Leadership Theories

Topics: Leadership, Situational leadership theory, Management Pages: 5 (1290 words) Published: March 30, 2011


Leadership History Tatiana M. Castaneda Vasquez Regent University



When power no longer guarantees the success, leadership becomes essential. In search of understand the secret behind outstanding leadership, history has created and revealed leadership theories, starting with Great Man approach, the identification of Trait and Characteristics, and later shifting to Behavior Theory, fomenting Contingency and Influence Models, concluding with Emerging Leadership. When environmental and societal changes occurred, the approaches were modified as scholar attempt of interpreting society and the impact that leaders have in history.



Historical Evolution of Leadership Thought since 1900’s To Present Leadership is defined as “an influence relationship among leaders and followers who intend real changes and outcomes that reflect their shared purposes.” (Daft, 2005, p.31). This influence has been periodically evaluated through indicators like quality and results (Maxwell, 2004, p.48) influencing the different approaches. Because an effective vision within leadership directly stimulates the achievement of a common goal (Northouse, 2007, p.3), Maxwell unmistakably states that “failure or success depend on leadership” (Maxwell, 2004, p.35). The requisite of an outstanding leader who can communicate a shared vision towards motivated followers is, therefore, maximized. The purpose of this paper is to present an overview of the progressive theories of leadership, as well as motivating leaders to continue influencing positively a constantly evolving environment. Great Man Theories (GMT) GMT, the earliest approach (Daft, 2005, p.23), was popularized by Carlyle (1840’s) and influenced by assuming that the ability of leadership is inherit to a “Great Man” who would upsurge as a great need, equal to his capacities, would rise. This protagonist role was “reserved for male sex” (Daft, 2005, p.23) and depicted as heroic, mythological and others, including Ghandi, Aquiles, and Lincoln. Carlyle defended that "the history of the world is but the biography of great men” (Carlyle,1888), nevertheless, supreme rebuttal for this theory was promoted by Spencer (1860) stating that “such great men are the products of their societies, and that their actions would be impossible without the social conditions built before their lifetime” (Carneiro, 1981, p.171-2.)



Plato’s Republic inquires: “What qualities distinguish an individual as a leader?” and Trait theories responded: “the distinguished personal characteristics of a leader” (Daft, 2005, p.46). Physical, mental and psychological innate traits, were required for outstanding direction, and any individual who portrayed them could be considered a potential leader. Even though Daft (2005) stated, “if traits could be identified, leaders could be predicted” (Daft, 2005, p.23.), the ineffectiveness to generate a list of universal leadership qualities made it impossible to predict successful leadership (Daft, 2005). In addition, external influences can alter the individual leadership potential. The importance of a particular trait depends on a specific situation, and the infructuous attempt to rely solely on personal traits became the platform for behavior theories. Behavior Theories (BT) Contrary to previous theories, BT foments leadership as accessible to anyone who behaves properly (whether learned or natural). The premise is defined as the “predominance of leadership actions instead of activities.” (Komives, Lucas, & MchMahon, 1998, p.38). Leadership behaviors and abilities have been subject to various investigations. While scholars agree that leadership can manifest either autocratic or democratic, Ohio State Studies (1957) established the importance of consideration and initiating-structure abilities, and the University of Michigan identified employee and job-centered...

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