Leadership Theories 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
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