Pros and Cons of Leadership Theories

Topics: Leadership, Management, Situational leadership theory Pages: 7 (2123 words) Published: February 17, 2008
After the Japanese "miracle" had come to be recognized within America and Total Quality Management (TQM) had begun making fledgling appearances in American manufacturing, W. Edwards Deming, the so-called "father of TQM" gave us his famous 14 Points for the purpose of enabling the manufacturer to operate under the principles of TQM and the participatory management style that it requires. Several of Deming's (1986) 14 Points conclude with the statement, "substitute leadership" (p. 26). Even now, 20 years later, there is still confusion over the differences between management and leadership. There are several leadership theories, most of which are applicable to differing environments and situations. The purpose of this paper is to examine and practically apply four of those theories of leadership: Situational Leadership, Contingency Theory, Path-Goal Theory and Leader Member Exchange

Situational Leadership
Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard's Situational Leadership Model (SLM) is a variation of contingency theory and as described by Monoky (1998), does "not prescribe a single leadership style, but identifies the three essential elements of task behavior, relationship behavior and … ‘level of maturity'" (p.142) to result in four possible styles of communication and task accomplishment. This model provides variation in task complexity and the relationships between workers and managers in each. An example of a high task – low relationship variation is that which generally can be seen between low- or semi-skilled workers and production managers. The other end of the spectrum is the low task – high relationship variation in which results are measured not in units produced per hour but take such forms as computer programs written for specific purposes; cost savings achieved through process improvement; or marketing innovation emerging from a "brainstorming" session.

Example Application of Situational Leadership
The bottom line of situational theory is that leadership and management take different forms according to the needs of the situation. The factory worker may or may not need more personal direction than does the marketer, but the factory worker has less ability to be creative in approaching the tasks associated with their job. Examine a hypothetical situation faced by the leader of an assembly line producing circuit boards. This leader is facing the problem of lack of cohesive effort among the dozen workers on the line, all of whom are women holding 4-year college degrees and working far below their abilities on a repetitive, monotonous assembly line. Situational leadership indicates that the leader's role should be "low relationship" because of the "high task" nature of the work. This would be true in most cases involving repetitive factory work, but it would not really be conducive to solving the problems of boredom on this particular assembly line. As is the case with most theories, this one describes several scenarios well but still cannot address all situations. There are many exceptions, as Cairns, Hollenback, Preziosi and Snow (1998) found in a study of blanket applicability of situational leadership theory.

Contingency Theory
Fiedler's Contingency model makes some of those allowances that situational theory does not, and also incorporates the nature of the situation in determining which direction leadership takes within contingency theory. In this model, leadership style is described in terms of task and relationship motivation as well, and situational favorableness is determined by three factors:

1."Leader-member relations - Degree to which a leader is accepted and supported by the group members. 2."Task structure - Extent to which the task is structured and defined, with clear goals and procedures. 3."Position power - The ability of a leader to control subordinates through reward and punishment" (Contingency Models, 2006).

Situational favorableness is determined by the...
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