Overview of Leadership Theory

Overview of Leadership Theory

The Development of Leadership Theory

The Trait Approach

• Effective leaders have certain qualities in common

• Example: intelligence, dependability, sense of responsibility, energy, sociability  (e.g. Stogdill – Ohio State studies)

• ‘Leaders are born, not made’

• Findings not consistent

• Leadership situation not considered

The Style Approach

• Concern for task – the extent to which the leader emphasises the task objectives

• Concern for people – the extent to which the leader emphasises the needs, interests etc. of the group

• Directive leadership – the extent to which the leader makes all the decisions regarding group activity

• Participative leadership – the extent to which the leader shares decision-making concerning group activity

Peter Wright, 1996

Examples of the Style Approach

• The Ohio State Studies – initiating structure (task), consideration (relationship)

• The Michigan Leadership Studies – employee orientation, production orientation

• Decision-making styles – authoritarian/directive, participative/democratic (Lewin et al, 1939; Tannenbaum and Schmidt, 1958)

• The Managerial Grid (Blake and Mouton, 1964, 1978, 1985)

The Style Approach

• People-centred and task-centred behaviour combined is more effective than either people-centred or task-centred behaviour alone in getting results – there is a ‘one best style’ (consultative; 9,9)

• Research findings are ambiguous and inconsistent- effectiveness, satisfaction

• Leaders’ bosses and subordinates are opposite in attitudes towards people and task centredness

• Fail to consider contingencies in the situation

Situational Leadership

‘To be successful in all environments, leaders require a measure of all of the different leadership attributes but their relative importance will be situation and context-dependent.’

RAF ‘Developing Excellence in Leadership’ paper, 2003, p3.

The Contingency Approach

Effectiveness depends of the relationship between the characteristics of the leader, the followers and the situation

3-D Leadership Theory – situational version of managerial grid – Reddin (1966, 1970)

Path-Goal Theory – individual motivation dependent on value they give to a task – House (1971)

Normative Model – decision processes – Vroom, Yetton and Jago

PM Leadership Theory – performance/maintenance – Misumi (1985)

Situational Leadership – Hersey and Blanchard (1982)

Contingency Theory – Fiedler (1967)

What factors determine leadership style?

• Maturity of followers or subordinates

• Existing relationship between them and their leader

• Clarity and structure of the task or work

• The position power and personal power of the leader

• Time available

• Culture

Problems with Situational and Contingency Theories

• Complicated relationship among the variables – complex prescriptions

• Questionable whether the leader can perceive the factors in the situation, decide the right leadership style, and then use it

• Inconsistent research findings

Other Approaches to Leadership

• Group dynamics theories – (e.g. servant leadership, emergent leadership)

• Dyadic leadership theories – (e.g. leader-member exchange, vertical dyad linkage (VDL) model)

• Value-led/ethical leadership (e.g. principal centred leadership)

• Followership

The New Leadership Approach

Transformational leadership – Downton (1973), Burns (1978), Tichy and Devanna (1990), Bass and Avolio (1985)

Charismatic leadership – Conger and Kanungo (1987), House (1992), Bryman (1992)

Visionary leadership – Saskin (1988), Westley and Mintzberg (1989)

Transformational Leadership

Achieving performance beyond normal expectations by changing how people feel about themselves and what is possible and raising their motivation to new highs.

(Bass and Avolio, 1985)

Bass and Avolio’s Full-Range Model of Leadership

• Laissez-faire leadership

• Transactional leadership – management-by-exception and contingent reward

• Transformational leadership – the four ‘I’s – idealised influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, individualised consideration

Laissez-faire Leadership

•Avoiding taking a stand

•Ignoring problems

•Not following up

•Refraining from intervening

…leads to conflict and lack of achievement

Transactional Leadership

•Management by exception – passive or active

•Contingent reward

Management by Exception

•Setting work objectives and performance standards

•Waiting for problems to arise and reacting to them reluctantly, or monitoring for deviations and errors and correcting them

•Enforcing rules and procedures

…leads to continuing status quo, lack of initiative, and avoidance of risk taking by subordinates

Contingent Reward

•Setting work objectives and performance standards

•Providing feedback

•Exchanging reward and recognition – e.g. money or praise – for achievement

…can lead to expected performance

Problems with Transactional Leadership

• Motivating and rewarding people with ‘carrots’ and punishing them with ‘sticks’ makes them feel like donkeys

• Lack of consideration for people’s ideas, needs and feelings

• Focuses only on planning, organizing, directing and controlling – and manipulation by reward

• Does not develop people to their fullest potential and contribution

Transformational Leadership

• Attributed Charisma

• Individualized consideration

• Intellectual stimulation

• Inspirational motivation

• Idealized influence

Individualized Consideration

•Showing concern for the individual

•Identifying individuals’ abilities and needs

•Providing matching challenges

•Providing opportunities to learn

•Delegating, coaching and giving developmental feedback

…leads to a desire to improve and learn

Intellectual Stimulation

•Stimulating people’s intellect and imagination

•Questioning the status quo

•Encouraging imagination and creativity

•Using and encouraging intuition as well as logic

…leads to a willingness to think

Inspirational Motivation

•Inspiring people by articulating exciting possibilities

•Communicating a clear vision

•Aligning organizational goals with individual goals

•Treating threats, problems and mistakes as opportunities

•Using appealing words and symbols

Idealized Influence

•Displaying charisma

•Expressing confidence in the vision

•Personally taking full responsibility

•Displaying a sense of purpose, persistence and trust

•Emphasizing accomplishments

•Gaining respect, trust and confidence by personally demonstrating out-of-the-ordinary ability

…leads to trust, identification with the leader, and a desire to achieve to show support

Charismatic Leaders…

•Show complete self-confidence

•Show strong determination

•Are forthright about what is right and wrong, good and bad

•Are eloquent speakers

•Are active and energetic

Bass’s Full-Range Model of Leadership

Research Findings on the Full- Range Model

•Transformational leaders achieve better relationships, greater effort, more persistence, greater risk taking, more creativity and greater overall achievement among followers or subordinates

•Transactional leaders may achieve expected results but achieve less innovation

•Laissez-faire leaders are least effective

•Transformational leadership can be developed

Problems with Transformational Leadership Theories

•Useful contributions to leadership thinking, but…

•Still an incomplete explanation of leadership

Problems with Transformational Leadership Theories

•Issues with some components – e.g. LF=MBEP, II & IM closely related

•Ignores the situation or context – e.g. culture, hierarchical level etc.

•Fails to explain vision, values and strategy

•Fails to explain dysfunctional charisma

Issues with Current Leadership Theories: Conclusion

•Separate tracks of leadership research: cognitive/strategic, emotional, spiritual (providing meaning and value) and behavioural

•These have produced fragmented, disparate theories

•Confusing and not as useful as they should be

•Need for a more integrated theory

The Need for an Integrated Theory of Leadership

“There is a widespread agreement among leadership scholars that the future of leadership theory and research needs an integrative or general theory of leadership that draws on different disciplines.”

James MacGregor Burns (2001)

Towards an General Model of Leadership

•Vision and mission

•Shared values



•Inspiration and motivation

Roger Gill, 2006

The Future of Leadership Theory and Research

“To look over the current peaks of knowledge concerning leadership, we must stand on sturdy theoretical scaffolding. We believe that this scaffolding is the FRLT, to which other theories of leadership should be compared and attached, so that the lacunae in the FRLT are identified and filled. In this way, a more complete full-range theory will emerge.”

Antonakis and House (2003:19)


•Bass, B.M., & Riggio, R. 2006. Transformational leadership: Industry, military, and educational impact, second edition. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

•Gill, R. 2006. Theory and Practice of Leadership. Sage

•Wright, P. 1996. Managerial Leadership. Routledge.

•Yukl, G. 2006. Leadership in Organizations. Pearson

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