The Definition and Conceptualization of Leadership
Leadership is a term that has many definitions. Tackling leadership from a neutral perspective, the most sensible explanation is that it is a process where an individual exerts influence on a group of people to achieve a common goal. As a result of the existing expert differences, leadership can be conceptualized from different viewpoints. Using the description provided by Northouse (2016) in chapter 1, leadership can be viewed as the focus of group processes where the leader acts as the central point of the group. Other scholars conceptualize leadership from the personality perspective; whereby, a leader is defined by the distinctive traits portrayed by an individual. Besides these two derivations, leadership can also be conceptualized regarding a power relationship, a transformational process or the skills perspective where knowledge and expertise act as the pinnacle of leadership. As reflected by the definition of this discussion, leadership can also be conceptualized as an instrument of goal achievement.
The Trait Approach in Describing Leadership
The trait approach concerning leadership, as analyzed by Northouse (2016), insinuates that a true leader must be born with certain powerful yet desirable characteristics that make them great by default. From a shared understanding, leaders should portray qualities that are not common to other people. Through the analysis of various comprehensive studies carried out, Northouse (2016) points out five major traits that leaders should possess, and they include intelligence (IQ and EQ), integrity, self-confidence, sociability, and determination. For instance, taking the trait of intelligence, high intellectual quotient (IQ) dictates that a leader can make well-informed strategic maneuvers while high emotional quotient (EQ) enables an individual to factor in the welfare of others. In a nutshell, the trait approach focuses on innate abilities that make leaders great (great man theory) like in the case of Abraham Lincoln or Napoleon Bonaparte.
Skills Approach in Describing Leadership
Under the broad umbrella of skills approach, leadership is defined as the ability to put into use ones knowledge and competencies to achieve organizational goals. Contrary to the traits analogy, this form of leadership centers on the skills exhibited by an individual. By integrating this particular approach into leadership, it remains necessary for individuals to portray a set of three relevant skills. The three-skill approach labels them as technical, human and conceptual skills. Technical skills cover the ability to control most practical processes individually; human skills encompasses capacity to operate with other people well while conceptual skills cover the mental ability to shape and direct an organization to the desired direction. Using the work of Mumford et al. (2000), Northouse (2016) also discuss the skills model, which has three parts, namely, individual attributes, competencies, and leadership outcomes. Individual attributes mainly cover cognitive abilities from all angles including personality; competencies comprises of the ability to solve both technical and social problems while the leadership outcomes concentrate on the efficiency of the results. With the skills model comes environmental influences, which can either be internal or external. Internal influences include factors such as technology and subordinates while external factors include socio-political and economic issues.
Style Approach in Describing Leadership
Style approach is also described as the behavioral approach by Northouse (2016). Within the style approach, leadership is summed up in two modes which include task behaviors and relational behaviors. Numerous studies have been carried out to address this type of leadership. In exploring behavioral leadership further, the University of Michigans studies narrow down to two types of leadership summarized within a single continuum, that is, employee orientation and production orientation. Based on the concern for production and concern for people, the Blake & Mouton Leadership Grid develops seven major modes, which can be adopted by leaders following a behavioral approach. Among them includes the paternalism/maternalism and opportunism. In opportunism, leaders hold no permanent position and can either be task or relationship oriented for the sake of making maximal gains. In paternalism/maternalism mode, leaders work by rewards to create connections while keeping in mind the need for task accomplishment. According to Northouse (2016), the behavioral approach works by not telling leaders what to do but describing principal components of their behaviors. The power of this method is that it has added a dynamic understanding towards leadership in general while the weakness is that no universal approach can be effective in most situations.
Situational Leadership Approach
As one of the commonly recognized leadership approaches, the situational approach requires an individual to be adaptive to the varying demands of various situations. This method comprises of the directive dimension and supportive dimension. With this approach, there are four leadership styles, and they include supporting, coaching, delegating, and directing. Each style varies with the required developmental level. Categorized in level D1 to D4, employees can have strong commitment but lack the necessary understanding to those who have strong capabilities and significant commitment. In developing employees with varying needs, a leader has to select an appropriate style that fits the needs of the employees. It forms the core way that situational leadership works. The strengths of this approach are that it has great marketplace approval (especially for business entities), it is practical, advocates for flexibility and supports diversity through differential treatment. Some weaknesses include the lack of an empirical foundation, practical discrepancies, and unclear conceptualization of commitment.
The Contingency Theory
As explored by this particular theory, leadership is all about matching a leaders style to the right setting. A setting is a term used to describe the competence of the existing subordinates. The leadership styles under this theory are task-based and relationship motivated. These styles are guided by situational variables, which include leader-member relations (LMR), task structure (TS), and position power (PP). LMR covers the level of atmosphere between a leader and followers; TS covers the degree of clarity in which task requirements are spelled out while PP accounts for the leaders authority in punishing/rewarding. Based on the contingency theory model, there are eight categories which account for the LPC scores that are measured against the three situational variables into determining the best approach. The strengths of the contingency theory are that it has a strong empirical support, predictive, and broadened understanding. On the contrary, the main weakness is that it is too unreal for the real world.
This particular theory emphasizes the need for a leader to adopt an effective style that best suits workers motivational needs. The required subordinate motivation is accomplished when leaders increase available payoffs, adapt a friendly coaching approach when delivering directions, and minimizing potential obstacles.
Leaders Behavior, Subordinate, and Task Characteristics
Workers characteristics vary with the approach of leadership adopted. In directive leadership where the leader is focused on task completion, the approach is best suited with workers who are dogmatic and authoritarian. For subordinates with the need for affiliation, supportive leadership is the best deal. Participative leadership coincides with workers who have an internal locus of control. Achievement-oriented leadership covers the needs of employees with high expectations and the desire to excel. Task physiognomies include the design of the followers task, the core workgroups of employees and the formal authority system in place.
Strengths and Weaknesses
The strength is that it has a practical approach while its failure to explain the relationship between leadership behavior and worker motivation is its major undoing.
Leader-Member Exchange Theory
This theory focuses on the interaction between leaders and followers. Based on early studies, this body of knowledge was known as Vertical Dyad Linkage Theory where leaders formed unique relationships with each subordinate. Followers formed in-group/out-group relationships with the leader where in-group mechanism involved a worker delivering more than the stipulated mandates. Studies concerning this theory have evolved over time with the later ones focusing on the efficiency of leadership by tackling the beneficial relationship. High-quality LMX results to low employee turnover and high productivity. The LMX theory works through the simple but effective relationships that leaders form with followers. The strength of this theory is that it validates the experience of people in an organization while the downside is that it acts as a recipe for discrimination.
Based on its name, this leadership transforms employees into delivering more than what is required of them. This leadership focuses on charismatic relational aspects that transform employees to remain positive. Taking an example of Martin Luther King Junior, it is fair to describe transformational leaders as people who want the best both for the organization and the followers at the same time. By advocating for charismatic traits and showcasing abilities such as being visionary, highly intelligent, trustworthy, and inspirational, transformational leaders can change people into delivering on certain goals. Luther King was famous for his inspirational I Have a Dream speech, a delivery that moved many people during that particular period.
This leadership regime depends on a group of individuals to deliver and guide followers to the desired direction. According to numerous studies, team leadership which has a long history has enhanced organizational productivity, improved problem-solving, and increased innovative initiatives. Team leadership depends on the existing chemistry of the group members. The interaction and mutual sharing of responsibilities are what makes team leadership effective. Two critical factors to this leadership are the task functions and maintenance functions. Members have to deliver on tasks while maintaining the efficiency of the group. Some enabling conditions of group effectiveness include having a compelling purpose, the right people and team, and a supportive organizational context. As a superficial group, leaders of members have to consider both internal task and relational aspects.
This leadership justification is underpinned on the comprehensive study of psychology. Acknowledging the fact that leadership is all about human behavior, it remains significant for leaders to understand how their followers act and incorporate factors that enhance their productivity. Within this type of leadership, a leader enters into a relationship with each subordinate to talk about what, why, and how it happened. By doing so, a leader is developing a bridge that will automatically work in motivating each employee eventually affecting their productivity positively. Using the transactional analysis, psychodynamic model embraces a parent-child transaction. Within this case, the leader as the parent is nurturing while the subordinate can either be a learning child who is adaptive or a...
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