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Leadership Theories - Essay Example

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Leadership Theories

It is a tough call because leaders and followers are unique human beings and thereby each situation has an unknown entity factored in. A range of leadership theories have tried to put forth different leadership styles which is the recurring pattern of behaviours exhibited by a leader. A leader's style is based on the degree of concern to the accomplishment of the task and the people who do the task.
The early Trait theories of the 1920's and 1930's, tried to understand the specific traits that differentiated leaders and non-leaders. These may be physical traits like age, height, weight, or social characteristics like being popular, charismatic or diplomatic or personal traits like being self-confident and adaptable. Task-related characteristics include being driven to excel, accepting of responsibility, having initiative, and being results-oriented.
Trait theories concentrated on the inherent individual traits rather the situation but their drawback was that they did not take into account situational differences. Also, they did not take into account the fact that when these attributes are cultivated by education and training whether they were as effective as the inherent qualities. Due to the uniqueness of situations and individuals, trait theories lost their vote when compared to situational theories.
Contingency Theories take into account environmental factors and recommend adaptable leadership behaviour to actual situational requirements. Fiedler's contingency theory was based on the premise that good leadership is always a match between leadership style and situational demands. What works in a particular environment may not be successful in a different environment.
Fiedler's theory consisted of three contingency variables. The first was the leader-member relations (good or poor) that determined group support for the leader. The second was the task structure (high or low) that specified the accuracy of the task and goals. And the third was the position power that determined the power or authority of the manager to punish or reward his subordinates. These are combined in a weighted sum that is termed "Favourable" at one end and "unfavourable" at the other. Task oriented style worked with better member relations while or relationship oriented style is defined for other circumstances. Thus, a given situation might call for a manager with a different style or a manager who could take on a different style for a different situation.
Fiedler's theory is successful only when there is a good match between style and situation. The task-motivated style leader takes pride in his work and feels happy in the achievement of company goals. The relationship-oriented manager seems to place more emphasis relationship building. Therefore this works only when the prospective managers have the right situation that suits their predominant style and is dependent on internal and external constraints.
The leadership qualities that are required to make a good leader can vary in different organisations, teams and situations. This is one of the fundamental principles underlying most popular leadership systems such as Situational Leadership (developed by Blanchard and Hersey in the late 1960s). Hersey and Blanchard's Situational Leadership model suggests that successful leaders can adjust their styles depending on the readiness of the followers to perform in a given situation. The leadership styles portrayed are combinations of task oriented and relationship ...Show more


In the simplest terms, leadership is the process of inspiring others to work hard to accomplish important goals. With the rapid technological changes, intense global competition and diverse workforces, it is very important to have leadership traits in the working environment…
Author : courtneybarrows
Leadership Theories
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