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Theories of leadership - Essay Example

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Theories of leadership

Behavioural theories of leadership are based upon the idea that great leaders are made, not born. Rooted in behaviourism, 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. Conditioning occurs through interaction with the environment. According to behaviourism, behaviour can be studied in a systematic and observable manner with no consideration of internal mental states.
Behavioral theories of leadership do not seek 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' or 'capabilities'. Thus, Behavioral leadership 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 behavioral theory ...
A wave of researchers argued that it is the leader's behaviours that predicts success. They point out that during and after World War II, American scientists began to push the idea that everything could be scientifically explained and predicted, including human behaviour. As a result, the 1940s saw lots of research being conducted in American companies focusing on making employees more productive and managers more effective. Since the psychological stream held that behaviours are primarily learned aided them, they propounded the idea that "leaders are made, not born." Significant studies that were conducted at some of America's most prestigious research universities during this time are still referred to in today's leadership literature.

The Michigan Research Design with the efforts of Likert and his team identified two distinct styles of leadership that they referred to as "job-centered" and "employee-centered." They interviewed leaders' followers and also used questionnaires with followers. Their design defined job-centred leaders as those who believe that employees are just a means to an ends (production of the product, profit) and that the best way to get them to do what we want is to closely supervise them and use rewards and coercion to communicate with them. These sorts of leaders, they inferred, used the legitimate/position power as the basis of influencing employees.

The other form of leadership they focussed on was one that was based on employees. They defined these leaders as those who held that it is necessary to create a supportive work environment in order for workers to be successful in helping the company meet its goals. These leaders, they emphasised, were concerned with giving employees opportunities for advancement, ...Show more


From ancient times, most people were of opinions that leaders are born with inherited traits. Some traits were thought to be particularly suited to leadership and people who made good leaders possessed a right or sufficient combination of these traits.
Thus, all the early research on leadership was based on the psychological focus of the day, which was of people having inherited characteristics or traits…
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