Leadership Theories Comparing and Contrasting Research Paper

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In contrast, a "selling and coaching" (S2) approach is demanded when the leader knows the follower may be uncertain about how to perform the task, but the subordinate has a high level of commitment, as in the case of an intern or a new hire. S2 is a motivational or mentoring approach. The employee craves direction, but will be motivated more by personality and praise than 'carrots and sticks' versus the S1 situation (Straker 2004).

A "participating/supporting" leadership situation (S3) is when the leader knows that the employees can complete the task but the manager wants more of an emotional investment or a higher level of excellence. An example of this approach might be a manager of a fast food establishment with a teenage, low-skilled workforce. The employees can do the job, but needs more motivation to perform at a high level rather than task-specific direction. Finally, an (S4) situation of "delegating and observing" is when a leader and a follower both have a high level of competence and commitment to the task. The leader is supportive, as in a S2 situation, but does not need to constantly watch and monitor the behavior of the follower (Straker 2004).

Situational leadership advocates believe that leadership relationships are highly dependent upon the environment, in contrast to transformational leadership where the leader is seen as having a great deal of power to charismatically transform the organization. In some instances, a transformational approach must be stressed, as in the case of S2 and S4 relationships. In other instances, some aspect of transactional or purely mercenary motivational strategies might be required. An S1 individual might only be motivated by pay and fear of being fired, while an S3 type of employee, although competent, might also need some stricter penalties to feel motivated to perform, not just inspiration.

Not even transactional leadership advocates believe that emotional qualities alone can spur employees on to high levels of performance -- however, in contrast to situational leadership advocates, they would stress that even the most purely functional relationships can benefit from the employee having a stronger sense of mission and enthusiasm. If the employee answering the phone believes that he or she is in a transforming organization, the subordinate will project a better image for the company than an employee who has been instructed to perform his task in an S1, highly directed fashion.

While trait-based views of leadership traditionally suggested that leadership is a quality found only in a few, and even transformational and situational leadership theorists tend to place a strong stress upon the leader's control of the situation, new theories of motivation have shifted the emphasis to the needs of subordinates (Yukl, 2006). The DISC personality theory assessment emphasizes the different motivational profiles of employees. Dominant individuals wish to lead and dominate the situation and are motivated by a need for power; Influencer types are motivated by the drive to associate with one another and for approval; Steady individuals are social but are driven by the need to form associations; Conscientious types crave order and enjoy completing tasks and following the rules. Understanding the personality, not the situation, is of paramount importance in DISC leadership theory: the focus is on the motivational needs of the subordinate, in contrast to the profile of the leader. Different types of rewards should be offered to different types of people. DISC types may be determined by individual assessment or profiling the typical employee within a particular occupation.


Avolio, B.J., & Yammarino, F.J. (2002). Transformational and charismatic leadership: The road ahead. San Diego, CA: Emerald.

DISC. (2010). Retrieved July 1, 2010 at http://www.discprofile.com/

Homrig, Mark a. (2001, December 21).Transformational leadership. Retrieved July 1, 2010 at http://leadership.au.af.mil/documents/homrig.htm

Straker, David. (2004). Hersey and Blanchard's situational leadership theory. Changing Minds. Retrieved July 1, 2010 at http://changingminds.org/disciplines/leadership/styles/situational_leadership_hersey_blanchard.htm

Tichy, N.M., & Devanna, M.A. (1990). The transformational leader. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Wren, J.T. (1995). The leader's companion: Insights on leadership through the ages. New York:

The Free Press.

Wren, D.A. (2004). The history of management thought (5th ed.). New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Yukl, G. (2006). Leadership in organizations (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.[continue]

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