Leadership Theories

The many leadership theories which exist today fall within eight categories. These are the great man theories, trait, contingency, situational, behavioral, participative, management and relationship theories respectively. In great man theories, leadership is presumed to be inherent, that is, leaders are born not made. Similarly, trait theories hold this ideology but based on the leadership qualities. Relative to contingency theories, the environmental factors determine the leadership style whereas on situational theories the situation dictates. Unlike great man’s theories, behavioral theories hold that leaders are not born but made: leadership develop from learning either through teaching or observation. Further to participative and management theories, leadership is determined by the role played. For participative theory, a leader is taken as the one who incorporates others inputs through participation and contribution. Next, management theories feature leadership through supervision and organizational roles. Finally, relationship theories focus on the ability to form connections amongst leaders and followers (Lussier, & Achua, 2010). In this paper, attention will shift on two leadership theories, situational theories and management theories.

In regards to situation theories, leadership is proposed to be triggered by the situational variables such as decision making. In a situation where the leader is more experienced and knowledgeable than the followers, an authoritarian leadership style is more favorable. On the other hand, in a situation where the followers are skilled, a democratic leadership style is more effective. Therefore, situational theories define leadership based on the situational factors which influence the leadership style as well as the follower’s motivation. These are the relationship between the leader and follower, task structure, and the power position. In leader-follower relationship, the focus is on the followers’ confidence of the leaders while the task structure is in the nature of the task and power position is on the leader’s authority and influence. Moreover, the employee characteristics determine the leadership style as mentioned above. Directive style is preferred for followers that are unskilled and non-motivated; coaching style for unskilled but motivated followers; supporting style for skilled but non-motivated; and observing style for both skilled and motivated followers.

Relative to management leadership theories (also known as transformational), leadership is based as the influential factor in job performance and satisfaction (Braun, Peus, Weisweiler, and Frey, 2013). In this respect leaders are obliged to set clear goals and paths to guide and enable the employees to perform. In addition, the management theories highly focus on employee motivation. In this respect, leaders should incorporate styles which enhance employee motivation; supporting style where the followers lack confidence; and instructive style when the task is ambiguous, demanding and there is no motivation to meet the deadlines. Most important, the management theories recommend regular leaders consultation with the followers as well as followers’ involvement in decision making (Braun, Peus, Weisweiler, and Frey, 2013).

In both theories above, employee behavior is entirely dependent on the leader’s individuality. That is, if the leader is task oriented or relationship oriented. Leaders are supposed to adapt to their employees as well as their workplaces. For this reason, these theories emphasize on the leadership approach which is flexible and helps in utilizing fully the potential of the employees. The situational theories of leadership provides specifications upon which leaders should rely on in different situations. These specifications are based on three dimensions. First and foremost is the prioritization of tasks, next is assessment of employees skills and motivation and finally, formulating of the leadership style. In regards to management theories, leaders concentrate on employees’ skills in order to assign tasks and influence performance through rewards. The situational leadership theory portrays followers as having different responses depending on their personality coupled with their ability and willingness. By contrast to the management leadership theory, followers act based on the nature of leadership applied.

The situational leadership theory developed from Hersey and Blanchard model of leadership, the life cycle theory (Thompson, and Vecchio, 2009). The life cycle theory purposed to help change the parenting approach of parents towards their children starting from infancy, adolescence to adulthood. Later, the two authors changed the application setting of this theory from home-based parent child relationship to the workplace relationship between leaders and followers. This approach laid emphasis that leadership should be based on leadership style depends on the members as well as their behavior. This brought forth newer aspects of leadership from the relationship with the behavioral aspects. For this reason, the situational leadership theory is regarded as the single best model of leadership (Thompson, and Vecchio, 2009).

The situational leadership theory stipulates that different situations of varying degrees influence leadership effectiveness. Most notably, the situations in this model vary between the task behavior and related behavior of the leaders to the followers. The task behavior refers to the degree upon which the leader clearly explains the duties and responsibilities of the followers. Task behavior is characterized with one way communication where the leader closely directs and supervises employees in their tasks. Relative to the relationship behavior, the focus is on the degree of support that the leader provides to the employers. Unlike in the task behavior, the relationship behavior uses a two way channel of communication. Here, the leader plays both the role of a facilitator and the listener. Therefore, an effective leader is the one able to determine the extent of task behavior and relationship behavior to accommodate based on employees readiness. In this context, readiness refers to the employees’ ability and willingness in directing their behavior towards the task at hand. Ability defines the knowledge, skills and experience of followers whereas willingness the confidence, motivation and commitment possessed by the followers. Therefore, situational model of leadership revolves about the task and relationship behaviors provided by the leader and the follower readiness (Thompson, and Vecchio, 2009).

As far as the tasks and relationship behaviors are concerned, their effectiveness is based four different dimensions. These are telling, selling, participating and delegating. With respect to telling, leaders should clearly define stipulate the duties and supervise them closely. Here, one way communication persist as the leader makes and announces the decisions based on what task is to do, when and how. Next to selling, the leaders encourage followers’ ideas and opinions about the task but the decision making prerogative remains with the leaders. Further to participation, leaders offer their followers support to boost their confidence and motivate them as well. Lastly, on delegation the followers should be willing and able to handle the task freely with minimum support and supervision (Thompson, and Vecchio, 2009).

On the situational model of leadership, the situational behaviors depend on the readiness of the followers. The dimension of readiness is comprised of four levels. Followers in the first readiness level are classified as unable and non-willing. This class of followers has little knowledge, skills and experience pertaining to the task. In addition they are less confident, committed and motivated to carry the task. Second level followers are those that are unable but willing. Similar to the first level followers, they are less knowledgeable, skillful and experienced about the task but are confident, committed and motivated in the presence of the leader. Third level followers are able but non-willing. In this level, the followers are able to handle the task but not willing. Finally, followers in the fourth readiness level are able and willing to carry out the task (Thompson, and Vecchio, 2009).

Situational model of leadership is mostly employed by military forces worldwide particularly the United States Air Force for the purposes of training and developing its leading officers. However, the military forces are keen to know that the skills acquired and used in one situation mostly does not apply to other situations. Therefore, the context of situational leadership model is a significant tool for providing training to leaders. Additionally, this model of leadership is presently in educational leadership. This was based on a study conducted by a district school in Ohio where the situational model of leadership was found to be the most effective form of leadership for superintendents. Taking into consideration the readiness level, superintendents led both the school administrators and principals in achieving the common goal (Thompson, and Vecchio, 2009).

As earlier mentioned, management theories of leadership involve the advancement of high levels of motivation between the leader and followers. The leadership qualities together with proper follower’s engagement are the prerequisite for effective leadership. The management leadership relationship between leaders and followers is characterized by selflessness, individual consideration and intellectual stimulation. Here, leaders support followers in developing new and specific techniques of tackling the challenges. Moreover, leaders encourage followers to aim high by providing inspiration through visions and missions. More specifically, management leadership model is based on helping followers to grow and develop at a personal level by addressing the needs, empowering them as well as aligning their goals. In turn, this enables followers to achieve extraordinary performance leading to high level of satisfaction and hence more commitment. Generally, management theories of leadership define leadership as a process of change and transformation of individuals. That is, enabling individuals to change, improve and want to be led. Therefore, this involves an assessment of the subordinate motives, valuing and satisfying their needs (Braun, Peus, Weisweiler, and Frey, 2013).

There are four components which management leadership theories base leadership on; charisma/idealized influence, inspirational motivation, individual consideration and intellectual stimulation. The above components form the basis of most research pertaining management theories of leadership (Yukl, 2013; Lussier, & Achua, 2010). To begin with, idealized influence/charisma is considered the most important component of transformational leadership theory. This is attributed to the fact that transformational leaders are seen to spearhead the vision, values, norms and purpose that make work/tasks meaningful. Thus, leaders with this attribute of idealized influence are considered to be mentors to their followers. In this regard, such leaders behave in a manner that portrays them as role models. This attracts their followers who in turn like to be identified with them as well as emulate them. In addition, such leaders have the willingness to undertake the risks and appear to be consistent other than arbitrary. Furthermore, followers expect such leaders to perform to high standards ethically and morally. The leaders’ capacity to be a role model or mentor is dependent on how leaders expose themselves to their followers in order to earn their trust (Duden, 2011). On the contrary, the idealized influence component of transformational theory is affected by uncertainty, culture, personality and dependency (Braun, Peus, Weisweiler, and Frey, 2013).

On the front of inspirational motivation, the management model portrays leaders as those who act in ways that inspire and motivate followers through encouragement. Most of the leadership studies describe this component of leadership as the capacity to inspire and motivate followers’ commitment to achieve organizational success. Through this component leaders are required to know how to inspire and motivate followers through communication either verbally or non-verbally. Thus, they must communicate as well as show commitment to the shared goals and vision of the organization. Individualized consideration is another key component of the management leadership model. This component of leadership is about providing due attention to the needs of all followers. This is meant to enhance followers’ growth and fulfillment. This component emphasizes that leaders should have the concern of all followers in an organization at heart. In this respect, leaders view the followers as humans with capacity in terms of personality and quality. This is aimed at making followers feel valued based on their inputs to the organization’s success. In return, this will influence followers to yield potential of the highest level (Braun, Peus, Weisweiler, and Frey, 2013).

Further to intellectual stimulation, this component involves simulating followers to employ intelligence, rationality, problem solving and questioning assumptions. This is stimulation is purposed to encourage and enhance creativity amongst the flowers by involving them extensively in the organization’s processes. The stronghold of this component lies in allowing followers free expressions and eliminating criticism. This enables leaders and followers to evaluate and analyze various situations from different dimensions. Overall, the effectiveness of management leadership theory is pegged in building and fostering commitment in the followers. However, this begins by gaining the trust from the followers. To gain followers leaders must embrace integrity, transparency and fairness (Braun, Peus, Weisweiler, and Frey, 2013).