Evaluating the Theories and Factors Affecting Leadership

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Harry W. More, W. Fred Wegner, Gennaro F. Vito, and William F. Walsh state" The term personality is usually used to mean the unique combination of ways of thinking and behaving that make an individual who he or she is"(p.54). Some people make loose use of psychological terms like extrovert and introvert to describe personality. These labels convey a brief impressionistic description of the individual being referred to. Categorizing personalities can be useful to leaders because there is evidence to show that personality can influence behavior. Awareness of personality can be useful to leaders because it can allow them to predict the behavior of peers, supervisors, and employees.


There are many theories about how people develop personality. Four basic assumptions about human behavior, known as interactional psychology are drawn from one of those theories and they are:

Behavior is a function of continuous, multidirectional-interaction between the situation and the person.

The person is active in the process, both by being changed by it and changing the situation.

People differ in many characteristics, including motivation, ability, cognition, and effect.

Both the individual's subjective view and the objective are very important.

It is extremely important that leaders thoroughly understand the various theories of personality in order to asses the way people behave in their organizations. Several theories have been proposed. Psychoanalytical theory, humanistic theory, and trait theory are most prominent among them. They present a different perspective of personality, and have detractors and supporters. No specific theory of personality development explains all variation in behavior, however, leaders who understand various theories have taken the first step in dealing with the complexity of human behavior-interpersonal, group, individual, or organized.

Interactional psychology attributes human behavior jointly to the nature, situation, continued interaction between the two, and the personality of the individual. This makes personality a very significant consideration for police executives within an organization because it influences how personnel evaluate the demands and react to the demands of their work environment. For instance, an achievement oriented police officer will evaluate each working situation in terms of its potential to aid his or her career advancement. These individuals are more apt to pursue special training, develop expertise needed by others, and volunteer for unattractive assignments all with the intent of achieving the highest possible achievement or recognition in the shortest possible time. To the contrary, officers who are strongly influenced by the officer peer group culture will adjust their behavior to conform to the work group's often anti-organizational view of the world (More, Wegner, Vito, and Walsh, p.57).


Culture is another determinant of personality. Culture is a system of shared values, attitudes, beliefs, and meanings that guide individual behavior. This system is acquired by individuals through their interactions with significant others such as peers, teachers, and parents in a process called socialization. Culture socialization, reconditions and conditions individuals providing them with an accepted system of norms that structures their day-to-day behavior. More, Wegner, Vito, and Walsh (2006) state" Organizational theorist believe that culture is the hidden meaning behind behavior and that it must be understood and observed by managers if they wish to change behavior"(p.57). The organization's core values are held and widely shared in a strong culture. The more members who accept and believe in these core values, the greater the organization's commitment to those values and the stronger the culture will be.

Recognizing how the traits we are born with, the beliefs and attitudes we acquired through socialization influence us will add to our understanding of the human personality. Each occasion is different. Differences may appear small, but when filtered by a person's cognitive mediation process (perception) they can lead to quite large diverse behavioral outcomes and subjective differences. Under certain circumstances an individual can react in ways almost foreign to his or her personality. Police officers have performed heroically, many times, placing their lives at risk, when if the had considered the event rationally and logically, they may have never reacted as they did. In other instances, police officers fully aware of what is right, and the potential of what is wrong, have engaged in illegal behavior for personal gain or acted unethically. Police executives should be careful when generalizing about the way subordinates behave unless he or she has taken into account the nature of each situation. They must know the weaknesses and strengths of each employee being supervised. Altering the situation instead of spending a great deal of time addressing those weaknesses may be a priority. For instances, when handling a new employee, a first-line supervisor may choose to minimize their involvement in situations requiring close supervision.

Human Relations and Effective Leadership

Stephen P. Robbins and David De Cenzo (2001) remind us, "Human relationship skills focus on your ability to work with, understand and motivate those around you" (p.310) Individuals who have good human relationship skills allow them to be able to communicate their vision to workers. Also, it means listening to what they have to say. First class leaders do not know it alls, however, he or she freely encourage and accepts participation from followers. People skills are human relationship skills. They go hand in hand. It is the supporting, facilitating, and coaching workers within the organization. Leaders must understand themselves, and be confident about their abilities.

Robbins and De Cenzo (2001) state "There's one aspect that's almost a guarantee with respect to leadership-that is if you fail as a leader, it likely won't be because you lack technical skills"(p.310). Instead, it is more likely that a leader's followers have lost respect for them because of their lack of human relationship skills. If that happens, a leader's ability to influence others will be hopelessly damaged. One of the most interesting concepts of leadership is that skills and traits are difficult for followers to distinguish. Therefore, followers define leadership by the behaviors they see in leaders. As the saying goes "actions speak louder than words".

Leadership Styles and Behaviors

Several studies examined behavioral styles. The most simulated and most comprehensive of the behavioral theories resulted from research that started in the 1940s at Ohio State University. This study identified the magnitude of leadership behavior. They eventually lessened the list down to categories that accounted for most of the leadership behavior described by their subordinates. These are best identified as employee centered and task centered behaviors.

Contingency Theory

Behavioral and trait theories were attempts to find the best leadership style for all situations. It became apparent that there is no best leadership style for all situations in the late 1960s. Both the University of Michigan and Ohio State Studies discovered that no one set of leadership behavior is effective in all situations. Robert N. Lussier(2002) state" Contingency leadership theory is Fiedler's model used to determine if one's leadership style is task or relationship oriented, and if the situation matches the leader's style"(p.237). Fidler suggest that unsuccessful leaders change the situation instead of their leadership style.

Leadership Style: The first important factor is to determine whether one's leadership style is relationship or task oriented. The leader must fill in the Least Preferred Coworker (LPC) scales. Then he or she must determine the favorableness of the leader's situation.

Situational Favorableness: Situation favorableness refers to the degree to which a situation allows the leader to influence the followers. Robert N. Lussier(2001) in his text states" Three variables, in order of importance are:

1. Leader -member relations- Is the relationship good or poor? Do the followers trust, respect, accept, and have confidence in the leader? Is it a friendly, tension-free situation?

Leaders with good relations have more influence the better the relations, the more favorable the situation.

2. Task structure- Is the task structured or unstructured? Do employees perform routine, unambiguous, standard task that are easily understood? Leaders in a structured situation have more influence. The more structured the jobs are, the more favorable the situation.

3. Position power- Is the position power strong or weak? Does the leader have the power to assign work, reward, and punish, hire and fire, and give raises or promotions? The leader with position power has more influence; the more power, the more favorable the situation (Lussier. 2001, p.237).


People oriented leadership emphasize interpersonal relationships with followers. This type of leadership is concerned with the needs of employees. Interactions are characterized as supportive, friendly, and trusting. Also, this kind of leadership is sensitive to feelings and concerns for employees. Task oriented leaders have a tendency to emphasize the task or technical aspects of the job. This kind of leadership is more concerned with making sure employees know what is expected of them and providing guidance for the goals to be met. According to this type of leadership, employees are a means to an end. In order to achieve goals, employees have to do their jobs. Task oriented leaders are happy as long as employees do their jobs. Referring to a production-oriented person as a leader is a misnomer. In a sense, this individual does not lead, but simply ensures compliance with regulations, production goals, and state rules.