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2. Leadership can be defined as a process by which one individual influences
others toward the attainment of group or organizational goals. Three points about
the definition of leadership should be emphasized. First, leadership is a social
influence process. Leadership cannot exist without a leader and one or more
followers. Second, leadership elicits voluntary action on the part of followers. The
voluntary nature of compliance separates leadership from other types of
influence based on formal authority. Finally, leadership results in followers'
behavior that is purposeful and goal-directed in some sort of organized setting.
Many, although not all, studies of leadership focus on the nature of leadership in
3. Leadership is probably the most frequently studied topic in the organizational
sciences. Thousands of leadership studies have been published and thousands
of pages on leadership have been written in academic books and journals,
business-oriented publications, and general-interest publications. Despite this,
the precise nature of leadership and its relationship to key criterion variables
such as subordinate satisfaction, commitment, and performance is still uncertain,
to the point where Fred Luthans, in his book Organizational Behavior (2005), said
that “it [leadership] does remain pretty much of a ‘black box’ or unexplainable
4. Leadership should be distinguished from management. Management involves
planning, organizing, staffing, directing, and controlling, and a manager is
someone who performs these functions. A manager has formal authority by
virtue of his or her position or office. Leadership, by contrast, primarily deals with
influence. A manager may or may not be an effective leader. A leader's ability to
influence others may be based on a variety of factors other than his or her formal
authority or position.
5. In the sections that follow, the development of leadership studies and theories
over time is briefly traced. Table 1 provides a summary of the major theoretical
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Historical Leadership Theories
Leadership Time of
Individual characteristics of leaders are different than
those of nonleaders.
The behaviors of effective leaders are different than the
behaviors of ineffective leaders. Two major classes of
leader behavior are task-oriented behavior and
Contingency 1960s and
Factors unique to each situation determine whether
specific leader characteristics and behaviors will be
Leaders from high-quality relationships with some
subordinates but not others. The quality of
leader-subordinates relationship affects numerous
Charismatic 1970s and
Effective leaders inspire subordinates to commit
themselves to goals by communicating a vision,
displaying charismatic behavior, and setting a powerful
Characteristics of the organization, task, and
subordinates may substitute for or negate the effects of
9. Table 1 Leadership Perspectives
11. Three main theoretical frameworks have dominated leadership research at
different points in time. These included the trait approach (1930s and 1940s), the
behavioral approach (1940s and 1950s), and the contingency or situational
approach (1960s and 1970s).
12. Trait Approach. The scientific study of leadership began with a focus on the
traits of effective leaders. The basic premise behind trait theory was that effective
leaders are born, not made, thus the name sometimes applied to early versions
of this idea—the “great man” theory. Many leadership studies based on this
theoretical framework were conducted in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s.
13. Leader trait research examined the physical, mental, and social characteristics of
individuals. In general, these studies simply looked for significant associations
between individual traits and measures of leadership effectiveness. Physical
traits such as height, mental traits such as intelligence, and social traits such as
personality attributes were all subjects of empirical research.
14. The initial conclusion from studies of leader traits was that there were no
universal traits that consistently separated effective leaders from other
individuals. In an important review of the leadership literature published in 1948,
Ralph Stogdill concluded that the existing research had not demonstrated the
utility of the trait approach.
15. Several problems with early trait research might explain the perceived lack of
significant findings. First, measurement theory at the time was not highly
sophisticated. Little was known about the psychometric properties of the
measures used to operationalize traits. As a result, different studies were likely to
use different measures to assess the same construct, which made it very difficult
to replicate findings. In addition, many of the trait studies relied on samples of
teenagers or lower-level managers.
16. Early trait research was largely atheoretical, offering no explanations for the
proposed relationship between individual characteristics and leadership.
17. Finally, early trait research did not consider the impact of situational variables
that might moderate the relationship between leader traits and measures of
leader effectiveness. As a result of the lack of consistent findings linking
individual traits to leadership effectiveness, empirical studies of leader traits were
largely abandoned in the 1950s.
18. Leader Behavior Approach. Partially as a result of the disenchantment with the
trait approach to leadership that occurred by the beginning of the 1950s, the
focus of leadership research shifted away from leader traits to leader behaviors.
The premise of this stream of research was that the behaviors exhibited by
leaders are more important than their physical, mental, or emotional traits. The
two most famous behavioral leadership studies took place at Ohio State
University and the University of Michigan in the late 1940s and 1950s. These
studies sparked hundreds of other leadership studies and are still widely cited.
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20. The Ohio State studies utilized the Leader Behavior Description Questionnaire
(LBDQ), administering it to samples of individuals in the military, manufacturing
companies, college administrators, and student leaders. Answers to the
questionnaire were factor-analyzed to determine if common leader behaviors
emerged across samples. The conclusion was that there were two distinct
aspects of leadership that describe how leaders carry out their role.
21. Two factors, termed consideration and initiating structure, consistently appeared.
Consideration involves showing concern for subordinates, being supportive,
recognizing subordinates' accomplishments, and providing for subordinates'
welfare. Initiating structure, sometimes called task-oriented behavior, involves
planning, organizing, and coordinating the work of subordinates.
22. The Michigan leadership studies took place at about the same time as those at
Ohio State. Under the general direction of Rensis Likert, the focus of the
Michigan studies was to determine the principles and methods of leadership that
led to productivity and job satisfaction. The studies resulted in two general
leadership behaviors or orientations: an employee orientation and a production
orientation. Leaders with an employee orientation showed genuine concern for
interpersonal relations. Those with a production orientation focused on the task
or technical aspects of the job.
23. The conclusion of the Michigan studies was that an employee orientation and
general, instead of close, supervision yielded better results. Likert eventually
developed four “systems” of management based on these studies; he advocated
System 4 (the participative-group system, which was the most participatory set of
leader behaviors) as resulting in the most positive outcomes.
24. One concept based largely on the behavioral approach to leadership
effectiveness was the Managerial (or Leadership) Grid, developed by Robert
Blake and Jane Mouton. The grid combines “concern for production” with
“concern for people” and presents five alternative behavioral styles of leadership.
An individual who emphasized neither method was practicing “impoverished
management” according to the grid. If a person emphasized concern for people
and placed little emphasis on production, he was termed a “country-club”
25. Conversely, a person who emphasized a concern for production but paid little
attention to the concerns of subordinates was a “task” manager. A person who
tried to balance concern for production and concern for people was termed a
26. Finally, an individual who was able to simultaneously exhibit a high concern for
production and a high concern for people was practicing “team management.”
According to the prescriptions of the grid, team management was the best
leadership approach. The Managerial Grid became a major consulting tool and
was the basis for a considerable amount of leadership training in the corporate
27. The assumption of the leader behavior approach was that there were certain
behaviors that would be universally effective for leaders. Unfortunately, empirical
research has not demonstrated consistent relationships between task-oriented or
person-oriented leader behaviors and leader effectiveness. Like trait research,
leader behavior research did not consider situational influences that might
moderate the relationship between leader behaviors and leader effectiveness.
28. Contingency (Situational) Approach. Contingency or situational theories of
leadership propose that the organizational or work group context affects the
extent to which given leader traits and behaviors will be effective. Contingency
theories gained prominence in the late 1960s and 1970s. Four of the more
well-known contingency theories are Fiedler's contingency theory, path-goal
theory, the Vroom-Yetton-Jago decision-making model of leadership, and the
situational leadership theory. Each of these approaches to leadership is briefly
described in the paragraphs that follow.
29. Introduced in 1967, Fiedler's contingency theory was the first to specify how
situational factors interact with leader traits and behavior to influence leadership
effectiveness. The theory suggests that the “favorability” of the situation
determines the effectiveness of task- and person-oriented leader behavior.
30. Favorability is determined by (1) the respect and trust that followers have for the
leader; (2) the extent to which subordinates' responsibilities can be structured
and performance measured; and (3) the control the leader has over subordinates'
rewards. The situation is most favorable when followers respect and trust the
leader, the task is highly structured, and the leader has control over rewards and
31. Fiedler's research indicated that task-oriented leaders were more effective when
the situation was either highly favorable or highly unfavorable, but that
person-oriented leaders were more effective in the moderately favorable or
unfavorable situations. The theory did not necessarily propose that leaders could
adapt their leadership styles to different situations, but that leaders with different
leadership styles would be more effective when placed in situations that matched
their preferred style.
32. Fiedler's contingency theory has been criticized on both conceptual and
methodological grounds. However, empirical research has supported many of the
specific propositions of the theory, and it remains an important contribution to the
understanding of leadership effectiveness.
33. Path-goal theory was first presented in a 1971 Administrative Science Quarterly
article by Robert House. Path-goal
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35. theory proposes that subordinates' characteristics and characteristics of the work
environment determine which leader behaviors will be more effective. Key
characteristics of subordinates identified by the theory are locus of control, work
experience, ability, and the need for affiliation. Important environmental
characteristics named by the theory are the nature of the task, the formal
authority system, and the nature of the work group. The theory includes four
different leader behaviors, which include directive leadership, supportive
leadership, participative leadership, and achievement-oriented leadership.
36. According to the theory, leader behavior should reduce barriers to subordinates'
goal attainment, strengthen subordinates' expectancies that improved
performance will lead to valued rewards, and provide coaching to make the path
to payoffs easier for subordinates. Path-goal theory suggests that the leader
behavior that will accomplish these tasks depends upon the subordinate and
environmental contingency factors.
37. Path-goal theory has been criticized because it does not consider interactions
among the contingency factors and also because of the complexity of its
underlying theoretical model, expectancy theory. Empirical research has provided
some support for the theory's propositions, primarily as they relate to directive
and supportive leader behaviors.
38. The Vroom-Yetton-Jago decision-making model was introduced by Victor Vroom
and Phillip Yetton in 1973 and revised by Vroom and Jago in 1988. The theory
focuses primarily on the degree of subordinate participation that is appropriate in
different situations. Thus, it emphasizes the decision-making style of the leader.
39. There are five types of leader decision-making styles, which are labeled AI, AII,
CI, CII, and G. These styles range from strongly autocratic (AI), to strongly
democratic (G). According to the theory, the appropriate style is determined by
answers to up to eight diagnostic questions, which relate to such contingency
factors as the importance of decision quality, the structure of the problem,
whether subordinates have enough information to make a quality decision, and
the importance of subordinate commitment to the decision.
40. The Vroom-Yetton-Jago model has been criticized for its complexity, for its
assumption that the decision makers' goals are consistent with organizational
goals, and for ignoring the skills needed to arrive at group decisions to difficult
problems. Empirical research has supported some of the prescriptions of the
41. The situational leadership theory was initially introduced in 1969 and revised in
1977 by Hersey and Blanchard. The theory suggests that the key contingency
factor affecting choice of leadership style is the task-related maturity of the
subordinates. Subordinate maturity is defined as the ability of subordinates to
accept responsibility for their own task-related behavior. The theory classifies
leader behaviors into the two broad classes of task-oriented and
relationship-oriented behaviors. The major proposition of situational leadership
theory is that the effectiveness of task and relationship-oriented leadership
depends upon the maturity of a leader's subordinates.
42. Situational leadership theory has been criticized on both theoretical and
methodological grounds. However, it remains one of the better-known
contingency theories of leadership and offers important insights into the
interaction between subordinate ability and leadership style.
44. Although trait, behavioral, and contingency approaches have each contributed to
the understanding of leadership, none of the approaches have provided a
completely satisfactory explanation of leadership and leadership effectiveness.
Since the 1970s, several alternative theoretical frameworks for the study of
leadership have been advanced. Among the more important of these are
leader-member exchange theory, transformational leadership theory, the
substitutes for leadership approach, and the philosophy of servant leadership.
45. Leader-Member Exchange Theory. Leader-member exchange (LMX) theory
was initially called the vertical dyad linkage theory. The theory was introduced by
George Graen and various colleagues in the 1970s and has been revised and
refined in the years since. LMX theory emphasizes the dyadic (i.e., one-on-one)
relationships between leaders and individual subordinates, instead of the traits or
behaviors of leaders or situational characteristics.
46. The theory's focus is determining the type of leader-subordinate relationships
that promote effective outcomes and the factors that determine whether leaders
and subordinates will be able to develop high-quality relationships.
47. According to LMX theory, leaders do not treat all subordinates in the same
manner, but establish close relationships with some (the in-group) while
remaining aloof from others (the out-group). Those in the in-group enjoy
relationships with the leader that are marked by trust and mutual respect. They
tend to be involved in important activities and decisions. Conversely, those in the
out-group are excluded from important activities and decisions.
48. LMX theory suggests that high-quality relationships between a
leader-subordinate dyad will lead to positive outcomes such as better
performance, lower turnover, job satisfaction, and organizational commitment.
Empirical research supports many of the proposed relationships.
49. Transformational Leadership Theories. Beginning in the 1970s, a number of
leadership theories emerged that focused on the importance of a leader's
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51. leadership effectiveness. Included within this class of theories are House's theory
of charismatic leadership, Bass's transformational leadership theory, and Conger
and Kanungo's charismatic leadership theory.
52. These theories have much in common. They all focus on attempting to explain
how leaders can accomplish extraordinary things against the odds, such as
turning around a failing company, founding a successful company, or achieving
great military success. The theories also emphasize the importance of leaders
inspiring subordinates' admiration, dedication, and unquestioned loyalty through
articulating a clear and compelling vision.
53. Transformational leadership theory differentiates between the transactional and
the transformational leader. Transactional leadership focuses on role and task
requirements and utilizes rewards contingent on performance. By contrast,
transformational leadership focuses on developing mutual trust, fostering the
leadership abilities of others, and setting goals that go beyond the short-term
needs of the work group.
54. Bass's transformational leadership theory identifies four aspects of effective
leadership, which include charisma, inspiration, intellectual stimulation, and
consideration. A leader who exhibits these qualities will inspire subordinates to
be high achievers and put the long-term interest of the organization ahead of
their own short-term interest, according to the theory. Empirical research has
supported many of the theory's propositions.
55. Substitutes for Leadership Theory. Kerr and Jermier introduced the substitutes
for leadership theory in 1978. The theory's focus is concerned with providing an
explanation for the lack of stronger empirical support for a relationship between
leader traits or leader behaviors and subordinates' satisfaction and performance.
The substitutes for leadership theory suggests that characteristics of the
organization, the task, and subordinates may substitute for or negate the effects
of leadership, thus weakening observed relationships be ...