An Integrative Theory of Leadership

An Integrative Theory of Leadership

An Integrative Theory of Leadership

An Integrative Theory of Leadership


A definition of leadership that would be widely accepted by the majority of theorists and researchers might say that "leadership is a process of social influence in which one person is able to enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task."

The major points of this definition are that leadership is a group activity, is based on social influence, and revolves around a common task. While this specification seems relatively simple, the reality of leadership is very complex. Intrapersonal factors (thoughts and emotions) interact with interpersonal processes (attraction, communication, and influence) to have effects on a dynamic external environment. Each of these aspects brings complexity to the leadership process. It is the purpose of this book to make that complexity a bit more manageable, increasing the ability to understand what effective leadership is.

This volume offers a comprehensive analysis and integration of the empirical research literature and major theories of leadership. It employs a functional analysis stressing what leaders must do to be effective and specifies the processes related to each function. The chapters provide an extensive review of the major approaches to leadership. Each chapter is discussed with an eye to explaining the basic principles, the research evidence, and where appropriate, the relationship of the theory or research program to other theories. In addition, this volume offers the most comprehensive treatment of cultural and gender factors in leadership of any recent book. The question of male-female differences in leadership style and performance is carefully analyzed against the empirical findings. The ultimate goal of this review of the literature is to provide a basis for the presentation of an integrative model of leadership that brings together function and process and provides an armature for integrating what is known.


Contemporary leadership theory has been described as complex, fragmented, and contradictory, making its study frustrating for the scholar and its application difficult for the practitioner. It is the thesis of this volume that leadership theory can be integrated and the empirical findings reconciled. In the chapters that follow, a comprehensive review of the leadership literature is attempted. Theories and approaches are compared and contrasted, searching for common elements and coherent perspectives. Finally, an integrative model is presented with implications for theory and practice.

The book provides basic overviews of the full range of contemporary leadership theory giving the neophyte scholar a broad introduction to the topic. In-depth analyses of the theoretical coherence and empirical support for specific theories provide the advanced researcher with alternative views and hopefully stimulating perspectives. The book is intended to serve as a supplement to advanced courses in social or organizational psychology and management studies.

Special emphasis is placed on cultural and subcultural issues. The book examines the cross-cultural generalizability of leadership theories developed in the United States and abroad. Potential differences in leadership style and performance between men and women and between Euro-American and minority group leaders are carefully scrutinized. Positivist and constructionist perspectives are compared with an eye to integrating the strongest points of each approach. Each chapter ends with a conclusions section designed to help the reader move toward an eventual integration.

Writing this book has been an fascinating and exhilarating enterprise. I have come away with an even greater appreciation for the ingenuity of my fellow scholars in the field of leadership. My adviser, Fred Fiedler, to whom I owe a great deal, once responded to a criticism of his theoretical approach as being too complicated. He replied, "One needs a pretzel-shaped theory to describe a pretzel- shaped universe." During the writing of this book, I sometimes felt that my desire to integrate complex and seemingly contradictory theories was giving me a pretzel-shaped psyche.

I received a variety of different kinds of support from many different quarters. The most important of this came, as always, from my wife, colleague, and friend . . .

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