Sunday, February 21, 2010

Leadership Theories Introduction

Which type of leader are you?


The following material is a high level summary of twelve approaches/theories in leadership. Each section covers a theory/approach to leadership. The sections cover the basic assumptions, references, diagrams, leadership instruments, strengths and weaknesses. This summary is based on the following books:
  1. Leadership Theory and Practice, Peter G. Northouse, Third Edition.
  2. Management of Organizational Behavior, Paul Hersey, Seventh Edition
On Leadership
In perusing these materials, I did not find a simple answer or recipe for leadership. As suspected, leadership is a part of all us at home,  in our business, and our community. What was extremely beneficial to me was that reading through the various theories, and case studies, I was able to  identify with many of these examples and situations. It had enriched me with an insight about myself and those I interact  with. Frequently, after reading a paragraph, I would relate a particular situation or method  to a behavior that I or someone I know was engaged in.

It is that very awareness of both my personal and other people's behaviors that makes leadership possible. I am the first to admit that learning about all these approaches to leadership does not automatically make one a good leader, but they give a tremendous insight and the possibility to become a better one.

My own view is that "Leadership is a process to change or create something from what otherwise would  be chaos. It must be highly flexible and demands awareness, skills, and sensitivity. It is highly dependent on situations. Leadership is being human." In my view, the combination of the majority of these approaches and theories is the true leadership theory. They are all equally eye opening for everyone in the organization.

Management vs Leadership

There are of course distinctions between the concepts of Management and Leadership. This is however another in depth discussion. For the sake of this summary, they will both be synonymous in the upcoming sections with the exception of the snippet below.

The  classical  description  of management  work  comes  from Drucker  (1973). He  has  defined  five basic  functions  of  a management  job.  They  are  planning,  organizing,  controlling,  motivating  and coordinating. This is the basis for many later role definitions.

Leaders have different roles to accomplish. Maybe the best known  definition comes from Bennis between a leader and a manager. In his classic “On becoming a leader” (1989, 44-45) he has written about the differences of leaders and managers as follows:


-  The manager administers;  the leader innovates.
-  The manager is a copy; the leader is an original.
-  The manager maintains; the leader develops.
-  The manager focuses on systems and structure; the leader focuses on people.
-  The manager relies on control; the leader inspires trust.
-  The manager has a short-range view; the leader has a long-range perspective.
-  The manager asks how and when; the leader asks what and why.
-  The manager has eye always on the bottom line; the leader has his eye on the horizon.
-  The manager imitates; the leader originates.
-  The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it.
-  The manager is the classic good soldier; the leader is his own person.
-  The manager does things right; the leader does the right things.

Leadership Theories
It should be clear that leadership can be defined in many different ways. As you read about theories and research on leadership in later sections, you will recognize that the theorists and researchers each had his/her own definitions of leadership, and that they focus on somewhat different aspects of the job requirements of a leader. An example of a theory that is not covered in the upcoming sections, but is worth noting is the decision tree approach.
The decision tree approach presented by Victor Vroom is focused entirely on whether  leader chooses to make a decision on his/her own or if the group should be involved in the decision. In this approach, you ask a series of yes/no questions and based on the response to each to each branch, the decision tree takes you to the next question or to a final decision.
The questions of the decision tree involve whether the leader has the information necessary to make the decision, whether the decision has quality requirements, whether the followers have the information necessary, whether they are likely to accept the decision if the leader makes it alone, and so forth. The process is designed to help the leader make or delegate the decision. 
This approach clearly focuses on one aspect of leadership (decision making) This is an example of a contingency theory of leadership
One distinction to keep in mind while reading the material is the difference between emergent and assigned leadership. Many of the approaches and theories set forth deal with emergent leadership and few of them talk about the assigned leadership roles.
The  self-monitoring scale
The self-monitoring scale was designed to measure the extent to which a person is sensitive to the expectations of others in a social situation. It also measures the extent to which the person is able to shape his or her behavior to match those expectations. Both the males and females received varying scores on the self-monitoring scale, but only the females' scores were related to the number of leadership nominations they received. The explanation that Gary Odous came up with goes as follows: The female students were a distinct minority in the class. Each study group had one or two females among the seven or eight students making up the group. The class is offered in the college of business, where the majority of the students are male. As a result, we might assume that the subject matter of the class--and indeed the class itself--might be considered a masculine-oriented activity. For a female member of the study group to emerge as a leader, she had to recognize the masculine demands of the situation and conform her behavior to those demands. The women who had high self-monitoring scores were better able to do this than those with low self-monitoring scores.

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