3 Important Organizational Leadership Theories

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A person should have certain characteristics to be an effective leader. Various theories are given to explain these characteristics. The three most important theories are trait theories, behavior theories and contingency theories.

Trait Theories

According to this theory, leaders are born with special characteristics that make them unique and different from others. But according to great person theory of leadership, the traits of a leader can be learnt with experience and training. These theories gave importance to the personality traits of a leader only.

Behavioral Theories

The Ohio State Studies, the managerial grid, the Scandinavian studies and the University of Michigan Studies are the four behavioral theories. All these theories emphasize on the behavioral characteristics of leaders.

The Ohio State Studies

These studies identified two dimensions- initiating structure and consideration. In initiating structure, a leader assigns the tasks to his or her subordinates and put pressure on them to complete the work on time. The leader makes his or her best effort to maintain the required standards of performance. In consideration, a leader treats all his or her subordinates equally. He or she encourages them to give their ideas and opinions. The leader supports his or her subordinates and helps them in their work related problems. The leaders who adopt both the dimensions are able to get the best performance from their subordinates.

The Managerial Grid

It identified following types of leadership styles namely impoverished style of leadership, country club style of leadership, authoritarian style of leadership and team management style of leadership. In impoverished style of leadership, leaders are not concerned either about people or work. In country club style of leadership, leaders are more concerned about people than work. In authoritarian style of leadership, leaders are more concerned about work than people. In team management style of leadership, leaders are equally concerned about both people and work.

The Scandinavian Studies

These studies develop a new dimension called development-oriented behavior. Leaders having this kind of behavior experiment with new ideas and techniques. They accept changes quickly if it is for the betterment of the organization.

University of Michigan studies

These studies develop two types of dimensions- employee oriented and production oriented. In employee oriented dimension, leaders take care of the needs of their subordinates. In production oriented dimension, leaders give special attention to tasks and goals. They do not pay attention to the problems of their employees. Such attitude results in low productivity. Employees are also not motivated to give their best performance.

Contingency Theories

These theories imply that there is no one style of leadership that can work in all the situations. Leaders need to change their style according to the prevailing situation. There are five contingency models- Fiedler’s contingency model, leader-member exchange theory, path goal theory, leadership-participation model and Hersey and Blanchard’s situational theory.

Fiedler’s Contingency Model

This model was developed by Fred Fiedler and his associates. According to this model, a particular leadership style is chosen by the leader keeping in mind the situation he or she faces at that time. The favorability or unfavorability of a situation is judged on the following parameters-

Leader-Member Relationships

  • If the subordinates accept their leader then he or she scores high on this parameter.
  • Position Of The Leader
  • It refers to the power given to a leader.
  • Degree Of Task Structure
  • It refers to the degree of performing a particular task efficiently.
  • Fiedler’s model suggests that a leader should adopt a particular leadership style after considering three factors- people, organization and task.

Leader-Member Exchange Theory

According to this theory, leaders favor a particular group of subordinates known as in-group and give them more attention than other groups of subordinates known as out-group. The subordinates who belong to in-group are given special privileges by their leaders. Leaders select in-group members on the basis of their personality characteristics and attitudes.

Path Goal Theory

This theory was developed by Robert House. According to this theory, leaders should support and guide their subordinates so that they could achieve organizational goals and objectives. If the subordinates are facing any problem in their work then the leader should help them to find solutions for their problems. The subordinates accept their leader if he or she takes care of their needs, guides, supports and rewards them. The path-goal theory identifies four types of leadership- directive leadership, participative leadership, supportive leadership and achievement oriented leadership.

In directive leadership, the leader gives work to his or her subordinates and explains them the methods of performing it. In participative leadership, the leader allows his or her subordinates to give their suggestions and considers them seriously before making a decision. In supportive leadership, the leader considers the problems and needs of his or her subordinates. In achievement oriented leadership, the leader gives his or her subordinates challenging tasks for their overall development.

Leadership-Participation Model

According to this model, the leader should analyze a situation by considering its problem attributes. The two classes of these problem attributes are decision quality and employee acceptance. Decision quality dimensions include information availability, nature of problem structure and cost considerations. Employee acceptance dimensions include congruence of their goals with that of the organization, their prior approval and need for commitment.

After identifying the nature of problem, the leader can choose from the five styles of leadership- Autocratic I, Autocratic II, Consultive I, Consultive II, Group II. In Autocratic I, the leader does not involve others in making a decision. In Autocratic II, the leader gathers information from his or her subordinates without revealing the actual problem. He or she finds the solution of the problem himself or herself. In Consultive I, the leader discusses the problem with his or her subordinates and listens to their suggestions but takes the final decision himself or herself.

In Consultive II, the leader listens to the ideas of his or her subordinates and may consider them at the time of decision-making. In Group II, the leader organizes a group discussion with his or her subordinates to find the solution of the problem. He or she accepts the solution given by his or her subordinates.

Hersey And Blanchard’s Situational Theory

According to this theory, the leader adopts a particular leadership style after understanding the maturity level of his or her subordinates. The different leadership styles according to this theory are- telling, selling, participating and delegating. The leader adopts the telling style of leadership when the employee is not willing to perform his or her job well.

If the employee is willing to do his or her job but is low in ability then the leader has to adopt selling style of leadership. If the employee has the ability to perform the job but is not willing to do it then the leader has to adopt participating style of leadership. If the employee is both capable and willing to do the job then the leader has to adopt delegating style of leadership.