Leadership theories Essay

Leadership is defined as the ability to influence a group toward the achievement of goals. This influence can be formal which is possessed by persons having a managerial rank. Leaders can also emerge within a group as well as being formally appointed. There are many theories associated with leadership. Some of them include behavioral theory, contingency theory, path goal theory and the leader- member exchange theory. The behavioral approach to leadership suggests that the leader’s behavior, not the leader’s personal characteristics, influence followers and that leaders are taught.

Behavioral theories are theories proposing that specific behavior differentiate leaders from non- leaders. The main behavioral models include the Theory of Lewin, Lippit and White (1939), McGregor’s Theory (1960), the Managerial Grid Model of Blake and Mouton (1964) and the Ohio State University of Michigan Models (Bass, 1990). There were four main styles that appeared from the different studies conducted. These styles were production oriented, employee oriented, directive leadership and participative leadership.The production oriented leader tended to emphasize the technical or task aspects of the job.

They look for high levels of productivity, and ways to organize people and activities in order to meet those objectives. This style of leadership works well with an organization which is mainly concerned with getting the task done and does not look at employees concerns. Therefore organizations whose main goals are about producing output and getting the work done and not about employees concerns will usually have this style of leader. By contrast, employee oriented leader is one who emphasized interpersonal relations. These leaders take a personal interest in the needs of their subordinates and accepted individual differences among members.

Leaders look upon their followers as people – their needs, interests, problems, development. They are not simply units of production or means to an end. Studies showed that employee oriented leaders were associated with higher group productivity and higher job satisfaction than production oriented leaders. Directed leadership style is characterized by leaders taking decisions for others and expecting followers or subordinates to follow instructions. This style does not seem appropriate because employees do no get a chance to be included in decision making.Therefore, it would make employees feel they are not worthy and this may cause job dissatisfaction and demotivation. This would then affect an organization’s productivity and it may also result in high costs due to high absenteeism and turnover.

On the other hand a participative style of leader may deem more appropriate since it allows employees to engage in decision making. This can cause employee to feel important and worthy because they are contributing to their organization. This may improve productivity and cause high levels of job satisfaction and additionally organizational citizenship behavior may occur. Dissatisfaction with the trait and behavioural theories gave rise to the situational /contingency approach to leadership. This approach to leadership examined how leadership changes from situation to situation. According to this model, effective leaders diagnose the situation, identify the leadership style that will be most effective, and then determine whether they can implement the required style. Prominent among these theories are Fielder’s Contingency Theory of leadership, the Path-Goal Theory of leader effectiveness which embodies transactional leadership, Hersey and Blanchard’s Life-Cycle Theory, the Cognitive Resource Theory, and the Decision-Process Theory.

The path goal theory is one of the most respected approaches to leadership.Developed by Robert House, the theory says that a leader’s behavior is acceptable to subordinates insofar as they view it as a source of immediate or future satisfaction. . The essence of this theory is that it is the job of the leader to assist his or her followers in attaining their goals providing necessary directions and support to ensure that their goals are compatible with the overall objectives of an organization. Hypotheses that were evolved out of the path goal theory were that directive leadership leads to greater satisfaction when tasks are ambiguous or stressful than when they are highly structured and well laid out. Another hypothesis was that supportive leadership results in high employee performance and satisfaction when subordinates are performing structured tasks. The Leader Member Exchange Theory (LMX) argues that due to time pressures, leaders establish a special relationship with a small group of their subordinates.

Which is known as ‘in-group’ who are trusted, get disproportionate amount of the leader’s attention and most likely receive special attention. Conversely, the other subordinates fall into the ‘out-group’ where the opposite happens. The LMX theory predicts that subordinate with in-group status generally have higher performance ratings, less turnover and greater satisfaction with their superior. Additionally, research surrounding the LMX theory provides evidence that leaders do differentiate among subordinates and that in-group and out-group status is related to employee performance and satisfaction. Leadership is a critical factor to the success and failure of an organization. Leadership plays a central part in understanding group behavior since it is the leader who usually provides the direction toward goal attainment. Therefore much emphasis must be placed in organizations in selecting a ‘best’ leadership style or training persons to become good leaders.

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