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Leadership is a phenomenon with universal appeal. Although much has been done on this topic but it has presented a major challenge to researchers and practitioners to understand the nature of leadership. Through the years leadership has been defined and conceptualized in different ways but most of them define it as an influence process that assist group of individuals towards goal attainment. Leadership is an exchange process in which both leaders and followers interact with each other.
Leadership is generally viewed as one of the most complex social process.(Fry & Kriger 2009). Leadership is the art of mobilizing others to want to struggle for shared aspirations.
Leadership practices kept on getting different shapes since past till today and will certainly keeps on shaping in the future. Interest in leadership increased during the early pat of twentieth century. Main focus of early theories was on the qualities that differentiate between leaders and followers, while subsequent theories focused on other variables as well like contingency factors etc. Early leadership theories focused on leader's characteristics (trait theory) and how leaders interact with his or her group members (behavioral theories).
Trait Leadership Theory:
Leadership consists of leaders, followers and situations, but trait approach only focuses on leaders. Trait approach was one of the first systematic attempts to study leadership in which research started by focusing on leader's traits that differentiate between leaders and non-leaders. Trait theory assumes that people are born with inherited characteristics. In other words, leaders were born, not made and leadership is rooted in characteristics of leaders. This assumption that leaders are born not made was taken from "Great Man Theory". The underlying concept of this theory was that leaders are from upper class. Great Man theory was named so because in those days, leadership was thought of primarily as a male quality.
Stogdill studied more than 124 studies conducted between 1904 and 1947. Stogdill (1948) stated that the aspect allied with leadership could be categorize under six broad directions: capacity (intelligence, alertness, originality and judgment); achievement (scholarship, knowledge); responsibility (reliability, inventiveness, determination assertiveness, self-assurance and the desire to excel); participation (activity, friendliness, teamwork, flexibility and absurdity); status (socioeconomic position and popularity) and situation (status, ability, wants and wellbeing of followers, objectives to be accomplished).
Bryman (1993) also talk about the principle that there are distinct attributes that distinguish a leader from a non-leader, these being physical features (height); personality factors: (extroverted); and ability related characteristics: (speech fluency).
Behavioral approach to Leadership:
Trait theory offers no explanation for relationship between individual characteristics and leaderships. This theory did not consider the impact of situational variables that moderate the relationship between leader traits and measures of effectiveness. As a re4sult of lack of consistent findings, linking individual traits to leadership effectiveness, empirical studies of leader's traits were largely abandoned in 1950s. In beginning of 1950s, focus of leadership research shifted away from leader traits to leader's behaviors. Purpose of this research was that the behavior exhibited by the leaders is more important than their physical, mental, emotional traits or internal state. Behavioral theories differentiate between effective leaders from ineffective leaders. Behavioral theories of leadership are based on the belief that great leaders are made, not born. According to this theory, people can learn to become leaders through training and observations, thus, anyone can become a leader if they want to. Leadership is composed of two general kinds of behaviors: task behavior and relationship behavior. Task behavior focus on goal accomplishment and help subordinates in achieving their behavior while relationship behavior help subordinates to feel comfortable at workplace. Central focus of this approach is to examine how leaders combine these two types of behavior in order to make subordinates to put their efforts to reach a goal.
Many studies have been conducted to investigate the behavioral approach. Some of the first studies were conducted at Ohio State University in late 1940s. At the same time, another group of researchers at Michigan University were studying leadership functions. These studies sparked hundreds of other leadership studies and are still widely used.
The Ohio Studies:
Group of researchers at Ohio studies analyzed how a group of individuals acted when they were leading a group or organization. For this purpose, complete questionnaire about leader was developed on that questionnaire, subordinates had to identify the no. of times their leaders engaged in certain kind of behavior. Questionnaire was composed of 150 questions and was called the Leader Behavioral Description Questionnaire. (Hemphill and Coons, 1957). Questionnaire was distributed among military, manufacturing companies and educational institutes. The result showed that the certain clusters of behaviors were typically of leaders. Researchers found that respondent's responses on the questionnaire clustered around two general types of leader's behavior: Initiating Structure and Consideration (Stogdill, 1974). Initiating Structure sometimes called task-oriented behavior, involves planning, organizing and coordinating the work of subordinates. Consideration involves showing concern for subordinates, being supportive, recognizing subordinates' accomplishments, and providing for subordinates welfare.
Many studies have been conducted to determine which style of leadership is most effective in a particular situation.
In some contexts, high consideration has been found to be most effective, but in other situations, high initiating structure has been found most effective. Some research has shown that being high on both behaviors is the best form of leadership.
The University of Michigan (1961 & 1967):
The Michigan leadership studies took place at about the same time as those at Ohio Studies. The focus of the Michigan studies was to determine the principles and methods of leadership that led to productivity and job satisfaction. The studies resulted in two general leadership behaviors or orientations: an employee orientation and production orientation (Likert). Leaders with an employee orientation showed genuine concern for interpersonal relations, while those with a production orientation focused on the task or technical aspects of the job. The supporters proposed that the more the leader is employee oriented, the lesser he'll be production oriented and vice versa. He suggested that employee oriented approach results in the most positive outcomes.
The Managerial Grid:
The behavioral dimensions from early behavioral leadership studies provided the basis for the development of a two dimensional grid for appraising leadership style. One concept based largely on behavioral approach to leadership effectiveness was the Managerial (or Leadership Grid) development by Robert Blake and Jane Mouton (1964). The Grid helps to explain how leaders help organizations to reach their purposes through two factors: concern for production and concern for people. It closely parallels the idea and findings that emerged in the Ohio State and University of Michigan Studies. Concern for production refers to how a leader is concerned with achieving organizational tasks. Concern for people refers to how a leader attends to the people in the organization who are trying to achieve its goals. In grid, concern for production has been placed on horizontal axis and leader's concern for people has been placed on vertical axis. Leaders' behavior was ranked on a scale of 1 (Low) to 9(high). The grid has 81 potential categories into which a leader's behavioral style might fall, emphasis was placed on five: authority compliance (9,1), country club management(1,9), impoverished management (1,1), middle of the road management(5,5), and team management(9,9).Researchers concluded that managers performed best when using a team management(9,9) style. It promotes a high degree of participation and team work in the organization a satisfied a basic need in employees to be involved and committed to their work. Team management approach cannot be affective in all situations. So leaders have to adapt their style according to follower's ability.
Situational Leadership Theory:
The assumption of the leader behavior was that there were certain behaviors that would be universally affective for leaders. Unfortunately, empirical research has not demonstrated consistent relationship between leader's behavior and leader effectiveness. The failure to attain a consistent relationship led to a new focus on situational influences. Like trait research, leader behavior research did not consider situational influences that might moderate the relationship between leader behavior and leader's effectiveness. As the name of approach implies, situational leadership focuses on leadership in different situations. The premise of the theory is that different situations demand different kind of leadership. From this perspective, to be an effective leader requires that a person adapts his or her style to the demands of different situations.
Contingencies theories gained prominence in 1960s and 1970s. Few of the situational leadership theories are discussed in next section.
The Fiedler Model (1967):
Fred Fiedler was the one who gave the first comprehensive contingency model. It specifies how situational factors interact with leaders traits and behaviors to influence leadership effectiveness. This theory proposed that effective group performance depends on the proper match between a leader's style of interacting with his or her followers and the degree to which the situation allowed the leader to control and influence. The theory suggests that the "constructivity" of the situation determine the effectiveness of task and person oriented leader behavior. Constructivity is determined by three things: leader follower relationship, task structures and the position power. Situation is constructive when followers respect and trust the leader, the task is highly structured and leader has control over rewards and punishments.
To measure leader's style, Fiedler developed Least Preferred Coworker (LPC) Questionnaire. In questionnaire researcher used 16 pairs of contrasting adjectives like hardworking-not hardworking, friendly-unfriendly. Leaders were asked to think of a coworker with whom they had tough time and rate them on bipolar scale ranging from 1 to 8(8 describes positive adjective while 1 describes negative adjective out of the pair). Fiedler believed that you could determine a person's basic leadership style on the basis of the responses to the LPC questionnaire. Fiedler concluded that high LPC score shows that leader is people/relationship oriented while low LPC score means that leader is task oriented. Fiedler research indicated that leaders were more effective either in highly favorable situation or highly unfavorable situation while relationship oriented leaders perform better in moderate situations.