Are Leaders Born or Made? Dubrin, 2009
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Published: Mon, 24 Jul 2017
Leadership is a process by which individuals influence employees toward the achievement of organizational objectives (Dubrin, 2009). Leadership is probably the most frequent researched subject in the organization sciences. Many studies of leadership have been published and many leadership articles have been written in business-oriented publications and academic journals and books. Leadership has been researched in various different ways, depending on the methodological preferences of the researcher leadership definition (Achua, 2009). Most scholars deal only with leadership’s one narrow aspect, and as a result, most of the studies fall into distinct lines of research which include leader traits, behaviour, power and influence, and situational approaches.
Are leaders born or made? This question has always dominated and still continues to dominate the leadership study (Dubrin, 2009). Although many research papers have been written, little to no conclusive evidence can be researched; the leadership topic remains elusive (Achua, 2009). However, with fifty years or more of study, some of the contributing factors or origins of leadership have become clearer. While no predictive model exists, scholars know what leads to leadership. One difficulty in discussing the leadership is its definition. Burt Nanus and Warren Bennis (Torrington and Hall, 2008) report ore that three hundred definitions of leadership that leadership researchers have generated over the last three decades.
Leaders always have important effects on employees and businesses they lead. Because of this aspect, psychologists and behavioural researchers have studied what makes a good leader (Achua, 2009). The early researches held that characteristics of a leader were stable and inborn and thus leadership traits were looked in this research (Achua, 2009). The majority of the research done on traits during the first half of the 20th century involved finding the correlations between criterion of leader success and leader’s characteristics. In an influential review of the research through the late 1940’s, Stogdill (1948 cited by Northouse, 2009) sounded a discouraging tone concerning finding a set of traits that would indicate strong leader. Stogdill’s review stated the problem that although defining a set of traits for a good leader is possible, the importance of the traits for good leadership changes with the situation. After this important assessment the overall emphasis in leadership research shifted from defining traits towards identifying and focusing on different types of behaviour that made leaders more or less effective (Northouse, 2009). Behaviours are thought to be more flexible than traits and can be easily taught to managers for their effectiveness. The shift by researchers like Halpin and Winer, 1957; Flesihman, 1953; Harris, 1962; Katz and Kahn, 1952; Hemphill and coons, 1957; Macoby and Morse, 1952 (All cited in Northouse, 2009) from traits suggests that it was necessary to search the natural born leader to carry out the leadership responsibilities. Sometimes after the rise in importance of behavioural perspective in the leadership literature, researcher became aware that there was another important set of factors that helped determine the effectiveness of leaders. This area of research focused on the aspects of the situation in which the leader was placed, and how those situational aspects influenced the leader’s effectiveness (Amos, 2008). As this research explore empirically the research made it increasingly apparent that different leadership traits or behaviour maybe more effective in different situations. No fewer than six major theories use different situational factors to try to explain leadership effectiveness. These theories include: path-goal theory of House and Mitchell (1974 cited by Miner, 2009), Hersey and Blanchard’s situational leadership theory (1977 cited by Miner, 2009), leadership substitutes theory (Kerr and Jermier, 1978 cited by Miner, 2009), multiple linkage model (Yukl, 1971 cited by Northouse, 2009), LPC contingency model (Fiedler, 1964 cited by Griffin and Moore head, 2009), and cognitive resources theory (Fieder, 1986 cited by Northouse, 2009). By exploring these different perspectives researchers and theorists have uncovered many important influences on leadership effectiveness, and in the process the leadership literature has become broader and more meaningful. It is fairly clear all three of these approaches (trait, behavioural and contingency), have made a contribution to explaining the effectiveness of leaders. Few models and frameworks have tried to incorporate all three approaches covered in the empirical literature like Vroom, 1997 and Yukl, 1998 (cited by Miner, 2009).
The Trait Approach:
Trait approach, which was the earliest to be engaged, seeks to identify the leaders’ traits. This style assumes that some people are born to lead because of their personal qualities, while others are not (Dubrin, 2009). This approach also suggests that leadership is only accessible to the chosen ones and not available to all. Early researchers focused on traits that researchers were able to measure like physical characteristics, aspects of personality and aptitudes. More recent trait research has narrowed the focus to more specific traits like stress tolerance, energy level, emotional maturity, integrity and self-confidence. Reviews of the trait research have found all of the above traits to be related to managerial effectiveness (Bass, 1990; Kirkpatrick and Locke, 1996; Yukl, 1989 cited by Northouse, 2009). Kilpatrick and Locke, (1991 cited by Northouse, 2009) combined the results of different studies on leadership in their meta-analysis. They found some consistency around the following traits: the motivation to lead, drive to achieve, self-confidence, including the ability to withstand setbacks, honesty and integrity, cognitive ability, standing firm and being emotionally resilient, and knowledge of the business. Northouse (1997 cited by Northouse, 2009)) also provides a useful comparison of the lists of traits uncovered in other studies.
The Behavioural Approach:
This approach focuses on the leader’s behaviour, the manner in which they work with and through other people in getting work done to achieve organisational goals (Achua, 2009). This approach proposes that leadership is available to all people and can be learned as behaviour. This leadership theory focus on what leaders do and believe that the observable patterns of leadership behaviour, called styles, are the most important characteristics of effective leadership. Early research (Lewin, Lippitt and White, 1939 cited by NOrthouse, 2009) distinguished between three broad leadership styles: democratic, autocratic and laissez-faire. Central to the behavioural approach is the distinction between two broad categories of leadership behaviour, namely people/employee oriented behaviours aimed at meeting the social/emotional needs of employees and production/job/task oriented behaviours, aimed at the work methods and task accomplishments of the employees (Lickert, 1961 and House, 1971 cited by Northouse, 2009). The Blake and mountain (1964, cited by Northouse) model of leadership is also based on the idea that all leaders have two major independent concerns: Production and people. By focusing on more specific behaviours researchers have found a number of behaviours that relate to leadership effectiveness e.g. Podskoff, Todor, Grover and Huber (1984 cited by Noryhouse, 2009) have found the positive reward behaviour usually increases subordinate satisfaction and performance.
Traits are useful because they can be measured and help predict behaviours. Behaviours are crucial because they are the manifestations of traits that lead to leadership effectiveness. Although the behavioural theorists focus on behaviour, it’s important to realize that leaders’ behaviour is based on their traits and skills. Both forms of leadership have a close relation or association with employee motivation. Leadership behaviour or style does have a significant impact on motivation of employees. Motivation is the key trait of leadership (Torrington and Hall, 2008). Reaching a high level of leadership needs strong sense of self-motivation within. To be a leader, it is essential to recognize what motivates the employees. Leading can be used to channel motivation into practical use. Achieving leadership and promoting motivation requires a variety of skills that people in the organization can practice. Some are naturally talented to lead and born with these skills and some learn to achieve it. Many persons have a tendency for leadership; some learn successful behaviours of a leader and go on to become effective leaders. Leadership is the ability of a person to influence employees in an organization. It requires understanding of what motivates people. Leaders not just want to influence people but things as well to continue or create change. It takes a person with certain skills to do the task. According to many studies (Northouse, 2009), leaders have a strong desire to lead. Motivation by leaders involves their desire to influence and lead people and is often equated with the need of power. Their willingness to assume responsibility is frequently found in leaders. Same phenomena always work for leading and motivating factor. It is very clear that the effective leadership’s strength lies in learning and understanding a wide range of skills from implementing and even in inspiring employees towards achieving excellence and effective organizational performance. Effective leadership displays how to make the most of ‘learning to lead’ opportunities by observing through formal training or through careful evaluation of practical experience. This is what is required ultimately for the success of any organization.
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