As today workforce is becoming progressively complex, leaders are expected to create atmospheres that will allow positive things to happen and stimulate others to contribute at their utmost levels. To understand the importance of leadership, Kruse, K. (2013) defines it as a process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others towards the achievement of a goal. This definition shows that leadership stems from social influence and not authority or power. According to O’Boyle, 2015, leaders are no longer being seen as heroes or authoritarians but are now as humble facilitators, guides and mentors. Kruse’s definition makes no mention of personality traits or title, which implies that there are many styles and paths to effective leadership. Leadership also include a goal, not just influence without an envisioned outcome.
Muenjohn, N et al. (2018) defined leadership as a principal dynamic process that uses influence and persuasion to motivate and coordinate individual and collective effort; the process of enabling or guiding others to achieve goals; the process by which a person leads or shows the way. Leaders, therefore, are change agents who guide, transform, and bring out the best in their followers to achieve astonishing results. With these expectations from leaders, many, therefore, believe that leaders are not born, but made. Though some people seem to be naturally gifted with the ability to lead than others, people can develop themselves into leadership positions by learning particular skills. Becoming a good leader requires experience, knowledge, commitment, patience, and most importantly the skill to negotiate and work with others to achieve goals. According to Amanchukwu, RN et al. (2015), effective leadership can be developed through a continuous self-study, relevant education and training as well as the gathering of related experience.
The interest in the systematic study of leadership stretches back to ancient time, Muenjohn, N et al. (2018). Many of the historical figures bring to mind the idea of a leader with s strength of conviction, and a strategic thinker with the willingness to act decisively, rather than just a figurehead commander. There are several views of leadership as there are distinctive qualities which are expected in effective leaders. According to Avolio, et al (2009), most studies today have shifted from traditional trait or personality-based theories to a situation theory. This implies that the situation in which leadership is exercised is determined by the leadership skills and characteristics of the leader. The major leadership theories can be grouped under one of these three viewpoints: leadership as a method or relationship, leadership as specific behaviours, leadership as a mixture of traits or personality qualities, or leadership abilities.
Cherry (2018), opined that leadership theories seek to explain how and why certain people become leaders. Such theories usually target the characteristics of leaders, but some attempt to identify the behaviours that people can adopt to improve their own leadership abilities in different situations. The following major leadership theories and their relevance to today contemporary settings will be discussed:
The Great Man Theory of Leadership
According to Antonakis, J & Day, D. V. (2018), the 20th-century psychological exploration of leadership research started with the “great man” theory, which focused on leadership as a quality within an individual. Cherry, K (2017) noted that the folklore behind some of the world’s most renowned leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi, Julius Caesar, Abraham Lincoln, and Alexander the Great helped contribute to the conception that leaders are not made but born. In many instances, it appears the right man for the leadership role seems to surface almost supernaturally to control a particular situation and guide a group of people into safety or success.
Among the primary factors for the evolution of this particular theory was that in those times, individuals associated with a lesser public status had fewer chances to learn as well as realize leadership roles. Therefore, the theory looked solely at individuals that were already accomplished leaders. These successful heroes had been sometimes aristocratic rulers, who accomplished the position via individuals or birthright with individual charisma that made they emerged successful against all odds. Their abilities to guide others were not obvious in their skills, which could be learned but was regarded as a distinctive, internalized attributes, which were natural to such a level as being a part of a leader’s genetic structure.
To this day, men and women usually describe prominent leaders as having the right personality or qualities for the position, implying that inherent characteristics are what make these folks successful leaders. The theory suggest that individuals cannot really learn how to be powerful leaders. It is either one thing you are born with or perhaps born without. It is more of nature (as opposed to nurture) approach to describing leadership.
Applying the “Great Man model” to the contemporary organisational setting might not achieve well-acceptable results as the divergence of employee’s background, individual circumstance, skills and languages have given rise to a very much-perplexed working atmosphere where the aristocratic aspect of “Great Man” theory would have cynicism amongst employees. People nowadays do not always be content with handsome remuneration package rather, they are desirous more for enhanced opportunities and professional growth. The model does not address the expectation and prospects of contemporary organisational workforce, as it is limited to provide leadership opportunities to only aristocratic group of individuals. Coming after the “Great Man” theory, which places more emphasis on inborn superiority, the outstanding characteristics, attributes and qualities of the leaders were explored and this gave rise to the development of the Trait Theory of leadership.
Trait Theories of Leadership
These theories proposed that some dispositional attributes such as, stable personality attributes or characters, distinguished leaders from non-leaders. The theories have been created with a goal of figuring out the primary qualities of leaders that contributed towards organisational success. The principle was put forward with intention to facilitate the organisations in the identification of key characteristics, attributes and qualities, so that appropriate range of individuals are usually recruited and fitted into leadership positions of the organisation. For instance, traits as outgoingness, confidence, and courage are traits, which could likely be connected to leaders that are great.
In case certain traits are essential features of leadership, then how can we describe those who possess those traits but are not occupying leadership position? This particular issue is among the issues in adopting trait theories to describe leadership. One will find lots of individuals that have the character traits related to leadership, however, a lot of these individuals never ever seek positions of leadership. There are also individuals that lack several of the key traits that are typically associated with good leadership yet excel in leadership positions.
Trait theories argue there are a number of similar personality attributes or traits that are common to all highly effective leaders. Trait theories help us recognize qualities and traits, for instance, integrity, empathy, assertiveness, excellent decision-making abilities, and also likability, which are useful when leading others. Nevertheless, not one of these traits, or any certain mixture of them, guarantees results when one become a leader. It is also essential to be aware that no common list of traits exists. Much more recently, numerous researchers have centered on a contingency approach to leadership that posits that individuals with specific characteristics could be better in a few leadership situations but less effective in others. While studies have recommended that specific characteristics are often connected with effective leadership, it also reveals that no common list has emerged that identifies the characteristics that all great leaders have or possibly which will ensure leadership achievements in all circumstances (Cherry, K. 2018).
Behavioural Theories of Leadership
Uzohue, C.E. et al (2016) opined that Behavioural concept of leadership is dependent on the perception that leaders are not born but emerged by developing leadership skills. These theories concentrate on how leaders behave. It emphasizes that effective leadership will be the outcome of highly effective role behaviour. Leadership is displayed by individuals’ acts much more than by their traits. Although traits influence acts, the environment, goals, and followers also influence these acts. Hence, you will find four standard components; leaders, followers, environment and goals, which affect one another in determining the ideal behaviours of leaders. Kurt Lewin in the 1930s created a framework according to a leader’s actions. In this particular framework, he argued that there are actually three kinds of leaders based on their behaviours:
• Democratic leaders: They let the followers offer feedback prior to decision-making, though the level of input allowed differ from leader to leader. This particular type is essential when team agreement is important, though it may be hard to control when there are plenty of different ideas and perspectives.
• Autocratic leaders. They make their decision without consulting their followers or team members. This kind of leadership is suitable when there is the need for quick decision making, when there is simply no need for feedback, and the agreement of team members is not required for a successful result outcome.
• Laissez-faire leaders. They do not interfere; they enable their followers or team members make most of the decisions. This is effective when followers are highly skilful, motivated and do require close supervision. Nevertheless, this behaviour could be a result of laziness or level of distraction on the part of the leader; and in this situation, this leadership style could fail.
Obviously, how leaders behave impacts their performance. Researchers are aware that several of these leadership behaviours are suitable at different times or situations. The most effective leaders are those who could work with many different styles of behaviour and choose the appropriate style for each situation. With this, it seemed that the Behavioural theories overlooked the situational elements and the setting in which such behaviours are exhibited. The limitations of Behavioural Theories and those of Trait theories led to the move to Situational and Contingency Theories of leadership.
Contingency (Situational) Theory of Leadership
Most studies treated contingency and situation theories separately, but for the obvious similarities, which I noted in the course of this study, I decided to review both theories together. The focus of contingency theories of leadership is on specific variables, which relate to the atmosphere that may determine the leadership style that is more appropriate for a particular work situation. Under these theories, it is believed that leadership style should not be a “one size fits all” in all situations. According to Cherry K. (2018), effective leadership involves the assessment of followers, current situations and the adjustment of behaviours or approaches that will the appropriate for the setting. It is expected that different types of decision-making will require certain styles of leadership that are more appropriate for each decision-making exercise. For example, an authoritarian approach is best in a situation in which the leader is probably the most educated and skilled person in a team while in other situations where followers or team members are skilled, a democratic approach will be much more suitable.
One of the initial contingency theories was that of Fred. E. Fiedler in the 1960s. Fiedler assumes that the functionality of a team depends upon favourableness and leadership style of the circumstances. Some leadership types work much better in certain circumstances than others. For example, task-oriented leaders seemed to do much better in very favourable and unfavourable situations. On the other hand, the relationship-oriented leaders tended to do much better in moderately favourable conditions. Fiedler’s theory did not permit freedom in leaders, as it was premised on the point of view that an individual’s natural leadership style is fixed and specific leadership types work much better in a few scenarios. Thus, the most powerful method to handle a changing circumstance is by changing the leader.