Leadership Theories

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Leadership is the process of influencing the behavior and activities of an individual or a group for achieving common goals. Thus, the existence of a leader is very essential to guide, inspire and direct the activities of a group. Now, the question arises that how leaders are developed.

Leadership remains one of the most important aspects of an organizational setting. It deals with listening, observing, and encouraging the followers to help them perform in a better way. Leadership is not only about setting the agenda of work; it also deals with identifying problem areas, taking initiatives for change, and making improvement in current organizational systems. There are numerous leadership theories that provide information about effective leadership.

The theories of leadership are:- 1. The Trait Theory 2. The Situational Theory 3. The Follower’s Theory 4. The Contingent Theory 5. The Interactionist Approach 6. The Functional Theory 7. The Path-Goal Theory 8. Charismatic Leadership Theory 9. Contingency Theories 10. Personality Theories 11. Behavioral Theories.


Leadership Theories: Trait Theory, Situational Theory, Follower’s Theory, Contingent Theory and Personality Theories

Leadership Theories – 7 Theories

Leadership is the process of influencing the behavior and activities of an individual or a group for achieving common goals. Thus, the existence of a leader is very essential to guide, inspire and direct the activities of a group. Now, the question arises that how leaders are developed.

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Basically, there are three approaches to leadership – the trait theory, the situational theory and the followers’/acceptance theory. However, some more theories have also come up into existence. A brief account of all main theories of leadership is given further.

Theory # 1. The Trait Theory:

It is a traditional approach to the theory of leadership. According to the trait theory, a leader has specific traits of mind and intelligence. These special qualities of head and heart generally include mental capaci­ties and moral qualities. The trait theory holds the view that successful leaders possess these basic quali­ties and these are inherited rather than acquired. Out of this approach came the popular belief that ‘leaders are born and not made’. For a long time, this theory has been widely accepted and it is still very common.

This theory suffers from the following weaknesses:

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i. It is not clear as to which of the traits are most important ones and which are the least impor­tant ones. Various authorities have listed different qualities for successful leadership.

ii. It does not consider the influence of situational factors in leadership.

iii. It has not been possible so far to isolate and identity specific traits that are common to leaders.

iv. It assumes that leadership can be examined in isolation. But it is not possible.

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v. This approach does not suggest anything for developing future leaders since it is based on the assumption that leaders are born.

Theory # 2. The Situational Theory:

According to the situational approach to leadership, leadership is presumed to be specific and relative to the situation in which it occurs. These are the circumstances of a group which produces a leader. A leader may be good for a group at one level and under one set of circumstances, and he/she may not prove to be so in other circumstances.

So, the situational approach states that leadership phenomena are the product of situations in particular groups. Thus, the approach does not believe that leaders are born but asserts that leaders are made. Thus, it necessitates the executive training and development programmes for the development of future leaders.

This theory suffers from the following weaknesses:

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i. It places much emphasis on the situational aspect and overlooks the qualities needed in a suc­cessful leader.

ii. Leadership is a subjective consideration in which qualities of head and heart of a leader play well their part. But this theory overlooks it.

Theory # 3. The Followers’ 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 a followers’ group is also necessary to understand the nature of leadership. If a leader is successful in leading his/her group, satisfying them and motivating them, then he/she will be assumed to be a good leader.

There seems to be some justification for 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/her group).

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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/she is able to lead the group.

Theory # 4. The Contingent Theory:

Taking the clue from the situational approach of leadership that any one of the single style of leader­ship cannot be considered suitable for all situations and for all kinds of subordinates, Fred E. Fiedler developed a contingency model of leadership, assuming that the effectiveness of the leadership is based on the leader’s ability to act in terms of situational requirements.

To approach his study, Fiedler postulated two major styles of leadership – lenient or human relations approach and task-directed style. The human relations approach is oriented primarily towards achieving good personal relations and a position of personal prominence.

Task-oriented style 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 to 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.

Fiedler has identified three dimensions of favourableness of situation:

i. The leader-member relationship which is the most significant variable in determining the situation’s favourableness.

ii. The degree of task structure which is the second most important aspect in the favourableness of situation.

iii. The leader’s position power obtained through formal authority which is the third most critical dimension of the situation.

Situations are favourable if all the 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 affected 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.

Theory # 5. The Interactionist Approach:

According to this approach, leadership cannot be studied in isolation because it represents an interaction among members of a group. In this approach, the emphasis is on the quality of the leader-subordinate relationship which determines productivity morale and other goals.

Experience has shown that leaders of highly productive units devote a greater part of their attention to human aspect of their subordinates’ relationships and try to build effective work groups having high performance goals.

Theory # 6. The Functional Theory:

According to Dowling and Sayles, leadership acts are those which help a group to attain its goals and satisfy its needs. Therefore, an organization first decides the leadership functions it needs and then these functions are distributed in an effective manner so as to achieve the desired objectives and also to main­tain group cohesiveness.

Theory # 7. The Path-Goal Theory:

This approach, the credit for the origin and refinement of which goes to Robert J. House and Terence R. Mitchell, emphasizes the leader’s influence on his/her subordinates’ perception of their work objec­tives, personal objectives and paths to achieve these objectives.

According to House and Mitchell, a leader’s behaviour can motivate and satisfy his/her subordinates to an extent which may promote the attainment of the subordinates’ goals and make the path easier for attaining these goals. As per this approach, there are at least four basic styles of leadership, namely directive leadership, achievement- oriented leadership, supportive leadership and participative leadership.


Leadership Theories – Charismatic Leadership Theory, Trait Theory, Behavioral Theories and Contingency Theories

Leadership remains one of the most important aspects of an organizational setting. It deals with listening, observing, and encouraging the followers to help them perform in a better way. Leadership is not only about setting the agenda of work; it also deals with identifying problem areas, taking initiatives for change, and making improvement in current organizational systems. There are numerous leadership theories that provide information about effective leadership.

Some main leadership theories are as follows:

1. Charismatic leadership theory

2. Trait theory

3. Behavioral theories

4. Contingency theories

Theory # 1. Charismatic Leadership Theory:

Charismatic leadership theory was the earliest theory of leadership, propounded by Plato and Confucius. It was also known as great man theory. According to this theory, leaders were born and not made. It was assumed that leaders have a charismatic personality that a common person lacked.

Charismatic leaders could inspire others easily to follow them for achieving a particular goal. The term charisma comes from a Greek word meaning gift. Thus, a rare few blessed with charisma could become true leaders and catch public attention.

Another management practitioner, Robert House, further developed the charismatic leadership theory and said that charismatic leaders were those who had a great amount of referent power.

According to him “the charismatic leader has extremely high levels of self-confidence, dominance, and a strong conviction in the normal righteousness of his/her beliefs, or at least the ability to convince the followers that he/she possesses such confidence and conviction.”

The basic traits of charismatic leaders are as follows:

1. Possess exceptional leadership qualities and some divine power.

2. Have inherent skills that cannot be altered or enhanced through education, training, or development.

3. Remain uninfluenced by situational factors and make use of only inherent skills and qualities for problem-solving.

Theory # 2. Trait Theory:

According to trait theory, leadership traits are not completely inherent and some of these traits can he learned. It also believes that experience helps in developing leadership qualities and skills. Trait theory became quite popular during 1930s to 1950s.

According to Stogdill, a researcher, the following are the traits of a good leader:

1. Intelligence Level – Refers to the Intelligence Quotient (IQ) of an individual. Leaders require a high IQ.

2. Communication Skills – Refer to the interaction skills of an individual. Communication may be verbal or non-verbal and it can be developed and improved overtime.

3. Empathy – Refers to an ability of being able to notice, analyze, and feel things from others point of view. It is also often referred to as putting oneself in other’s shoes. A leader can develop empathy towards his/her followers, if he closely works with them.

4. Social Skills – Refer to the ability of gelling well with different people in the society. Social skills include social etiquette and the ability of maintaining good relationship with people.

5. Soft Skills – Refer to the behavioral skills of an individual. Soft skills include ability to plan, analyze, organize, delegate, communicate, and make decisions.

Technical Skills:

Includes knowledge of subject matter knowledge and new technology. A good leader should have sufficient and correct technical knowledge and should be a subject matter expert.

Theory # 3. Behavioral Theories:

Behavioral theories proposed that the leadership ability is exhibited more in the actions and behaviors rather than the traits of an individual. Behavioral theories include Michigan studies, Ohio State studies, and managerial grid model.

i. Michigan Studies:

The University of Michigan conducted a research program called The Michigan Leadership Studies. It was conducted to determine if there exist a pattern between the behavior of leaders and the performance of groups. In the research program, various interviews of superiors and subordinates with high and low productivity were conducted.

After getting the information, the difference amongst the effective and ineffective supervisors is found out. This leads to the identification of two main types of leadership behaviors of the supervisors- job centric and employee centric. A job centric leader pays great attention to the subordinate’s performance; whereas, an employee centric leader emphasizes more on the needs of employees.

The following results can be derived from this research:

a. Differentiates a leader as either job centric or employee centric, not both

b. Emphasizes that an employee centric leader can make highly effective teams and groups

ii. Ohio State Studies:

Ohio State studies conducted a research program with the help of a questionnaire that was used in military and industrial settings to know the perception of subordinates about their leaders. These studies tried to understand many types of leadership behaviors, out of which two main behaviors were found: consideration behavior and initiating-structure behavior.

Consideration behavior was more concerned about feelings of subordinates and establishes a relationship of mutual respect, trust, and healthy two-way communication between subordinates and the leader. However, in the initiating-structure behavior, the leader conveys the expected roles and responsibilities to subordinates and expects them to complete their tasks in a predetermined and rigid manner, with no healthy two-way communication.

iii. Managerial Grid:

In 1964, Robert Blake and Jane Mouton developed the behavioral leadership model called managerial grid model.

Figure- 3 shows the five styles of leadership based on behavior of leaders given in managerial grid model:

As shown in Figure-3, the grid represents behavioral dimensions, such as concern for production on the X-axis and concern for people on the Y-axis. Some leaders are very task oriented, some are people oriented; whereas, some are the combination of the two. Concern for production includes the leaders who are very task oriented, whereas concern for people includes the leaders who are very people oriented.

The five styles of leadership according to managerial grid are as follows:

a. Impoverished Leadership Style:

Involves the sluggish approach of a leader who has little concern for both production and people. These types of leaders just create an environment for getting the tasks done. In addition, such leaders remain indifferent towards the employees and organization.

b. Country-Club Leadership Style:

Provides more emphasis on serving the needs of the people. These types of leaders pay more attention to the needs of subordinates, as they believe that focusing on their needs will increase their performance. Country-club leadership style is also known as accommodating style.

c. Team Leadership Style:

Refers to the style in which leaders focus on both the needs of subordinates and production. This style involves commitment from the leaders and subordinates. The team environment created in this style results in high satisfaction of subordinates and high production. Team leadership style is also called the sound style.

d. Produce-Perish Leadership Style:

Refers to the style of the leader who uses control and domination on his/her subordinates. The leaders in this category treat employees as the means to an end. The production needs are more important as compared to employee needs. The employees are pressurized to perform better in return of money. In addition, they are made to follow rules and punishments dictated by the leader.

e. Middle of the Road Leadership Style:

Involves compromise by the leaders between the organizational goals and subordinates’ needs. This style involves a balance; therefore, both the goals cannot be fully met.

Theory # 4. Contingency Theories:

According to contingency theories, the behavior of the leader should be in synchronization with the demand of the situation. There are various contingency theories namely, Fiedler’s contingency model, Hersey and Blanchard situational model, and Path-Goal model.

The types of contingency theories are explained in the following sections:

i. Fiedler’s Contingency Model:

Fiedler’s contingency model refers to the fact that leadership styles should depend on the requirement of the situation.

This model is explained with the help of Figure-5:

As per Figure-5, Feidler contingency leadership model consists of eight cells all with different leader-member relationship, task-structure, as well as position power. Cell 1 is a favorable situation in which a leader-member relation is strong, tasks are well organized and structured, as well as the leader has a lot of influential power over his/her subordinates.

After understanding the model, let us now see how the leadership style is affected by different situations. Figure-6 represents a graph given by Feidler depicting the style-situation relationship.

In Figure-6, it has been depicted that human-relationship based leadership styles are effective when situations are moderately favorable or unfavorable. However, task-directed leadership is successful in extremely favorable and unfavorable situations.

ii. Hersey and Blanchard Situational Leadership Model:

Hersey and Blanchard situational model studies the relationship between situations and leadership styles on the basis of two considerations. These considerations are relationship behavior and task behavior. The relationship-behavior refers to socioeconomic support provided by the leader to its subordinates. The task behavior means the amount of guidance that a leader provides to his/her subordinates.

Figure-7 represents the leadership behaviors:

In Figure-7, the task behavior is measured on the X-axis and the relationship behavior is measured along the Y-axis. It gives rise to four different situations. The first situation is a combination of high relationship and low task behavior. In such a situation, a leader must focus at building excellent interpersonal relationships and exhibit less autocratic behavior.

The second situation is a combination of low relationship and low task behavior in which free-rein style of leadership can be undertaken. The third situation is a combination of high relationship and high task. In such a situation, benevolent autocratic style of leadership can be adopted. The fourth situation is a combination of low relationship and high task behavior clearly indicating that an autocratic form of leadership should be exercised.

The model remains incomplete without adding another dimension to it pertaining to employee-maturity.

Hersey and Blanchard developed and used the maturity concept referring to the ability and willingness of an employee to be responsible of his/her behavior.

The following are the four combinations of maturity generally found in employees:

1. Low Maturity – Low ability and low willingness

2. Low to Moderate Maturity – Low ability and high willingness

3. Moderate to High Maturity – Low ability and high willingness

4. High Maturity – High ability and high willingness

Let us understand the concept of Hersey and Blanchard situational leadership model with the help of an example. A fresh B.Com graduate employed as a finance executive in an organization will have a low to moderate maturity level. He/she will not be very familiar with the job role but will be highly willing to do the assigned work. In this case, the team leader should follow a benevolent autocratic form of leadership wherein he/she can display high relationship and high task behavior.

iii. Path-Goal Model:

Path-Goal model is developed by Robert House in 1971 to explain how the motivation, performance, and satisfaction of the subordinates can be affected by the leader in an organization.

A leader may perform the following tasks to increase the performance of the group:

a. Clarifying the Route – Means that the leader should provide the clear directions to its subordinates

b. Removing the Blocks – Means that the leader should clear the obstacles to help the subordinates to perform better

c. Offering Rewards – Means that the leader should keep encouraging the subordinates, so that they may feel motivated to achieve their goals

The following points explain the types of leadership behavior:

a. Directive Leadership – Refers to various situations where the leader sets discrete, achievable yet challenging goals for subordinates. The leader also coaches subordinates on how these goals can be achieved.

b. Supportive Leadership – Refers to the behavior of a leader who takes care of satisfaction levels of subordinates. The supportive leadership works well when the tasks of subordinates are very demanding and at times distressing.

c. Participative Leadership – Refers to the behavior of leaders where they ask their subordinates to take part in the decision making process and provide suggestions.

d. Achievement Oriented Leadership – Refers to a leadership style where the leader sets challenging goals for the subordinates and expects the highest level of performance from them.


Leadership Theories – Personality Theories, Behavioral Theories and Contingency Theories

The area of leadership, whether it is political, social or managerial, has always attracted a wide range of theorists and thinkers, eager to reflect, analyze and explain the phenomenon. Several theories of leadership have been advanced.

We may classify them into three categories:

1. Personality theories,

2. Behavioral theories, and

3. Situational/contingency theories.

1. Personality Theories:

Personality theories focus on the personal qualities or traits of leaders, either inborn or acquired. The Great Man theory and Trait theory fall in this area.

(i) Great Man Theory of Leadership:

One of the early notions of leadership which is still popular in certain circles is that leadership is an inborn quality. This is the great man theory of leadership which asserts that leaders in general and great leaders in particular are born and not made.

According to the theory, leadership calls for certain qualities like charm, persuasiveness, commanding personality, high degree of intuition, judgement, courage, intelligence, aggressiveness and action orientation which are of such a nature that they cannot be taught or learn in a formal sense.

Either one has them or does not have them Leadership qualities are carried in the games. In other words, they are inborn, or something inherited in family from generation-to-generation. Examples are drawn from such great leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Mao Tse Tung, Abraham Lincoln, Alexander the Great, Nelson and others. They were born, natural leaders with built-in qualities of leadership and attained greatness by divine design.

It is said that history is nothing but the biographies of great men and women. They were the ones who made history. They were great leaders of their time. It is contended that such men would have become leaders in any case because they were inherently endowed with leadership traits and skills. They were not trained in leadership nor did they acquire any leadership skills in their lives; such skills were natural to them

The further implications of the theory that leaders are born and not made are as follows:

(a) Leaders are gifts of God to mankind. A measure of divinity is attributed to leaders and their actions.

(b) Everyone cannot aspire to become a leader and to attain greatness.

(c) The inborn leadership qualities alone are necessary and sufficient for a leader to exercise influence over his followers and to become successful.

(d) Leadership qualities and effectiveness are independent variables. Situational factors like the nature and needs of followers, the demands of task and the general socio-economic environment have little or no influence on a leader’s emergence or effectiveness.

(e) The theory discounts the belief that individuals can be trained for assuming leadership positions and roles.

The Great Man theory of leadership is similar to the notion of divine right of kings to reign and rule over their subjects on a perpetual hereditary basis. Kings were supposed to acquire their legitimacy from God Himself. Similarly, some individuals were destined to become great leaders on their own because God gave them certain inimitable abilities of a divine nature.

Critique of the Theory:

It is clear that the Great Man theory has no scientific basic and empirical validity. It is more a speculative piece of notion. The great weakness of the Great Man theory, apart from the improbability of inherent traits, is the absurd belief that some people become great and successful leaders independently of their environmental situations.

The Great Man theory is totally rejected by many modern theorists and even by some leaders themselves.

The reasons are not far to seek and they are listed as under:

(a) There is nothing inborn, divine or mysterious about leadership qualities. Born leaders are imaginary characters. The so-called born leaders tend to the misfits in the modern complex and fast changing conditions. If at all there are born leaders, they are freaks of nature; their availability is negligible, unreliable and cannot meet the growing demands of society for effective leadership in all spheres of activities.

(b) Leaders are ordinary mortals who happen to acquire certain characteristics and skills useful for influencing other people. Leadership qualities can be acquired and sharpened by anyone through proper education, training and exposure.

(c) Leadership qualities and traits by themselves are not sufficient for achieving effectiveness. Situational factors, in conjunction with leadership skills and qualities, have considerable influence on both the emergence and effectiveness of leaders.

(d) The genetic or Great Man theory of leadership does not provide a scientific, verifiable and predictable explanation of why, how and when leaders emerge and become effective, what are the critical qualities needed for achieving greatness in leadership, and why as between two leaders of comparable qualities, one becomes effective and the other fails.

A somewhat moderate viewpoint is that one may not totally rule out the genetic or inborn nature of some leadership attributes. Just as there are some born singers, artists and geniuses in various spheres of activity, there could also be born leaders those individuals who demonstrate leadership qualities right from their early age and who possess a considerable amount of intuitive wisdom.

It is also argued that great leaders, by virtue of their sheer ‘magic’, bend situational factors to their advantage; hence situational factors have little independent influence on leadership effectiveness. Another point of argument is that ‘leaders are made’ out of those individuals who possess certain basic leadership attributes. The latter are allowed to sharpen and develop through education and training processes.

(ii) Trait Theory of Leadership:

A modification of the Great Man theory is the Trait Theory which argues that leadership qualities or traits can be acquired. They need not always be inborn. The trait theory of leadership states that there are certain identifiable qualities or characteristics that are unique to leaders and that good leader possess such qualities to some extent. Leadership qualities may be inborn or they may be acquired through training and practice.

The trait theorists identified a long list of qualities which leaders possess.

The following list is only illustrative and not exhaustive:

(a) Intelligence – Good leaders should be intelligent enough to understand the context and content of their position and function, to grasp the dynamics of environmental variables, both internal and external, which affect their activities and to have a good perspective of the present and future dimensions of their organisation.

(b) Personality – This is not be confused with physical appearance, though it is important. More than outward appearance, certain inner-personality qualities mark out good leaders from others. Such qualities include – emotional stability and maturity, self-confidence, decisiveness, strong drive, optimism, extrovertness, achievement orientation, purposefulness, discipline, skill in getting along with others, integrity in character and a tendency to be cooperative.

These qualities tend to help leaders to organize and coordinate human effort, to guide and motivate people in task situations, to make sound decisions, to achieve concrete results and goals, to resolve conflict and manage organisational change.

(iii) Other Qualities:

Apart from intelligence and personality attributes, good leaders also poses a few key qualities like open-mindedness, scientific spirit, social sensitivity, ability to communicate, objectivity, an abiding interest in people, pragmatism and a sense of realism.

Although possession of the above qualities does not guarantee success for a leader, all we can say is that they increase the probability of success and enable the leader to interact and cope with situations more effectively. However, serious deficiencies in the above qualities may be disastrous for leaders. For example, persons who are indecisive and indifferent do not make good leaders.

It is quite possible that presence of some vital qualities in a marked degree may offset the absence or deficiency of other qualities. For example, a higher achievement orientation may to some extent compensate for deficiency in tolerance and objectivity.

Limitations:

The trait theory is described as outdated by many modern theorists.

Its basic is questioned on several counts:

(i) It is not based on any research or systematic development of concepts and principles. It is more a speculative theory which fails when subjected to empirical tests. It is only a descriptive theory on how some people emerge as leaders. It has few explanatory and predictive properties.

(ii) It is not possible to isolate a specific set of traits which can be consistently applied to leadership across a range of situations; cases can be cited to prove that mere possession of certain traits is not enough for one to become a leader. Nor does the absence of the so-called traits prevent individuals from emerging and proving their worth as leaders.

(iii) The trait theory does not try to relate particular traits to performance, behaviour and effectiveness of leaders. Some traits tend to cancel out each other. For example, pragmatism and possession of ethical sense of right and wrong do not always go together. Traits which are needed for maintaining leadership are different from those which are needed for acquiring leadership.

(iv) An individual’s traits do not make up his total personality, nor do they fully reveal about his attitudes, values, aspirations and behaviour.

(v) The trait theory is inward-looking towards the leader alone to the exclusion of the group of followers and the task situation, which are in fact more important for leadership effectiveness.

(vi) There is no way of systematically defining and measuring the incidence and intensity of traits among persons purported to be leaders. Nor it is possible to position the traits along a hierarchy of importance.

2. Behavioural Theories:

The personality theories focus on who the leaders are; the behavioural theories emphasis on what the leaders do and how they behave to become effective leaders. The focus shifts from personal qualities or traits to actual behaviour of leaders or dimensions of leader behaviour.

The questions asked are – what kind of behaviour distinguishes leader behaviour from follower behaviour? What do effective leaders do that ineffective ones do not do? For example, are effective leaders task-oriented or employee-oriented, democratic or autocratic, permissive or directive?

Several attempts have been made to identify the dimensions of leader behaviour. The most systematic and comprehensive research studies in the direction were conducted in USA at Ohio State University and University of Michigan, during 1945-47.

After considerable research analysis, the researchers at Ohio State University concluded that there were two broad dimensions of leader behaviour – These are ‘initiating structure’ and ‘consideration’.

Initiating structure is a dimension that relates to the extent to which the leader sets the goals, defines and organises the tasks which his followers have to do, specify work relationships and interactions, and regulates the performance of his group members. Leaders who score high on initiating structure dimension were found to achieve high productivity or performance of the group. However member satisfaction was low.

The consideration dimension refers to behaviour that indicates the leader’s trust, friendship and support towards his group members. It reflects warmth and mutual respect between the leader and his group members. A leader who shows high ‘consideration’ has been found to bring about high satisfaction among group members, better cooperation from them, low grievance rate and so on. However, this dimension is found to result in low productivity/performance of the group.

The Michigan University leadership studies conducted under the direction of Rensis Likert have also identified two dimensions of leader behaviour, similar to those of Ohio University studies. These two dimensions have been termed as – ‘job centred’ and ’employee-centred’ leader behaviour. The job centered leader behaviour closely corresponds to ‘initiating structure’ while employee centred leader behaviour correlates with ‘consideration’.

The Ohio State University studies concluded that a combination of ‘initiating structure’ and ‘consideration’ in leader were likely to result in high productivity and satisfaction at the same time. But the Michigan University studies concluded that employee oriented leader behaviour was the best leadership style because it produced good performance and high satisfaction among members.

The above two dimensions of leader behaviour have dominated most of the behavioural and even situational theories.

We shall now discuss below two behavioural theories based on the above dimensions of leader behaviour:

(a) Managerial Grid:

Managerial grid as developed by Robert Blake and Jane Mounton, is a graphic model of alternative combinations of managerial styles or orientations or behaviours, on a two dimensional space. The two styles or orientations are- concern for production and concern for people.

These are shown on horizontal and vertical dimensions of the grid on a 1 to 9 scale or degree. Blake and Mounton argued that a leader’s managerial style is a point on the grid; they have identified five combinations of styles, for illustrative purposes, out of 81 possible combinations.

These five combinations are outlined as follows:

i. 1, 1 Impoverished Leadership:

Low concern for production and for people. In this combination, leaders (managers) are sympathetic and irresponsible. Their attitude to getting things done from and maintaining relationships with people are casual and confused. They regard people as lazy and underdeveloped and hence think that no amount of leadership will change the frozen attitudes of people.

ii. 1, 9 Country Club Leadership:

Low concern for production and high concern for people. La this combination, the leader takes great interest in keeping his people in good humour and in catering to their whims and needs. He tries to maintain friendly relations with people so that an amicable climate will motivate people to work with enthusiasm. Such a leader gives little importance to production matters and work requirements of people. He is overly human-relations oriented.

iii. 9, 1 Task Leadership:

High concern for production and low concern for people. This is an anti-thesis of country club leadership. In this combination, the leader swings to the other extreme and adopts a directive style to get his people work for the organisation, His focus is on task performance by planning and controlling the production environment. Other considerations like people’s needs and satisfaction are secondary matters.

iv. 5, 5 Middle of the Road Leadership:

Moderate concern for production and people. This is a safe style, not to push too much in either direction but to achieve a satisfactory balance between the requirements of production and of people.

v. 9, 9 Team Leadership:

High concern for production and people. This is regarded as the most effective leadership. An attempt is made to bring about an integration and harmony between the needs of people and of production. A highly encouraging organisational climate of commitment, cooperation, trust and hope are created by the leader.

Blake and Mounton argued that the two concerns are independent and can be present together. According to them 9,9 leadership is the most desirable approach in the long run while others are second best They claim that the Grid concept can be used to enable managers to identify their current leadership behavioural position.

Those managers who are in lower positions in their concerns for people and production can be exposed to some training programme to enable them to move 9, 9 position. Blake and Mounton place emphasis not only on leadership training but also on organisational development. The latter is necessary to serve as a setting in which managers can successfully show high concern for people and production.

(b) Likert’s Management Systems:

Rensis Likert of the University of Michigan, USA and his associates made extensive survey research on management and leadership patterns in a large number of organisations. To facilitate his research, Likert evolved four models of management which he termed Systems of Management. He assigned numbers 1 to 4 to his conceptual model to indicate the stages of evolution in the patterns and styles of management in organisations.

His systems are:

System 1-Exploitative-autocratic

System 2-Benevolent-authoritative

System 3-Consultative

System 4-Participative-democratic.

Within the framework of the above models, Likert sought to measure and evaluate the actual pattern of management/leadership in a wide range of organisations. He found that most individual managers/supervisors and organisations fit into one or the other of his systems in terms of certain operating characteristics and variables as goal setting, decision making, motivation, leadership, communication and control.

We may briefly describe Likert’s systems of management as follows:

System-1 – Management:

Managers/supervisors and organisations in the system are highly autocratic. They believe in determining performance goals and the means of achieving them unilaterally. They get things done by issuing orders and instructions to their subordinates. There is little involvement of employees in decision making. The relations between managers and subordinates are characteristics by distrust and ill-will.

Communication is highly formal in nature and downward in direction. The major motivational devices are threats and punishment. Subordinates are kept under strict control.

System-2 – Management:

This is slightly less primitive than the first. A sort of master-servant relationship exists between the manager and employees in this system Managers/supervisors adopt patronizing or patronalistic attitudes sometimes and harsh attitudes at other times to subordinates. Much decision making and goal setting are centralized at the top.

Subordinates are supposed to implement them faithfully. Motivation is governed by a ‘carrots and sticks’ approach. Communication is mostly one way traffic. The organisational climate is generally characterized by suspicion and far.

System-3 – Management:

In this setting, management evinces some interest in employees and their contributions. They are often consulted and their views are taken into account by managers. A few operational decisions are allowed to be made at lower levels of management. The lines of communication between superiors and subordinates are open.

Control system tends to be flexible and goal-oriented. Superiors and subordinates repose confidence and trust between each other. More emphasis is placed on rewards than on punishment in motivational approaches.

System-4 – Management:

This is an ideal type management system. The relationships between managers and subordinates are cordial and friendly. The latter are closely involved in decision making and goal setting processes. The communication system is open and very effective.

Superiors adopt liberal, humanistic leadership processes and are very supportive in their attitudes towards subordinates, who in turn feel highly motivated to assume responsibility for achieving organisational goals of high performance. Group’s approaches are adopted in supervision and control.

Like sought to relate the above systems of management with certain performance characteristics like productivity, employee turnover and absenteeism, quality control and resource wastage and scrap losses. He found that System 1 oriented organisations scored very poorly, while system 4 oriented organisations scored very creditably on the above performance characteristics.

On the basis of this finding, Likert strongly advocated System 4 approach and regarded it as the best way to develop and utilize human assets of the organisation. His thesis is that participative leadership is the only valid and viable approach to optimize organisations operating in Systems 2 and 3. For such organisations, he suggested extensive and intensive leadership training at all levels of management so as to move them into System 4 management zone.

Like strongly believed the participative-democratic leadership is the only positive and progressive approach to management of people at work. It is totally consistent with human dignity and development. It results in desirable redistribution of power and influence as between the leader and his group members.

It promotes organisational harmony and health by helping the process of removal of artificial walls between leaders and their group members. Participative leadership fulfils a range of needs of group members; needs for information, involvement, interaction, influence, responsibility and achievement. It also facilitates greater understanding of and control over work environment so far as the group members are concerned.

Likert’s advocacy of System 4 participative democratic leadership is open to criticism. It ignores situational factors and their influence on leadership effectiveness. Participative leadership may succeed in some situations and fail in others. Its success depends upon the skills of the leader himself, the nature of subordinates, the task situation and the organisational climate.

3. Situational/Contingency Theories:

The personality and behavioural leadership theories ignore situational factors in determining the success or effectiveness of leaders. They hold the view that a leader can be successful or effective if he possesses certain inborn/acquired qualities or if he behaves in a particular manner, as the case may be.

Such a view is discounted by later theorists who assert that the emergence and success or effectiveness of a leader is determined by several situational factors apart from the qualities and behaviour of the leader himself.

One extreme situational view is that leaders are the product of certain combination of situational factors. Some individuals are thrown into leadership positions by the inter-play of situational forces. Examples of such diverse types of leaders are – Hitler, Mussolini, Churchill, Roosevelt, Mao and Gandhi.

A more moderate situational view is that leadership should be viewed in terms of a dynamic interaction between the leader, the group of followers/subordinates, the task situation and the environment. Leadership is thus multidimensional.

Situational Factors:

The range of situational factors in leadership may be stated in terms of the following classification:

i. Forces in the Leader:

They include the leader’s specific personality characteristics, orientations, qualities and skills which are relevant for the function of leadership. Such aspects as the leader’s values system, inter­personal and other skills, self-confidence, his confidence in subordinates, feelings of security, and readiness for flexibility and so on, is important in this connection.

ii. Forces in the Group:

Several forces operate in the group which affects leadership forces such as – perceptions and attitude of group members towards the leader, towards their tasks and towards organisational goals, needs and expectations of group members, their skills and knowledge, extent of group size, nature of group structure and unity and so on. The personality characteristics and qualities of group members are also equally important which influence their orientations.

iii. Other Situational Forces:

Apart from the above, several impersonal forces in the setting in which the leader and his group operate exert significant influence on leadership. The nature of the task, its complexity and technology, its importance in relation to other tasks, form one set of situational forces.

The structures of the organisation, authority-responsibility relations, organisational values and goals, policies and postures, reward and control systems, are another set of situational forces. The nature of problems which are faced by the leader and his group, and the extent of pressures under which they work are also important forces.

Most of these are internal environmental forces – internal to the organisation in which the managers function as leaders. The external forces in society may be identified as trade unionism and its militancy, political conditions, economic and cultural and ethical state of society and so on.

We may now discuss some of the situational theories of leadership which give emphasis not only to the leader’s personality traits but also to his behavioural aspects and situational factors –

(i) Leadership Continuum:

One of the early situational theories was developed in 1958 by Robert Tannenbaum and Warren Schmidt. They, however, modified and refined their theory in 1973. They placed leadership behaviour on a continuum which consists of a range of styles or patterns. At one end of the continuum, leadership behaviour is characterized by exercise of high authority/power and influence over subordinates.

This may be regarded as boss-centred or authoritarian style. At the other extreme, the authority, power and influence structure tilts towards subordinates or group members, and the leader allows his subordinates great freedom and participation. This is a highly subordinate-centred or democratic leadership style. In between these extremes, are other styles or patterns of leadership style.

Tannenbaum and Schmidt emphasized that different leadership styles will be differentially effective under different situations. Some of the situational factors were in fact explicitly incorporated by Tannenbaum and Schmidt in their theory to highlight the fact that situational variables are very important in determining which leadership style is appropriate and effective in given situations. There is no one best style of leadership for all situations.

(ii) Contingency Theory:

Fred Fiedler developed a situational model of leadership which is termed as contingency theory of leadership. After considerable and painstaking research, Fiedler theorized that leadership effectiveness is a matter of match between a leader’s personality and the situation or setting in which he functions. He distinguished two leadership personalities which are poles apart – task-oriented leaders and human relations oriented leaders.

A leader’s orientation is a measure of his characteristics, motivation, skills, values and goals. So far as the situation is concerned, Fiedler lists three variables or factors which govern the situation in which the leader functions.

These are – (a) leader-member relations (the extent to which the leader is accepted, respected and trusted by members of his work group) (b) task structure and (c) position power (extent of formal authority commanded by the leader as also the rewards and penalties which he can dispense to members).

Leader-member relations may be good or poor, task structure of the work group may be high or low and position power of the leader may be strong or weak. Such characteristics of situational variables may exist in different combinations.

On the basis of the above findings, Fiedler generalized that task-oriented leaders are effective, i.e., are able to ensure good group performance, when the situation is highly favourable or highly unfavourable (extremes). Human relations oriented leaders can make their groups perform well when the situation is moderately favourable. His reason is simple.

When the situation is highly favourable, the leader can afford to give attention to task accomplishment. He need not worry about inter-personal relations, task structure and position power. A task-oriented leader is also supposed to be a strong leader. Hence he is able to get things done in a highly unfavorable situation also. On the other hand, the soft, considerate leader finds an equation with moderately favourable situations and makes the group perform well.

Fiedler’s model is considered as a significant contribution to research and knowledge on leadership. It emphasizes that a leader’s effectiveness is neither purely a matter of a leadership qualities nor that of status of the situation. It is the result of an interaction between the two. It does not give much credence to the argument that leaders can switch from one style to another in time with the nature of the situation.

(iii) Path-Goal Theory:

The path-goal theory of leadership was originally developed by Martin Evens and subsequently refined by Robert House. The theory is related to the situational/expectancy theories of motivation. According to his theory, there is a clear relationship between the behaviour of the leader and the motivation-performance satisfaction of the group which he leads.

Members of the group have certain expectations in regard to the behaviour of their leaders. Of course different groups have different expectations. Four types of leader behaviour based on member expectations may be conceptualized.

a. Directive Leadership – The leader is expected to define the tasks and responsibility of his group members, set performance and reward norms, clarify the rules and regulations as applicable, provide guidance, advice and instructions as necessary and monitor their performance.

b. Supportive Leadership – In this expected behaviour, the leader establishes warm inter-personal relationships with the group, understands and shares their aspirations and feelings, shows concern for their welfare and promotes group cohesiveness.

c. Participative Leadership – Here members expect the leader to keep them informed on relevant tasks, goals and situations, involve them in decision making, solicit their ideas and consult with them often.

d. Achievement Oriented Leadership – The leader is expected to develop and utilize the skills and talents of group members, set challenging goals to them, make tasks interesting and meaningful, and give some freedom to people in their jobs.

An effective leader is one who understands the characteristics of subordinates and the environmental situation and who matches his behaviour accordingly. On so matching his behavioural pattern, the leader is likely to gain acceptance of his people by arousing their motivation to perform well, to earn expected rewards and to achieve satisfaction of their needs and aspirations in the process.

In fact, such a leader helps people to achieve their goals (both organisational and personal) by clarifying the paths (ways and means) to achieve them

The theory subscribes to the notion that a leader can change his behavioural patterns as demanded by the needs of the situation. In a sense, leader behaviour is not an independent variable. It is dependent on the nature of the situation and the characteristics of people.

Such adaptive leader behaviour tends to be effective in generating the needed acceptance, motivation, performance and satisfaction on the part of the people concerned. However, the leader’s effectiveness is contingent on his ability to capture the dynamics of the situation and the attitudes of people in a correct perspective.


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