Leadership is a complex phenomenon, involving the constant interaction of three essential elements: the leader, the followers, and the surrounding situation or context (Wren, 1995, p. 125). Enhancing leadership requires extensive knowledge about each element and the relationships of each element to the other. The execution of this knowledge determines the quality of the leadership skills, which is essential to the survival of the organization. As noted in Bass (1990), effective leadership makes a difference in the subordinates’ satisfaction and performance while making the difference in whether the organization succeeds or fails. Interest in historical leaders’ successes and failures in the political and work environment they faced; and the desire to develop the characteristics and behaviors of these leaders has resulted in the development and study of leadership theories.
This paper will provide the reader with an overview of the trait, power and influence; contingency, and behavioral theories supported by the expertise of scholars in the field of leadership studies. In this paper I will address the similarities and differences between these theories as evidenced from the research and practice of respectable leadership scholars. In conclusion, a brief analysis will follow identifying how each theory addresses contemporary leadership issues and challenges faced by leaders today. Trait Theories
Based on the assumptions that leaders are born with inherited traits particularly suited to leadership, the trait theory states good leaders have a sufficient combination of traits. Theorists have complied lists of favorable or unfavorable leadership traits that date back to the 1920s, supporting the assumption that leaders are born and not made. As noted in Kilpatrick and Locke (1991) in the Wren (1995) text, recent research has made it clear that successful leaders are not like other people and that certain core traits contribute to business leaders’ success.
Kilpatrick and Locke identified six traits on which leaders differ from non-leaders. These traits include possessing the drive to be an achiever; to be ambitious in their work and careers; to be energetic and full of life; to have tenacity and be persistent; and show a high- level of initiative. Kilpatrick and Locke further noted studies have shown that leaders have a strong desire to lead and influence others through leadership motivation. Honesty and integrity; having the self confidence to arouse others’ motivation; possessing strong analytical and judgmental skills; and having a high degree of knowledge about the organization were other traits identified by Kilpatrick and Locke as traits of effective leaders. Power and Influence Theories
The Power and Influence theories are based on the relationships between people rather than the abilities of people. The power and influence emanated from the leader shapes the interactions of the people. Identified by Curphey, Ginnett and Hughes (1993) in the Wren text, power is the capacity to produce effects on others or the potential to change attitudes, values, beliefs, or behaviors.
As noted by McFadden, Eakin and Beck-Frazier (2005) in the Academic Exchange Quarterly, the power and influence perspective focuses on the use of power by effective leaders; identifying approaches such as social power and social exchange to implement power. Curphy, Ginnett and Hughes further evaluated five sources of power by which an individual can influence others. These sources include expert power, which is the power of knowledge; and referent power, which refers to the strength of the relationship between the leader and the followers. Other sources of power are legitimate power, which depends on the leader’s role; and reward power, which relates to the potential to influence others because of one’s control over desired resources. A final source of power...