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Nature of Leadership

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The large numbers of research papers and readings that exist on the nature of leadership theories underlines the importance that modern society ascribes to leadership. This paper will provide a brief overview of the significant contributions made to our understandings of the nature of leadership by theorists in the first half of the 20th century. The reasons as to how and why notions of leadership and management changed during this period will be reviewed. A review of the literature indicates four main generations of theory. These are (i) Trait theories: there are certain attributes which make a great leader. (ii) Behaviour theories: great leadership is based on what someone does. (iii) Contingency theories: interaction between leader and situation is important and (iv) Transformational theories: leaders are value driven change agents who high light the importance of tasks to followers. Van Maurik, J. (2001: 2-3) notes that none of the four generations is mutually exclusive or bound to a specific period. While there has been a sequential development in the theories elements from an earlier theory will appear again in the work of a more recent theory. These four groups of theories share some common qualities and are viewed as variations of the classical model of leadership. Doyle, M. E. and Smith, M. K. (2001) describe the classical view of leadership as sharing the following elements where leaders (i) tend to be identified by membership of the hierarchy (ii) become the people to whom others turn when they don't know what to do, or won't work things out for ourselves (iii) give direction and have vision. (iv) are able to create the gap between leaders and followers. Trait Theory grew from the observations and beliefs that leaders have personal qualities or characteristics that make them "good" leaders. These characteristics may include physical, personality and competency. Much of this literature was published between 1930 and 1950. The emphasis in this model was...