Most of these historical leaders were usually from the upper classes with a few of them from lower classes having the opportunity to lead. Consequently, this led to the idea that leadership had something to do with proliferation. This theory was also based on the assumption that leaders are born and not made (Cherry n.d.). This is the belief that leaders are excellent people, born with intrinsic qualities and destined to lead.
The concept of the Great Man is also based on the notion that in times of need, a Great Man would arise, almost supernaturally. These Great Man theories regularly depict great leaders as heroic, mythic and predestined to rise to leadership when needed. Leaders are not figureheads we put in place because we need to know that someone is in charge. They are people such as Churchill and Eisenhower who arise in time of great need.
The historical great leaders who we emulate today are people who rose not because of appointment but the great need. These leaders went ahead to mobilize followers in realizing the solution to their problems. They therefore cannot be people who were not very important as some people may argue. The term "Great Man" in these theories was used because leadership was mainly thought of as a male quality at the time. The thought of a Great Woman was generally in areas other than leadership because most leaders were male.
These theories imply that ideal and effective leadership style is one that takes the input of others into account. Participative leaders encourage involvement and contributions from group members and help the group members to feel more important and committed to the decision-making process. However, in participative theories, the leader maintains the right to allow the input of others. Rather than taking dictatorial decisions, participative leaders seek to engage other people in the decision-making process.
This participation in the decision-making process improves the understanding of the concerns involved by those who must make the decisions. Because of making decisions jointly, the social commitment to each other is greater and increases the commitment of the people to the decision. Participative leaders provide a platform for everyone including their subordinates in the decision-making processes.
Management or Transactional Theories:
As compared to other leadership theories, management or transactional theories focus on the role of supervision, organization and group performance. Management theories base leadership on a structure of reward for successful employees and punishment for unsuccessful employees. The basis of these theories are the assumptions that people are motivated by reward and punishment as well as the concept that social structures work best with a clear chain of command. Leaders under these theories work through designing understandable structures that clearly show what is obligatory of their subordinates as well as the rewards they get for following orders.
Transformational or Relationship Theories:
As the name suggests, these theories center on the links formed between leaders and their followers. These leaders motivate and inspire the group members by helping them to see the significance and higher good of the task. These leaders are not only focused on the performance of the group members but also want each of them to fulfill their potential. Consequently, transformational leaders usually have high ethical and moral standards.
Transformational leadership commences with the development of a vision and proceeds to the constant selling of the vision. These leaders are always visible and will stand up to be counted rather than hide behind their troops by showing their attitudes and actions. However, the passion and confidence of transformational leadership can easily be mistaken for truth and reality. Relationship leaders also tend to see the big picture but not the details and are usually doomed to fail as a result.
From Great Man to Transformational Leadership theories, leadership not only takes an individualistic perspective of the leader but also takes the perspective of followers. These theories therefore present leadership as a process that is spread throughout an entire organization rather than lying exclusively with the formally designated leader. With these different theories, the emphasis of leadership shifts to leader-full organizations, which brings a collective responsibility for leadership and makes a big difference.
Cherry K. (n.d.). Leadership Theories -- 8 Major Leadership Theories. Retrieved April 22,
2010, from http://psychology.about.com/od/leadership/p/leadtheories.htm
Mills D.Q. (2005). The Importance of Leadership. Retrieved April 22, 2010, from http://www.mindedgepress.com/PDFs/htlhtl.pdf