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Leadership theories and qualities

Paper Outline

Definition of leadership

Theories of Leadership

Trait Approach
Behaviour Approach
Contingency Approach

An overview of XYZ Company
Application of the leadership theories by MR. Faisal

Leadership on traits approach
Leadership on behaviour approach
Leadership on contingency approach

How effective are these theories


Leadership Theories
This paper seeks to explain the effectiveness of leadership theories. It starts by defining leadership and explains each of the leadership theories. It explains when the theories were first developed and how they evolved as well as their application as explained by their proponents. The paper goes ahead to give an example of a leader, MR. Faisal, who applied some of the theories and their effects on the organization. It goes further to evaluate critically the effectiveness of each of the theories and ends with a conclusion.
Definition of leadership
Leadership refers to a process, whereby a person influences others to attain a common goal (Daft & Lane, 2008).
Theories of Leadership
Trait Approach
This was the first approach used by I-O psychologists in trying to understand leadership. It explains effectives leaders have certain traits that non-leaders do not have. Some of the traits included self-confidence and appearance as well as intelligence and honesty. The theory explained that people were born with leadership traits. In the 1940s, research in to the trait approach was expanded to include aptitude and psychological tests in examining personal attributes. The research found that in addition to the personal traits, abilities such as fluency of speech and knowledge were important for an effective leader. They also explained that an effective leader needed to have social characteristics such as sociability and popularity and work-related characteristics such as persistence against obstacles as well as desire to excel (Northouse, 2009 ). In 1948, Stogdill carried out a literature on over 100 studies on the trait approach and came up with traits that seemed consistent with effective leadership. These included drive for responsibility, personal integrity, self-confidence, general intelligence and inter-personal skills. Subsequent researches have affirmed these qualities as well as expanded on them (Stogdill, 1948).
Behaviour Approach
This approach says that instead of focusing on individual personal traits, behaviour can be a key determinant of good leadership. It explains that an effective leader is one who adopts the appropriate behaviour. Therefore, various researches were carried out to uncover the behaviours that leaders needed to have to be effective. Among the first studies was the one carried out by Kurt Lewin and his associates at Iowa University. They came up with two leadership styles that were based on an individual’s behaviour – democratic style and autocratic style. The researchers expained that a democratic leader delegates authority to subordinates and encourages them to participate in decision making. Such a leader depends on the respect from subordinates for influence. On the other hand, autocratic leader tends to centralize authority. He exerts his authority on their subordinates through rewards and punishments that are attached to his position. Therefore, the study stated that leaders were either autocratic or democratic (Lewin & Lippet, 1938)
Subsequent studies at Ohio state university on behaviour approach found that there were two categories of leader-behaviour types – consideration and initiating structure. Consideration referred to the care the leader showed to his subordinate as well as the respect he showed to their ideas. It also described the extent to which the leader made efforts to have a mutual trust with his subordinates. Ruling with an iron hand, providing detailed schedules for work activities and directing are examples of this category. University of Michigan furthered the research, whereby they came up with two types of leadership behaviours; employee-centred and task-centred. Employee-centred described leadership behaviour that focuses on the human needs of the subordinate. Job/task-centred described a leadership behaviour, whereby leaders focused their activities towards cost cutting, scheduling and efficiency with an emphasis on work and goal facilitation (Delamater, 2006).
Contingency Approach
This theory explained that there was no universal approach to leadership style and the approach adopted by a leader depended on the situation a hand. It was based on a general finding from the other approaches, which stated that the success of any of them depended on multiple factors or situations. A number of studies were carried out to support the role of the situation in achieving effective leadership. Fielder, (1967) who sought to explain the leader’s behaviour from a contingency perspective did the first comprehensive study. Hersey and Blanchard, (1977) further proposed that the success of various leadership approaches was partly dependent on the maturity of the subordinates. He divided maturity into two categories; job maturity and psychological maturity. Job maturity referred to the ability knowledge and skills of the subordinates and psychological maturity referred to the subordinates self-respect and self-confidence (Schyns & Meindl, 2005).
Hersey and Blanchard’s theory explained that structuring styles would work best with subordinates with low maturity. However, as the maturity level of the subordinate increases the leader should adjust his leadership behaviour to adopt considerate styles and reduce the structuring styles. Therefore, a subordinate whose maturity level increases because of gaining increasing skill level, job success and building self-confidence would attract employee-centred behaviour styles. On the other hand, a subordinate who has a low maturity level would attract task-centred behaviour from the leader (Hersey & Blanchard, 1977).
An overview of XYZ Company
XYZ is a microfinance company in Saudi Arabia in 2000 as a self-help group with only seven members. A year later, the organization employed a manager Mr. Faisal, who later became its Chief Executive Officer. Under the leadership of Mr. Faisal, the company has grown since then and it now has a customer base of over 6000 clients. The company is currently the third in the industry as per the customer base. It was registered in to a SACCO in 2005 that allowed the organization to compete effectively with other microfinance institutions in the industry. The industry has over 60 micro finances; however, XYZ is the only one that is multi-sector-serves clients in all sectors. This is because; other SACCOs serve a particular sector to serve.
Application of the leadership theories by MR. Faisal
Leadership traits
Mr. Faisal had various traits that made him successful in leading the company to its success. He was intelligent as shown by the decisions he made that made the company rise from one level to another. He had inter-personal skills as seen in how he freely interacted with his employees. The leader also had self-confidence as seen by how he was able to express his views to both his juniors and seniors in trying to solve a problem. On the other hand, the leader lacked some traits such as body stature. He is a short man although this did not work against his leadership. In fact, most employees did not notice that as a weakness. This shows that traits cannot be the only recipe for effective leadership. A leader can lack some of these traits but still be successful in his leadership (Schyns & Meindl, 2005).
Leadership on behaviour approach
Employee-centred leadership
In an organization, care for people involves showing respect to employees no matter the level, being committed to the growth and development of workers, not making unrealistic demands and focusing on empowerment of employees rather than control. This will improve relations between the leader and his followers (Wilson, Lenssen & Hind, 2006). The CEO has shown concern for his employees in many occasions, whereby he has gone out of his way to find out how the employees are doing. This has in turn increased the relationship between the employees and the CEO; therefore, they are always willing to share anything that affects their job with him (Dimock & Devine, 1994).
Mr. Faisal in most occasions used democratic form of leadership in leading the organization. He always encouraged his employees to forward suggestions on how the institution can do well than it is. For instance, there is a daily briefing meeting in each department in the morning before anyone starts working. Through these meetings, communications from the CEO are passed to the employees by the departmental heads (Denhardt, Denhardt and Aristigueta, 2002).
There were times when MR. Faisal used autocratic leadership in making decisions in the organization. This is when he exclusively made decisions and demanded that they be implemented without any slight variation. (Kirst-Ashman & Hull, 2008). For instance, there was a time that marketing officers were not going for fieldwork as required instead, they were attending to their private commitments. The CEO categorically stated that that was against the company’s requirements. He went further to assign each marketing officer to a collection officer, to be collecting loan repayments from customers in the afternoon. This was not well received by the marketing officers, as they took it as an unfair recommendation. However, after two weeks of implementation the marketing officers were serving the clients diligently. This was because they did not hurry through the marketing activity to get a free time in the afternoon (Clark, 2003)
Leadership on contingency approach
As much as there are distinct leadership, theories that the leader uses at one given time, it also clear that the leader uses different theories when the situation at hand is appropriate. This shows that the Mr. Faisal has been using contingency approach in making organizational decisions. There were times he used autocratic leadership, when the employees were going against the organization’s policies. At this point he could not use democratic because this was a case of indiscipline and the leader needed to put clear what the right way was. It also comes out that democratic leadership was used when developing ideas to develop the company. The use of the two leadership styles serves to emphasize the use of contingency approach, whereby thee is no a universal style tat applies to all situations (Schyns & Meindl, 2005).
How effective are these theories
The trait approach has made significance contributions in the development of the theory of leadership. However, various scholars have poked holes in to this theory. Hollander and Julian, (1969), invalidated the theory by claiming that there was no clear relationship between traits and leadership effectiveness. They argued that there was little agreement between research about what these traits meant. If one researcher defined kindness, another defined supportiveness and another defined empathy, each would come up with a different meaning. The other failure of the theory was that every researcher was bent on showing that there was a positive relationship between the leadership traits and the subordinates’ productivity. They ended up assuming that subordinates’ productivity was only influenced by the leader’s traits. However, recent studies have proved that there are other factors that influence subordinates’ productivity. These include motivation, satisfaction and commitment (Daft & Lane, 2008).
When researchers came up with behaviour approach to leadership it was seen as the most effective approach that would fill in the weaknesses of the trait approach. For instance some researchers such as Yuki (1981) believed that the theory should be adopted as a universal standard as shown by the many advantages it had on the organization and its members. These include; through the participative style, the subordinates were more likely to identify with the decisions made and will be committed in their implementation. Another advantage was that the style makes clear the rewards and punishment, hence increasing motivation. (McKenna, 2002).
However, the theory also had weaknesses that questioned its universal applicability. However, it is clear that better decisions can be made through this style only to the extent that the skills and talents of the group members can be tapped. Therefore, if group members lack the ability to make difficult decisions the style will not be effective. In addition, the group members may disagree with each other on the decision or even with the leader. Vroom and Jagon (1988) said that the quality of decisions made may not be up to standard because the leader may be trying to include the views of all the members in the process.
Contingency theory was developed based on the dissatisfaction with the traits and behaviour theories that claimed that there could be a universal that is effective in all situations. The theory has obtained a large support from different scholars. For instance, after carrying out a research on different manufacturing firms that were performing well, Woodward, (1965), found the following; different companies applying different leadership styles can achieve their target performance. She also found out that the style applied depended on the ability of the leaders and the characteristics of the subordinates and the environment. Yuki, Gordon and Taber (2002) also emphasize the findings when he said that leadership is not a one-size-fits-all. Therefore, it is upon the leader to evaluate the situation at hand and determine which style is appropriate (Landy & Conte, 2009).
Blake and Mouton Leadership model
Robert Blake and Jane Mouton developed a managerial grid that they used in training managers on efficient and effective styles. The grid was based on the assumption that for a leader to be effective he must have both the concern the human needs of his followers as well as the concern for tasks or production. The grid had different levels, which gauged a leaders concern for people and concern for tasks. These were ranked in a scale of 1 to 9.showed whether a leader was more concerned with human needs, performance of tasks or balanced the two. The proponents identified five prototypical management styles in the grid (Northouse, 2009).
The first one was impoverished management (labelled as 1, 1), which represented a leader with low concern for people and low concern for production. Secondly, country club management (labelled as 1, 9), which represents a leader who has a high concern for people and a low concern for production. Thirdly, authority-compliance (labelled as 9,1), which represents a leader who is more concerned with production and with a low concerned with people. Lastly, team management style (labelled as 9,9), whereby the leader maximizes on both the follower’s needs and the productivity goals. Such a leader believes that organizational goals can only be achieved through interdependent action of committed, talented and satisfied employees (Northouse, 2009).
Path-goal theory
This is a type of contingency theory. It states that a leader will only be successful in influencing his subordinates to achieve organizational goals if he is able to identify and meet their expectations. Therefore, the subordinates will view their leader’s behaviour as acceptable and satisfying to the extent that they believe it will lead to immediate or future satisfaction. In addition, the theory is based on the principle that ambiguities or uncertainties of roles and role expectations negatively affect a person’s motivation and productivity. Therefore, there is a need of clarifying objectives and expectations in a task with considerable ambiguities as opposed to a routine job (Anon., 2008).
Leader-Member exchange (LMX) theory
It is among the new leadership perspective, as it not only describes leadership based on how the leader relates to his followers but focuses on the interaction between the leader and the follower. This theory is based on the principle that both the leader and the follower need to develop a dyadic relationship that will lead to effective performance of tasks. Researchers on this theory explained that, there were two types of relationships that existed in an organization. A relationship based on the formal employment contract, which they referred to as an out-group relationship. Secondly, a relationship based on expanded negotiated roles and responsibilities, which they called an in-group (Anon., 2008).
The theory explains that a leader and a follower can develop their relationship from out-group to in-group. Therefore, a follower needs to perform his duties beyond the agreements in the formal contract and the leader needs to seek to extend his relationship with the follower beyond what is stipulated in the work contract. If this happens then the leader will be successful in achieving the organizational goals effectively. The theory has however, received criticism for promoting discrimination and favouritism. Only the follower that gets in to the in-group enjoys the benefits provided by the leader. Therefore, employees who lack the ability to develop and sustain the required relationship will be left out (Anon., 2008).
Transformational Leadership
            Transformational leadership is also a new leadership theory. It explains that transformational leaders are those that inspire their followers to achieve extraordinary results and in the process the process develop their own leadership capacity. Such leaders help their followers grow by responding to their individual needs and empower them. They also align the goals and the objectives of each follower with the organization’s goals and objectives. One of the criticisms of this theory is that it lacks clarity as it covers a wide range of characteristics and activities. These include motivating, being an agent of change, giving nurturance and creating a vision among others. As a result, it is difficult to define its parameters. Another criticism of this theory is that it lacks a universal measurement standard. Although most researchers have used the MLQ, there has been large disagreement of the version of MLQ to be used (Bass & Riggio, 2006)
It is clear that no theory can be supported universally as appropriate for every situation. Every theory has an area where it best gives out the required results. However, this serves to emphasize the contingency theory that says that the type of leadership to use will depend on the situation at hand. This has been shown by the example above whereby MR Faisal who prefers participative leadership is forced to use autocratic to bring things under control. The only challenge to this approach is how to determine the approach that is fit for the situation at hand. There are new leadership theories that have been developed, which have seen a clear shift from the traditional approaches. These include the LMX and the transformational leadership theories. These have a significant role in developing the concept of leadership. Leadership has changed focus from concentrating only on the leader and it now focuses on the dyadic relationship between the leader and the follower and the leader as a way of achieving effective leadership.

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