Leadership - Charismatic Individuals or Contingent Characteristics? A brief analysis of charismatic and situational leaders, leadership and styles. Linesh Palayadan, Cass Business School, City university London, UK.
“Men make history and not the other way around. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skilful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better” - Harry S. Truman
It goes without saying that human beings couldn’t have achieved what they have achieved if they had not worked in groups. Teamwork is probably one of the most important “inventions” of mankind which does not get explicitly mentioned when one refers about the tools and evolution of human beings from the pre-historic times. None of the magnificent creations of human beings we see today could have been possibly achieved without humans coming in teams and working for a common goal. Teams by themselves cannot be successful if they do not have a clear direction or vision. The team is bound to fail in achieving the results if there is no coordination, synchronisation and communication between team members. The concept of team itself comes into existence only because of the arising of a necessity or a goal that would benefit the society, and the means to achieve it cannot be implemented by an individual, however able and skilful he or she may be. Members of the team can be of extremely different personalities, skills and characteristics and every member has his/her own ideas on how to achieve the common goal. It is precisely at this point that the need for a leader arises. What is required is a leader who can channel the necessary skills from the team members towards the common goal and maintain the harmony and coordination between them at the same time. Numerous theories have been postulated on how a leader should be and what the characteristics of the leader should be. Some theories hypothesised that leaders cannot be made but are born and those personalities or so called “traits” cannot be cultivated in a person who is not already a born leader while others strongly suggested that given the right circumstances, leaders emerge based on situations and contingencies. Organisations put forward certain requirements for interviewing candidates for its key posts. We all have come across requirements in Job advertisements like good communications, effectiveness in groups, taking initiative, firm under pressure etc. (S Fineman, Y Gabriel, D Sims, 2011). Are these the only qualities of leaders? Can a person with those qualities be successful as a leader? Do these qualities exist as inborn traits in a person? Or can these qualities be inculcated in a person through training and development? What are the different kinds of leaders? What makes a leader outstanding from others? These are some of the questions that we will try to analyse with the help of some specific theories which have been proposed before. Two main theories that propose the idea that the qualities required for leadership are inborn in the person or are “traits” of an individual are the “Trait theory” and “Charismatic leadership theory”. While the Trait theory has its origins in the early twentieth century, charismatic leadership theory is more recent and is more or less a return to trait theory. The Trait leadership concept was proposed in Thomas Carlyle’s “great man” theory where he proposed that “The history of the world is but the biography of great men"(Carlyle, 1907). He believed that leaders have certain immutable traits which cannot be developed in others. Remarkable developments in behavioural sciences since have led to the decline in favour for the great man theory (David L Cawthon, 1996). The charismatic leadership theory states that the leaders have an innate set of abilities or charisma which cannot be explained (Conger & Kanungo, 1988). These leaders first try to understand the opportunities, possibilities and...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document