It is amazing how volumes of literature exist on the several aspects of leadership theories and models. In any case, it appears that leadership has for a long time been an interesting subject in entirely all sectors of humanity. Indeed, leadership defines a great proportion of the human race and it therefore warrants the much analysis and concerns always allocated to the subject. While many people will totally argue against any defined theory or model that describes leadership, it is imperative to realise that in a way successful leaders across the world have particular aspects in common.
A casual gaze across the world reveals very astonishing revelations regarding the human leadership potential and on whether anybody can become a leader. On whether leaders are made or born, much research has been done but interestingly it appears that no definitive conclusion can ever be reached. Perhaps it would be possible someday to determine whether leaders are made or born. However, presently, with the intricate mix of events and the challenging concept of leadership, the theories that define leadership have to somehow hold.
Situational leadership theory
This theory was developed by Dr. Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard and is based on the notion that leadership is normally a function of the particular situations that confront the leaders at different times Covey, 1991.
The theory therefore proposes that the leaders should always vary their leadership styles depending on the maturity of the people they are ruling and the conditions in place. In a way, the theory presents very critical aspects which the earlier organisation thinkers had not really delved into. It is certainly impossible to apply the same form or style of leadership when leading different age brackets. The essence in this case is that leaders should always place much focus on the task to be addressed and not on making interpersonal relationships with the people they are leading Wadia, 2006()
According to Blanchard and Hersey, there are four main types of leadership styles in this category, they include:
Telling (S1) - involves the leader telling the people what to do and how to tackle the issues.
Selling (S2) - it incorporates aspects of telling the masses what to do but also engaging them through proper communication so that the leader sells ideas to them.
Participating (S3)-in this case, the leader stresses on relationships with the people and not on the directing the followers. It creates a sense of teamwork between the leader and the people.
Delegating (S4) - here, the leaders pass most of the responsibilities to the people but still monitor the progress. However, much of the decision making is then delegated.
According to the founders of the theory Hersey and Blanchard, the most important aspect regarding this form of leadership is to know when to use which leadership style and this decision largely depends on the maturity of the leader. The maturity of the leaders is therefore broken down into four levels Freeman, 1984()
M1- in this level of maturity, the people lack all knowledge and skills to manage on their own. The leader must therefore push them in order to get the tasks done.
M2-in this level, the people are willing to work but might be lacking the skills and the abilities to operate efficiently.
M3- at this level the people have the willingness and the ability to work on their own. They have many skills but they only lack the confidence in their abilities.
M4- these people have all the requisites important for the work process. They are therefore the right mix to operate with.
It is therefore seen that situational approach to leadership is mostly based on the leader's broader perception. It demands a lot of flexibility and the ability to comprehend situations and take the necessary action. Leaders in this category are often credited with much success since they can effectively harness human resources.
Contingency theory of leadership
This approach to the concept of leadership was developed by Fred Fielder. Fielder realised that leaders could function better if they varied their leadership styles to suite the particular situations that faced them. This need is what necessitated the use of the name contingency. This approach was reached after a careful analysis of effective and ineffective leaders. Fielder thereby suggested that the best approach to leadership was to link organisational settings and the leadership styles. As such, different situations and circumstances in the organisation could be addressed by different models of leadership and it was therefore upon the leader to best select how to address situations differently.
It then appears that the contingency theory of leadership in a way resembles the situational approach. However, in the situational case, the focus is on the people and not necessarily other factors in the organisation. In the contingency theory, circumstances which go beyond people alone actually dictate the best leadership method to adopt to suite the situation.
In defining this leadership method, Fielder recognised that leadership was basically a function of the manner in which the leader interacted with the employees. This interaction is influenced by several factors of which personality has much influence. The leadership style demonstrated by anybody largely depends on the personality traits of the person. Considering that all individuals have different personalities, leadership in this category therefore came under simpler subdivisions which were defined by the different personality traits realised from different people. The different personalities of leaders determine certain aspects like friendliness, cooperation and openness of the leader and the people.
Whatever comes out clear in this leadership model is the fact that it is difficult to rate a leader as entirely successful or unsuccessful. This arises out of the fact that leaders might act well in certain situations and badly in others. The success of the leader therefore lies in knowing how well to apply which forces at what time and balancing between the intricate issues that characterise organisations today. The contingency aspects of leadership mainly lay emphasis on the different variables which might include the qualities of the followers, style of leadership and nature of the situation Schein, 1985.
It is clearly seen that no particular form of leadership can suite all situations and the organisational success and the success of the leader is basically pegged on the ability to identify and react positively to the situations.
The trait approach to leadership
This approach on leadership arose from another theory known as the 'Great Man' theory which presented a way of recognising competent and successful leaders. Through this approach, it was believed that critical leadership aspects could be identified and whoever had these qualities qualified to be a good leader. It therefore rides on the notion that good leaders are available somewhere and that leadership should be preserved to only the people, who have characteristics that can be quantified or at least demonstrated. Under this approach, when selecting a leader, several weights and balances are put on the way so that only those who can effectively sail through are deemed to be the best leaders and are given positions to lead. In the military, this approach works very effectively in producing leaders who can have authority and command over the other people Northouse, 2007()
In a way this style of leadership helps a great deal in situations where critical decision making is required and much consultation might drag back the process. It also confirms that fact that a leader should be somebody who is in way better than the people he is leading so that management is possible and easy. The major limitation in this approach lies in the fact that there are so many traits that are required to make a good leader and in the researches undertaken years ago in the formulation process; these traits normally equalled the number of the researches done. Leaders might possess certain of these traits but lack other which could also be crucial. Nevertheless, the absence of particular traits in a person might not necessarily make somebody a bad leader. There is very little consistency on the researches normally done to determine the particular leadership traits and it only depends upon the researchers. However, certain factors normally stand out despite this variability. Such traits as flexibility, assertiveness, tolerance and responsibility will normally appear as requisites for effective leadership.
This approach to leadership was developed by James McGregor Burns who put across the important concept of transformative leadership. In transforming leadership, Burns argues that leadership should always be a relationship of mutual understanding and elevation where all the parties feel encouraged and satisfied. The transformational aspect arises in the sense that the followers should be converted into leaders in their own right and the leaders should act like moral agents.
This theory draws much from humanistic psychology where the transforming leader encourages human feelings, motives and inspires the followers by trying to make them understand their importance…