the following grounds:
(i) Various studies prove that the trait theory cannot hold good for all sets of circumstances.
(ii) The list of traits is not uniform and different authors have given lists of different traits.
(iii) It fails to take into account the influence of other factors on leadership.
(iv) The theory fails to indicate the comparative importance of different traits.
(v) There are many persons who have been outstanding leaders in business although they have been humourless, narrow-minded, unjust and authoritarian although they had traits as specified for leaders.
2. The Behavioural Theory:
The shortcomings of the Trait Theory led to a significant change in the emphasis of leadership approach. This shift in emphasis began to focus an attention on the actual behaviour and actions of leaders as against personal qualities or traits of leaders.
According to this approach, leadership involves an interpersonal relationship between a leader and sub-ordinates in which the behaviour of the leader towards the sub-ordinates constitutes the most critical element. The good behaviour of the leader raises the morale, builds up confidence and spirit among the team members and the lack of good behaviour will discard him as a leader.
As a matter of fact, several theories were developed during 1950s and 1960s that approached leadership from the standpoint of actual behaviour of leaders. But the behavioural theories also suffer from limitations, e.g., what constitutes the most effective style of leadership behaviour? Moreover, a particular behaviour or action of a leader may be effective at one point of time while the same may be ineffective at some other point of time and in some other circumstances.
3. The Situational Theories:
The situational theories emphasis not on personal qualities or traits of a leader, but upon the situation in which he operates. The advocates of this approach believe that leadership is greatly affected by a situation at a particular time. A good leader is one who moulds himself according to the needs of a given situation.
The situational theory of leadership suffers from the drawback that it fails to consider the fact that in the complex process of leadership, individual qualities and traits of the leader also play an important role. In the words of Thomas Gordon, “Situations have overlooked the possibility that some traits influence their possessors to attain leadership success and some others increase the chances of their becoming leaders”.
4. The Follower Theory:
The shortcomings of the Trait Theory, the Behavioural Theory and the Situational Theory influenced certain researchers to focus their attention on the followers. According to this theory the essence of leadership is followership and it is the willingness of people to follow that makes a person a leader. The members of a group tend to follow only those whom they recognize as providing means for achieving their personal desires, wants and needs.
Like all other theories, the Follower Theory also sounds well but it also represents only one sided view. The best thing will be to integrate the various theories to study leadership pattern. To conclude, we can say that effective leadership depends on the traits of the leader, situation and the type of the followers.
Theories of Leadership – With Benefits and Limitations
There are number of theories which provide explanations regarding various aspects of leadership.
(1) Trait Theories:
It was observed that those who were commonly recognized as leaders possessed certain personal traits. Qualities of leadership are prominent and identifiable. The traits approach theory was one of the first attempts to explain the leadership based on personal traits. Traits are inborn or acquired personal qualities of an individual. According to the traits theory, an individual possessing such traits is usually able to influence others and gets the status of a leader.
This theory assumes that a person becomes a leader due to his personal qualities. His main qualities are attractive personality, intelligence, maturity, optimism, determination, discipline, self-confidence, character, achievement orientation, emotional stability and mental stability. The other qualities required are- a scientific temper, open mindedness, social sensitivity, communication and objectivity etc.
Benefits of Trait theory:
I. Trait theory creates a standard against which the leadership traits of an individual can be assessed.
II. This theory gives a detailed knowledge and understanding of the leader element in the leadership process.
Limitations of Trait Theory:
The trait theory of leadership is criticized mainly on account of the following inadequacies:
I. This theory too is not accepted as a valid theory.
II. Skills are sometimes mistaken for traits.
III. It only discusses the leader and not the influential factors around him.
IV. At different times and under different situations leaders must show different leadership characteristics. Similarly, different functions like production, sales and finance require somewhat different leadership abilities.
V. The theory states that a leader has superior personal traits as compared to his followers. However, the nature or extent of superiority is not given in a clear manner. So, it is often difficult to measure traits.
VI. Researches have shown that leadership should be looked beyond personal qualifications and traits of the individuals. So this theory is not based on scientific research.
The leadership style varies with the kind of people the leader interacts and deals with. A perfect / standard leadership style is one which assists a leader in getting the best out of the people who follow him.
Lewin, Lipitt and White conducted leadership studies in 1939 based on three different styles – autocratic, democratic, and laissez faire.
I. Autocratic Style of Leadership:
An autocratic leader is one who takes all decisions himself without consulting with the subordinates. He centralizes power and decision making in himself. The leader commands complete control over the subordinates who are forced to obey the orders. The subordinates have no opportunity to make suggestions or take part in decision making function.
Some benefits of autocratic style of leadership are:
(a) Decisions can be made quickly.
(b) Leader can take direct control when any major problem arises.
The autocratic style has some limitations also:
(a) It results in low morale and job dissatisfaction.
(b) Employees efficiency tends to decline over period.
(c) Potential manager leader employees do not get opportunity to exhibit their capabilities.
The autocratic style is suitable only in following situations:
(a) The leader wants to be active and dominant in decision making.
(b) The leader is highly competent for making a right decision.
(c) The subordinates are incompetent and inexperienced.
II. Democratic Style of Leadership:
In democratic style of leadership the leader takes decision in consultation with the subordinates. Here, the leader does not dominate the subordinates. Participation in decision making enables subordinates to satisfy their social needs. Frequent interaction between the leader and subordinates also helps to build up mutual faith and confidence.
(a) It leads to an optimistic work environment and also encourages creativity. Individual abilities are developed through participation.
(b) It provides job satisfaction and improves the morale of subordinates
(c) Subordinates participation in decision making helps to make right decision as it motivates them to do better.
(a) Decision making is a time-consuming process in democratic style.
(b) There is possibility that a few dominant subordinates may influence decision in their favour.
(c) The whole group is responsible for implementing decision making not an individual.
The participative style is suitable only in following situations:
(a) Subordinates are experienced and have full knowledge.
(b) When the leader is interested in obtaining ideas, views and suggestions from subordinates.
III. Laissez-Faire Style of Leadership:
Laissez faire style is just the opposite of autocratic style. It is also known as “Free rein style.” Under this leadership style, the subordinates are asked to set their own goals and develop their own plans for achieving common goal. The leader completely gives up his leadership role. The subordinates enjoy full freedom to decide as and what they like.
Some benefits of Laissez Faire style of leadership are:
(a) Has a positive effect on job satisfaction and morale of subordinates.
(b) The employees are self-guided.
(c) Gives maximum possible scope for development of subordinates.
(d) Allows full utilization of the potential of subordinates.
(a) No support and guidance provided to subordinates.
(b) While autocratic style ignores the contribution of the subordinates, free rein style ignores the contribution of the leader.
(c) In absence of centralized direction, authority and control, subordinates may move in different directions and may lead to confusion.
(a) Leader is able to fully delegate the powers of decision making to these subordinates.
(b) This leadership style works only when the employees are skilled, loyal, experienced and intellectual.
The behaviour theories emphasize what the leader do and how they behave to become effective leaders. Several attempts have been made to identify the dimensions of leader behaviour. The most systematic research studies in the direction were conducted in USA at Ohio State University and University of Michigan.
The studies conducted at Ohio State University is related to ‘initiating structure’ and ‘consideration’ leadership styles .Whereas the Michigan University study revealed two kinds of styles viz., production centered and employee-centered.
These studies defined two independent dimensions of leader behaviour.
These two dimensions are:
The consideration structure refers to behaviour that indicates the leaders trust, friendship and support towards his group members. A leader who shows high consideration has been found to bring about high satisfaction among group members, better co-operation from them, low grievance rate and so on. However, this dimension is found result in low productivity performance of the group.
Individuals who are concerned with their people first, and the task afterwards, seemed to get greater production and have employees with higher job satisfaction and morale. Here, the work of the group is well organized, coordinated and relevant so that people know exactly what is to be done and how it is to be done. Consideration is somehow closer to Democratic style of leadership.
It refers to the extent to which a leader is task oriented his efforts to get things organized and his ability in utilizing resources of the organization. In other words, Initiating structure is the extent to which the leader organises and defines subordinates’ activities and relationships. Leader has a complete control over his subordinates. Initiating structure is closer to Autocratic Style.
Leaders who score high on initiating structure dimension were found to achieve high productivity or performance of group. However, member satisfaction was low. Hence, production-centered leaders had lower production and employees with poorer morale and less job satisfaction.
Robert Blake and Jane Mouton developed “Managerial Grid”, another behavioral approach to study leadership. It is also known as “Leadership grid”. The two primary concerns in organizations, namely, the concern for production and concern for people are shown through managerial grid. It is believed that a high concern for production necessarily meant low concern for people, and high consideration for workers meant tolerance for low production.
The following are the main elements of this model:
i. In the Managerial Grid five different types of leadership are located in four quadrants.
ii. The vertical axis (y-axis) represent a leader’s concern for people and the horizontal axis (x-axis) represent a leader’s concern for task.
iii. This model explains a leader’s requirements in a two dimensional grid form.
iv. In a grid 81 possible combinations are found to rate the leadership qualities of an individual.
In the upper right-hand corner of the grid, position 9, 9 establishes the team management style that efficiently accomplishes work through teamwork and participation so that production is maximized.
This style is considered to be the most effective management philosophy. The leader feels that commitment, trust, and respect are the key elements in creating a team atmosphere which will automatically result in high employee satisfaction and production.
According to Blake and Mouton, 9-9 is the most desirable approach.
Theories of Leadership – Universalist Theories, Contingency Theories, Situational Leadership Theories, Vroom-Yetton Leadership Model and Leader-Member Exchange Model
There are a number of leadership theories that have been framed.
Some major ones are discussed here under:
1. Universalist Theories:
i. Great Man/Woman Theory:
This theory postulates that great leaders are born, not made. Great leaders possess key traits that set them apart from most other humans.
ii. Trait Theory:
It attempts to discover the traits shared by all effective leaders. As per this theory, traits are enduring attributes associated with an individual’s make-up or personality. The trait theory says leaders must be Dominant. Intelligent and Masculine. Main Problems with Trait Theory is that it deals with perceptions of leadership effectiveness, not actual effectiveness and does not take the situation into account.
2. Contingency Theories:
a. Fiedler’s Contingency Model:
A leadership theory that maintains that effective leadership depends on a match between the leader’s style and the degree to which the work situation gives control and influence to the leader.
Fiedler believed that different situations in an organisation could be classified in terms of favourableness (situational control) determined by 3 factors:
1. Leader Member Relations- Degree to which a leader is accepted and supported by the group members.
2. Task Structure- Extent to which the task is structured and defined, with clear goals and procedures.
3. Position Power- The ability of a leader to control subordinates through reward and punishment.
High levels of these three factors give the most favourable situation while low levels, the least favourable. Relationship-motivated leaders are most effective in moderately favourable situations. Task-motivated leaders are most effective at either end of the scale. Since personality is relatively stable, the contingency model suggests that improving effectiveness requires changing the situation to fit the leader. This called “job engineering”.
b. The Path-Goal Theory:
Path-Goal Theory of Evans and House identify achievement-oriented, directive, participative and supportive leadership styles. An achievement-oriented leader sets challenging goals for followers, expects them to perform at their highest level and shows confidence in their ability to meet this expectation.
This style is appropriate when the follower suffers from a lack of job challenge. In directive leadership, the leader lets followers know what is expected of them and tells them how to perform their tasks.
This style is appropriate when the follower has an ambiguous job. Participative leaders consult their followers and seek their suggestions before making a decision. This style is appropriate when the follower is using improper procedures or is making poor decisions. Under supportive leadership, the leader is friendly and approachable and shows concern for the followers. This style is appropriate when the followers lack confidence.
Path-Goal Theory assumes that leaders are flexible and that they can change their style, as situations require. The theory proposes two contingency variables, such as environment and follower characteristics, that moderate the leader behaviour outcome relationship.
Environment is outside the control while follower characteristics are controllable. Effective leaders clarify the path to help their followers achieve goals. Research demonstrates that employee performance and satisfaction are positively influenced when the leader-compensate for the shortcomings in either the employee or the work setting.
3. Situational Leadership Theories:
Situational Theory presumes that different leadership styles are better in different situations, and that leaders must be flexible enough to adapt their style to the situation they are in. A good situational leader is one who can quickly change leadership styles as the situation changes. Hersey-Blanchard theory suggests that leadership style should be matched to the maturity of the subordinates.
Maturity is assessed in relation to a specific task and has two parts:
i. Psychological Maturity – Their self-confidence and ability and readiness to accept responsibility.
ii. Job Maturity – Their relevant skills and technical knowledge.
As the subordinate maturity increases, leadership should be more relationship-motivated than task motivated. Leadership can consist of Delegating to subordinates (Hands-off leadership). Participating with subordinates (Allowing followers to approach the task autonomously but providing emotional support for motivation), selling ideas to subordinates (Explaining and clarifying how work is to be done and attempting to motivate workers) and Telling subordinates what to do (giving followers specific directions and closely supervising their work).
4. Vroom-Yetton Leadership Model:
This model suggests the selection of a leadership style for making a decision.
There are five decision making styles:
i. Autocratic 1 – Problem is solved using information already available.
ii. Autocratic 2 – Additional information is obtained from group before leader makes decision. Info is given in response to leader’s request, but followers may not be “in” on process.
iii. Consultative 1 – Leader shares the problem with the relevant followers individually, getting their ideas and suggestions without bringing them together as a group. However, leader’s decision may not reflect followers’ input.
iv. Consultative 2 – The leader shares the problem with followers in a group meeting and obtains their ideas and suggestions. Leader’s decision again may not reflect the followers influence.
v. Group 2 – The leader shares the problem with his followers as a group. Group solves the problem with leader simply acting as chair. Together, they generate and evaluate alternatives to try to reach consensus. Leader accepts and implements solution given by the group.
In case of time constraint, a more autocratic approach should be preferred. Otherwise a more participative approach always leads to team spirit.
5. Leader-Member Exchange Model:
A theory that effective leadership is determined by the quality of the interaction between the leader and particular group members.
One proposition of this theory is that leaders tend to separate their subordinates into two groups:
i. The in-group, or the cadre receive considerably more attention from the leader and larger share of the resources that the leader has to offer.
ii. The out-group, or the hired hands receive less attention and fewer resources.
Research suggests that having a high quality relationship with a leader is associated with better job performance, greater organizational commitment, less absenteeism and greater job satisfaction.