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Leadership Theories

Leadership is a term used for defining the characteristics, qualities, skills, and objectives in an individual who successfully leads his or her particular group or organization in the attainment of the desired goal or objective. A leader is simply defined as someone you follow to a place you would not go by yourself. In the 21st Century this definition of leadership has been abandoned. In today’s society most of the individual tasks associated with our daily routines are becoming more complex and diverse.

Cultural changes, technological advancements, productivity and commitments are of high importance. Regardless of the terminology leadership presents a vision for the future and some transforming quality, it encompasses authenticity and credibility. Thus leadership is a trait that is extremely valuable in any society. It is known as a relational process of people attempting to make a difference in a situation. An effective leader is the one who influences other in a dynamic way; leaders are interactive with the people.

In the modern era leadership rests on three basic qualities: 1) Intellectual Stimulation, 2) Individual Consideration, 2) Charisma and Inspiration, The Theories The Universalist Theories of Leadership all focus on one thing; that leaders have key characteristics in common. Psychologists

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believe people with these key traits will always emerge as leaders and be successful regardless of the situation. This approach believes that there is a universal formula of the traits or behavior for an effective leader.

In other words, the universal approach assumes that there is “one best way” to lead in all situations. In the Trait Approach psychologists have tried to identify specific traits that leaders posses. Traits are consistent and involved identifying physical and personality attributes including height, appearance and energy levels. It was found that leaders tend to be slightly taller than their followers. Terman 1904 asked teachers to describe playgroup leaders. They were reported to be active, quick and skilful.

Bavelas 1960 saw that leadership traits as quickness of decision, the courage to take risks, coolness under stress, intuition, and luck. Stogdill 1974 reviewed a large number of studies and found that leaders are slightly more intelligent, more extravert and more sociable. Bray and Campbell 1974, found that managers who were most frequently promoted tended to score highly on oral communication, human relationship skills and need for advancement. McClelland 1975 sees the need for power as a prerequisite to assuming a managerial role [Miles, 2000].

Behavioral theories begin to consider the effect of the leaders’ behavior on performance and try to identify what behaviors effective leaders show. The behavioral approach was developed in the late 1950’s. The behavioral focus on the two main categories of behavior, task oriented and relationship. Task orientated leader concentrates on performing jobs, focusing on tasks, standards and supervising jobs. Relationship orientated leaders are concerned with the employees well being and involve them in making suggestions.

Contrary to the universal approach, the contingent approach does not believe the “one best way” formula. It believes that effective leadership depends on the specific situation. The contingency theories of leadership examine the interaction of the characteristics of the leader and the situation, stating that effective leadership depends on the proper match between the two. The contingency theories build on the behavioral theories, as the style of leadership has to be identified first. They are different because they recognize no one best style of leadership.

Rather leader effectiveness depends, or is contingent upon, the interaction of leader behavior and the situation. Fieldler 1967 contingency model of leadership states the effective leadership depends upon a match between behavioral style and the degree to which the work situation gives control and influence to the leader [Terry, 1993]. The charismatic theory of leadership has been developed recently and not many studies have been conducted in order to find out about its effectiveness.

The charismatic theories portray a different and interesting approach to the leadership. It has been seen that charisma and attraction possessed by individuals is an effective tool for leadership. People for many reasons feel attracted to a certain personality and this attraction can lead to a powerful leadership. There are three features of the charismatic leadership, the first is that people trust the correctness of the leader, second the followers feel affection towards the leader and obey him willingly, and third the followers feel emotional involvement.

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