A Critical Review of Leadership Research Development

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International Journal of Business and Management

August, 2006

A Critical Review of Leadership Research Development
Jun Liu Business School, Renmin University of China, Beijing 100872, China Xiaoyu Liu School of Labor Relations & Human Resources, Renmin University of China, Beijing 100872, China Abstract Leadership research has gone through several phases of development in the past 80 years or so. The paper identifies the major theories in each phase, and investigates the strengths and weaknesses of the research. Among those theories, transformational/charismatic leadership and leader-member exchange (LMX) are heavily discussed. The paper also discusses the future trend of research in leadership areas. Keywords: Review, Transformational Leadership, LMX Leadership can be defined as a process that an individual influences a group of individuals to implement strategies and achieve the collective goals (Yukl, 2002). Research in the area seeks to find out what types of leaders are likely to be successful and what factors determine leadership effectiveness. Generally, leadership research has gone though four paradigms: trait approach, behavioral approach, situational approach, and the contemporary theories of leadership. The paradigms of leadership theories shift with the progress from static to dynamic view of leadership with the trait and behavioral theories reflecting a personal, the situational theories an interpersonal, and the contemporary theories a relational approach to conceptualizing leadership. That is to say leadership has been examined as intrapersonal competencies, interpersonal processes, and relational dynamics. More specifically, I review those approaches, their strengths and weaknesses as followed: The trait approach The trait theories assumed that leaders were born, not made. In the literature, Stogdill (1948, 1974) completed two comprehensive reviews by synthesizing more than 200 studies of the trait approach. His two surveys identified a group of traits that were positively associated with leadership such as intelligence, self-confidence, initiative, and persistence. However, Stogdill concluded that no combination of traits would guarantee leadership effectiveness. An individual does not become a leader solely because he or she possessed certain traits. Rather, the traits have to be relevant to situations in which the leader is functioning, thus situation should also be a part of leadership. Moreover, his studies showed that leadership was not a passive and static state but resulted from a working relationship between the leader and other group members. In essence, Stogdill’s research invoked the development of the later leadership approaches. The behavioral approach Behavioral theories focus on leader behaviors and assume that effective leaders are common in their behavior modes. Most of behavioral theories relied on the Ohio and Michigan’s studies (Stogdill, 1948), which described leadership styles based on the two dimensions of initiating structure (concern jobs and tasks, often called task-oriented behavior) and considerations (concern people and interpersonal relationships, often called relation-oriented behavior). The simple two-factor model provided a good starting point and basis for later researchers to conceptualize leadership. For example, Blake and Mouton (1964) joined the two dimensions in a model called “Leadership Grid” to describe various leadership styles. To enrich the two-factor model, later theorists also identified some supplementary leader 3

International Journal of Business and Management

August, 2006

behaviors, for example, the participative behavior involving power sharing, delegating, and empowering (Lewin, Lippitt, and White, 1939; Miller and Monge, 1986). A key research issue in the behavioral approach is the influence of the two behavioral dimensions on organizational outcomes. Task-oriented behavior is found positively associated with subordinate performance,...
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