Leadership Theories

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Behavioral theories of leadership

Because leadership is a large and highly complex social phenomenon, it is not a surprise that many theories have been advanced to explain it.  Leadership theories come in all shapes, sizes and formats. Other attempts to be elegant; that is they try to provide an explanation of good deals with few variables as possible. Especially notable for this type of analysis are universal theories. Such theories attempt to explain leadership in a uniform fashion regardless of the situation. Others pride themselves on being comprehensive; they attempt to consider all significant factors. Some theories try to explain a narrow aspect of leadership, the causes, and effects of leader attribution process on followers (House et al., 2004, p.65). Other theories try to account for a broader array of leadership function simultaneously, explaining, for example, not simply production and worker satisfaction, but also the need for external alignment and organizational change. Sometimes leadership styles are experimentally treated as independent change. I will provide a comparison of three theories which are Contingency Theories, Transactional Theories, and Transformational Theories.

Contingency leadership theory explains leadership regarding a person’s style of leaderships and the responses from a group. Graen & Cashman (1975, p.143) suggest that a leader finds his motivation from either the job that is yet to be conducted or the people who are present in a group. The contingency theory is based on the premise that leadership depends on the appropriateness of the style of the leader to a specific task. Three factors, the relationship that is the leader and the followers, the structure of the task and the power of the leader –all contribute to the leader’s influence. Group effectiveness depends on the style of leadership and the degree to which the group’s situation is favorable through ensuring the provision of the leader with influences over group members. Consideration of these five broad categories of leadership- a trait, style, charismatic situational and contingency, ensures the provision of foundation onto which one can formulate an understanding of contemporary leadership theory. It is important to avoid full rejection of one theory and replacing it with a new theory. Rather all theories should be considered in developing contemporary models. As Gregory Stone (2004) indicated, great individuals need help, their leadership qualities need to fit the situation.

Unlike contingency theory, transactional leadership theory approaches followers with the eyes of exchanging one thing for another.  These transactions have the bulk of the relationship between leaders and followers and typify the relay theories of leadership.  Transactional leadership applies to leaders who are task oriented and have the ability to direct their groups in particular ways into accomplishing finite goals. Transactional leaders work to obtain their group's compliances through several approaches: offers rewards threatens punishments and appeals to followers' rational judgment. Compared to contingency theory, the transactional leader has little involvement with the group. They intervene in the group process only when the group gets off track. Murphy & Datnow (2003) notes, "for the most part, experimental research, unfortunately, has emphasized on transactional leadership, while the real movers and shakers of the world are transformational leaders."

By 1960, the dominant paradigm for the study of leadership had evolved from research on the situation and traits that affected leadership to something more dynamic. This drift in focus considered with research on transformational leadership. It was suggested that while the transactional leader worked with the framework of self-interests, the transformational leader moved to change the framework (Meese & Ortmeier, 2004 p.22). Contingency theory began considering the sentimental, intellectual and action traits of the person and the particular circumstance under which the person operated. Leadership was seen as contingent on traits and situation involving an exchange between the leader and the followers. The transformational leader asks groups to surpass their won self-interest for the good of the group. Transformational leaders need to consider the need for developing themselves, the situation of the leadership, and their followers, transcending the needs of any given moment in time ad considering wheat is important for the present and the future. The transformational leader needs to seek satisfaction of followers’ higher demands through engaging the ‘full person’ of the follower. In the sense, transformational leadership results in a mutual interchange between leaders and followers.

Transformational leadership appears closer to the prototype of leadership that most individuals have in mind when they provide a description of their ideal leader. Transformational leader has a strong sense of mission and the ability to attract a loyal and omitted following. Transformational leaders show the ability to lead their groups from ‘what ought to'. They also produce leadership behaviors that fulfill four main functions, which are idealized leadership that provides decision and sense of mission, instilling prior and assets gaining trusts and respect. Twenty-first-century leadership includes transactional and transformational theories (Gregory Stone et al., 2004, pp.349-361). The transactional theory was based on a political exchange barter system. Because of the give to get a relationship, most transactional relationships were short-lived. Transformational leadership made popular in the 90s, was based on the collaborators working as a team on mutual purposes. Transformational strategies were reciprocal, relied on trust, empowered employees and encouraged organizational goals.

There are several reasons for the importance of leadership in the current society. Since leaders do affect us so profoundly on both a grand as well as a personal scale, it is important to understand how leadership functions. We should be able to recognize the types of leaders we have regarding their strengths and deficiencies and also assess the types of leaders we need and the particular competencies they should possess. Another important reason for leadership observation is that all of us function as leaders from time to time. To achieve professional success, managers need to be good leaders and observing leadership can assist in being at least marginally improved, and in some cases, it can have dramatic impacts. Indeed because the complexity of leaderships and the myriad situation in which leaders find themselves, the study of leadership cannot assist but improve the rate and degree of success. It is true that great leaders, often start with great talent, but these abilities rarely find expression without being observed, mentored and practiced.

References

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Graen, G., & Cashman, J. F. (1975). A role-making model of leadership in formal organizations: A developmental approach. Leadership frontiers, 143, 165.

Gregory Stone, A., Russell, R. F., & Patterson, K. (2004). Transformational versus servant leadership: A difference in leader focus. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 25(4), 349-361.

Meese, E., & Ortmeier, P. J. (2004). Leadership, ethics, and policing: Challenges for the 21st century. Prentice Hall.

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