Leadership

Leadership is seen as a process by which one individual influences others toward the attainment of group or organizational goals. It is a social influence process, which involves voluntary action on the part of followers and it is always purposeful and goal-oriented. Leadership deals with influence and is not the same as management, which includes planning, organizing, staffing, directing and controlling.

One of the first approaches to leadership is the leadership trait theory that people are born with certain character traits. The theory assumes that people are born as leaders or not as leaders because the traits are considered to be naturally part of a person's personality. The basic idea behind trait theory is that effective leaders are born, not made. The trait theory was used in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. Studies have looked for significant link between individual traits and measuring of leadership effectiveness, where physical, mental and social characteristics of individuals have been examined.

Leadership has also been studied via the behavior approach. The behavior approach refocuses the interest from the traits to the leaders' behavior. Leaders' behavior becomes more important than their physical, mental or emotional traits. Ohio State University and the University of Michigan developed the two main studies of this approach in the late 1940s and 1950s. The studies have recognized two main behaviors: people-oriented and production-oriented behavior. According to the leader behavior approach, there are several behaviors that would be invariably effective for leaders, but empirical research does not show a strong relation between task-oriented or person-oriented leader behaviors and leader effectiveness.

A new element has been introduced by the contingency approach, which takes into consideration the impact of the organizational or work group on the extent to which given leader traits and behaviors will be effective. The approach was used mainly in the late 1960s and 1970s. Fiedler's contingency theory, path-goal theory, the Vroom-Yetton-Jago decision-making model of leadership and the situational leadership theory are the most popular contingency theories.

The leader-member exchange (LMX) theory is the first of several alternative theoretical approaches which first appeared in the 1970s. LMX theory analyzes the one-on-one relation between leaders and subordinates. Effectiveness and achievements are based on the relationship leader-subordinates. The leader establishes close relationships with some employees, while he or she remains distant from others. Hence, high-quality relationships lead to better results, according to the theory.

Transformational leadership theories look for a connection between the importance of the leader's charisma and the leadership's effectiveness. House's theory of charismatic leadership, Bass's transformational leadership theory and Conger and Kanungo's charismatic leadership theory are part of those studies which appeared in the beginning of the 1970s. Charisma, inspiration, intellectual stimulation and consideration are the bases of Bass's transformational leadership theory. A leadership model which uses those aspects may encourage employees to achieve high results and put the long-term interest of the company ahead of their own short-term interest.

Substitutes for leadership is a theory that tries to explain the lack of stable connection between leader traits or leader behaviors and employees' achievements. The idea is of Kerr and Jermier, who suggest that characteristics of the organization, the task and subordinates, may substitute for or even deny the leadership effectiveness. Hence, the connection between leadership and achieved results becomes weaker. The theory is popular because it offers an explanation as to why a leader's behavior has effect on subordinates in some situations but not in others. Group cohesiveness, inflexible rules and formalization are among the characteristics of the organization that may substitute for leadership, while routine and repetitive tasks or tasks that are satisfying are some of the characteristics of the task, may substitute for leadership. Ability, experience, training and job-related knowledge are analyzed by the theory as the characteristics of subordinates that may substitute for leadership.

Entrepreneurial leadership sees leaders as able to improve performance, adaptability and long-term potential and to encourage subordinates to reach higher levels of achievement by using creative organizational strategies. The theory studies this approach in business environments, which are changing and competitive. Entrepreneurial leaders take calculated risks, they form an effective venture team, work to find the needed resources and use fundamental skill to make a stable business plan.

The servant leadership approach studies the leadership from the point of view that leaders should be servants first in order to understand the needs of employees, customers and the community better. The understanding will allow leaders to achieve stronger effectiveness.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

On Becoming a Leader
Warren Bennis.
Perseus Publishing, 1994
In Search of Leaders
Hilarie Owen.
Wiley, 2000
Leading Minds: An Anatomy of Leadership
Howard Gardner; Emma Laskin.
BasicBooks, 1996
Gurus on Leadership
Mark A. Thomas.
Thorogood, 2006
The Future of Leadership: Today's Top Leadership Thinkers Speak to Tomorrow's Leaders
Warren Bennis; Gretchen M. Spreitzer; Thomas G. Cummings.
Jossey-Bass, 2001
Leaders Talk Leadership: Top Executives Speak Their Minds
Meredith D. Ashby; Stephen A. Miles.
Oxford University Press, 2002
Inspiring Leadership: Learning from Great Leaders
John Adair.
Thorogood, 2002
Contemporary Issues in Leadership
William E. Rosenbach; Robert L. Taylor.
Westview Press, 1998 (4th edition)
The Psychology of Leadership: New Perspectives and Research
David M. Messick; Roderick M. Kramer.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2005
An Integrative Theory of Leadership
Martin M. Chemers.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1997
The Language of Leadership
Roger Soder; John I. Goodlad.
Jossey-Bass, 2001
Leadership for Leaders
Michael Williams.
Thorogood, 2005
Perspectives on Leadership: From the Science of Management to Its Spiritual Heart
Gilbert W. Fairholm.
Quorum Books, 1998
Leadership in Organizations: Current Issues and Key Trends
John Storey.
Routledge, 2004
The Leader's Change Handbook: An Essential Guide to Setting Direction and Taking Action
Jay A. Conger; Gretchen M. Spreitzer; Edward E. Lawler Iii.
Jossey-Bass, 1999
Looking for a topic idea? Use Questia's Topic Generator