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Advances in Management - Comprehensive Leadership Review - Literature, Theories and Research

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This article provides a comprehensive literature review on leadership. The author sheds light on the historical foundation of leadership theories and then elucidates modern leadership approaches. After contrasting leadership and management, the article touches the overcome trait theories, summarizes the still prevailing behavioral and relational approaches and gives insights into the latest research on the efficiency of the transformational leadership style. The article critically combines historical leadership fundamentals with implications for current practicing managers.
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Advances In Management Vol. 7(5) May (2014)
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Review Paper:
Comprehensive Leadership Review
Literature, Theories and Research
Busse Ronald
School of Management, Xi’an Jiaotong University, Shaanxi Province, CHINA
ronaldbusse@gmx.de
Abstract
This article provides a comprehensive literature
review on leadership. The author sheds light on the
historical foundation of leadership theories and then
elucidates modern leadership approaches. After
contrasting leadership and management, the article
touches the overcome trait theories, summarizes the
still prevailing behavioral and relational approaches
and gives insights into the latest research on the
efficiency of the transformational leadership style.
The article critically combines historical leadership
fundamentals with implications for current practicing
managers.
Keywords: Leadership, literature review, trait theories,
behavioral approach, relational approach, transformational
leadership style.
Introduction
To mark the very beginning of early (or better: classical)
human leadership thinking, evolving from the animal
origins of social organization and leadership12, it takes us
back a long way into history. Plato129 (428/427-348/347),
the scholar and philosopher of ancient Greece, inspired by
his truth seeking teacher Socrates (470-399 B.C.),
originates three types of leadership which he specified as
the rule of reason, the rule of desire and the rule of spirit.
These three forms, which Plato develops in his work The
Republic (here used: translated edition of 1945, esp. 175-
308), focus on different types of leaders. The rule of reason
makes the philosophers become kings in an ideal state and
impose the obligation to rule under the maxim of
righteousness and ethical excellence, performing political
power by virtue and correctness which Plato refers to as the
term arete.
The characteristic of righteousness of the philosopher
king12 is greatly influenced by Socrates, who has not
bequeathed any scriptures. Plato considers his teacher to be
the most righteous man of all. The rule of desire depicts a
characteristic of political rule which Plato explicitly denies,
because it breeds tyranny, despotism and totalitarianism,
which was later personified by Adolf Hitler (1889-1945)79.
The rule of spirit finally marks the beginning of military
leadership, as it illustrates courage, loyalty and honor and
refers to generals as leaders and to the conduct of war.
Aristotle4 (384-322 B.C.), Plato’s student, criticizes The
Republic in his works The Politics for its general and
idealistic approach and states more practical theses, such as
those on hierarchy. Hierarchical orders are on the one hand
still valid today as most of the companies adhere to that but
on the other hand Aristotle’s views are judged to be
anachronistic e.g. his slaves-by-nature perspective that
regards the woman to be naturally destined to be ruled by
the man. He mitigates this extreme view through his
Golden Mean approach, changing the servant role of
women to that of loving wives and mothers which still
remains obsolete in modern liberate societies.
In his work The Prince (here used: translated edition of
1961) the Italian writer and political theorist Niccolò
Machiavelli106 (1468-1527) challenges the imagination of
an idealistic state and promotes a leader ruling by law and
by force concluding that a king (he literally refers to the
prince) should be rather feared than loved. While e.g. the
leadership of the warlord Attila the Hun (unknown-453)
practically aims at conquering other realms139, Machiavelli
(in his political writings) aims at unifying a king’s realm. In
his work the ultimate pragmatist12 breaks with ancient
Greek scholasticism, medieval religious doctrines and also
with the utopian ideals of his contemporary, Saint Thomas
More (1478-1535), when Machiavelli promotes his ideas
on realism and calls for a prince using radical means to
achieve his personal ambition of glory and honor, even if
these means lead to immoral actions. Napoleon I of France
(1769-1821) is deeply inspired by The Prince as he makes
detailed commentaries on this work considering the art of
war113.
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831), the German
Philosopher and precursor of Marxism, states that the
essential prerequisite for effective leadership is to make the
experience of being a follower before becoming a leader12.
He highlights the relation between the leader and the led.
The historical subject of leadership is neither limited to
philosophical or political theorists nor can it be reduced to
the strategy of warfare, but it also enters classical literature.
One representative also portraying the situational
dependence of the relation between leader and follower
according to Hegel is the 1895 published story Master and
Man of the Russian novelist and social reformer Lev N.
Tolstoy163 (1828-1910). Ahead of his time, he anticipates
the contextual relevance for performing leadership and as a
pacifist he is credited by Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) to
be the key influence of the nonviolent leader68. Max
Weber172, the German sociologist and economist,
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distinguished three pure types of domination in his work
Economy and Society (1922; published posthumously),
namely the legal, the traditional and the charismatic
authority. According to Weber, political leaders are
legitimated by at least one of these ideal types to justify
their dominion over the led17. Commands are accepted and
produce obedience if they rest on legal enactment, if they
emerge out of immutable custom or if they are issued by
heroic, extraordinary leaders39,164.
Modern leadership approaches and theories
What is leadership? : The categorization of recent theories
on leadership and, finally, the author’s own empirical study
on leadership styles require an agreed-upon answer to the
question: What is leadership? As the historical
fundamentals show, the roots of the concept reach far
beyond, but the literal term leader “only” goes back to the
1300s127, the expression leadership exists since the late
1700s159. As myriads of researches on that issue exist,
almost the same number of definitions has emerged over
time170. Different scholars prefer different terminological
specifications. This may lead to further clarification and
may provide an acceptable answer to the above question.
Leadership
“… is the preeminence of one individual in a group in the
process of control.” (Mumford)122
“… is the centralization of effort in one person.”
(Blackmar)22
“… focuses the attention of group members into the desired
direction. (Bernard)20
“… is the art of influencing. (Copeland)40
“… consists of a relationship between an individual and a
group. (Knickerbocker)89
“… is the process of influencing the activities of an
organized group in its effort toward goal setting and goal
achievement.“ (Stogdill)157
“… induces a subordinate to behave in a desired manner.”
(Bennis)18
“… is an individual’s effort to change the behavior of
others. (Bass)9
“… is interpersonal influence (…) toward the attainment of
a specified goal or goals.” (Tannenbaum)162
“… is an influential increment over and above compliance
with the routine directives of the organization.” (Katz and
Kahn)84
“… transforms followers, creates visions of the goals that
may be attained and articulates for the followers ways to
attain those goals. “Leadership persons mobilize resources
to arouse, engage and satisfy the motives of followers.
(Burns)35
“… is a form of social influence.” (Pondy)133
“… is an interaction and leaders are agents of change
whose acts affect other people more than people’s acts
affect them.” (Bass)13
“… is the ability to start evolutionary change processes that
are more adaptive.” (Schein)143
“… needs a leader. The only definition of a leader is
someone who has followers.” (Drucker)45
“… refers to a potential or capacity to influence others.”
(Vroom and Jago)170
“…is the alignment of subordinates’ activities and their
motivational activation for goal attainment.(Jung)82
These 17, partly verbatim and partly analogous, defining
statements on leadership which cover more than one
century of academic work on the subject, substantially
share common characteristics that reappear. These features
are as follows: First, leadership is a process. Second, it is a
way of influencing. Third, it needs a group context. Fourth,
it aims at reaching a defined goal. Yukl177, Antonakis,
Cianciolo and Sternberg2 and Northouse125 find the same
common characteristics of leadership. It is remarkable that
100 years old definitions are still not outdated and that
definitions of different leadership theorists share the same
characteristics.
Contrasting leadership and management: Now, that
there is glimpse of terminological clarification of
leadership, coming from the above selection of scholars, it
is necessary to contrast leadership and management or
leaders and managers. The terms are often used
interchangeably, even though some scientific communities
still have lively debates on the alleged crucial differences
between them. These debates require at least a short
paragraph on the potential differentiation.
To differentiate between leadership and management may
be more likely to succeed while thinking about the
differences between leaders and managers. The former only
exists if he or she has followers, whereas the latter does not
necessarily needs followers, e.g. when you refer to an
account manager. Furthermore, the literature occasionally
regards the manager with disrespect as bureaucratic
administers, while the leader is upheaved to an innovative
visionary19,91. Managers act formal; leaders may also rule
informal and indirect175. Judging leadership as good and
management as bad32 is not a phenomenon of an antiquated
perspective but still appears acceptable and presentable in
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scientific circles. Ward et al171 state that “management is
getting things done through the effort of others, i.e.
subordinates. Value-creating leadership is getting extra-
ordinary things done with the willing help of others”.
Management is for order, regularity and continuity but
leadership enables change and inspiring, motivating visions
to move forward90. If leadership is just one task the
manager performs121, if leadership is the functional
dimension of management82 or whether the two fields have
to be regarded as totally different90 is still debated. The
author goes along with Northhouse124 and Yukl177 who
both argue that there is no exclusive differentiation between
leadership and management as leaders perform managers’
tasks and vice versa. If there really is a decisive key
difference then “the answer will not come from debates
about ideal definitions.177
Trait theories of leadership: The Great Man era marks the
beginning of the trait approach to leadership. The Great
Man theory argues that leaders are born, not made87. This
approach goes back to Carlyle36 who attributes leaders with
special traits of character and believes and that they possess
an extraordinary personality which distinguishes them from
the led. To become a strong leader one is advised to copy
the personalities and characteristics of great men (as
virtually all leaders were men), even though the imitation
of personal traits is unlikely to succeed.
Nevertheless, Galton56, Bowden31 as well as Borgotta,
Rouch and Bales30 promote this approach for almost one
complete century. Early studies on traits are often propelled
by the emergence of intelligence tests at the beginning of
the 20th century37.
Jennings81 even defends this theory by choosing the
biologically occupied terminology of inheritance when he
refers to the natural born leader. Great Man theorists
propose that there are certain traits which can be identified
as universal predictors for effective leadership86 and that
these traits can be found by studying great leaders of
history. Confusingly, different great men had (and of
course still have) different personalities, so the
generalizability of trait approaches is very limited. There is
not the universal leader personality, as great men were
statesmen, warlords, generals, tyrants, dictators, diplomats,
pacifists, or civil rights activists all equipped with
different characters and different personalities.
Yet, trait theories still have impacts on later leadership
research, as some traits are empirically investigated as
(non-essential) explanatory variables in leadership
contexts50,73. More recent studies still claim that key leader
traits do exists and that they provide leaders with the ability
to acquire the skills to become effective leaders86. Some
scholars still remain stuck in the odyssey of seeking
universally effective characteristics that produce
outstanding leaders, no matter if these attributes are
inherited or acquired37,86.
There surely are some merits for the born-not-made-theory
of leadership108 as it marks the beginning of modern
approaches and can be regarded as basis for advanced
theories. Traits also have a demonstrated influence on the
perception of leadership104.
However, researchers of today widely seem to have
overcome the trait approach, as it is proved to be too
simplistic and of only little value for practicing leaders in
business organizations166. “The trait approach to leadership
has provided some descriptive insight but has little
analytical or predictive value”105 and is discredited by
substantial research174. Even contemporary findings, which
are published during the zenith of the trait era, do not
indicate any correlation between a single trait or a set of
traits and the enhancement of leadership performance80. It
is Stogdill156 who also finds that there is no single attribute
or cluster of traits which is identified as relevant across the
diversity of leadership situations.
Until now, trait approach theorists fail to empirically prove
the existence of a set of leader traits, which create effective
leaders58,178. Stogdill unconsciously anticipates the
beginning of a contingency approach to leadership and
practically ends the trait era with his review of 30 years of
trait theory and the correspondent conclusion he draws: “A
person does not become a leader by virtue of the possession
of some combination of traits”.156,159
Behavioral theories of leadership
1. The Iowa studies: The behavioral approach in general
and the so called Iowa studies in particular stop focusing on
traits and start to address leaders’ actions in carrying out
the leadership role170.
Lewin, Lippitt and White96 conduct their experimental
studies of group life - in secondary literature often referred
to as one-dimensional real type approach154 - at the Child
Welfare Research Station of the Iowa State University to
examine impacts of three selected leadership styles on
social climates. For this purpose, 10 year old pupils (boys
only) are organized to clubs with a group size of five to
perform activities of interest e.g. mask-making, model
airplane construction, mural painting etc. The groups are
each confronted with supervisors who guide the clubs with
an authoritarian, a democratic or a laissez-faire leadership
style. Observation of club behavior is the main source for
data collection.
According to Lewin95,97 and Lewin, Lippitt and White96,
leaders realize different group atmospheres through
performing these three leadership styles as follows: The
authoritarian leader determines the choice of activities; the
techniques are dictated one at a time to leave coming steps
uncertain and the leader acts personal in praise and
criticism. Except from demonstration, there is no leader
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participation in the activities. The democratic leader assists
and encourages. The choice of activities is a matter of
group decision. Techniques and steps are sketched and
alternative procedures to choose from are given. Praise and
criticism is fact-minded. The laissez-faire leader only
provides necessary material and does not participate in the
activity processes. He does not interfere with the course of
events. There is neither praise nor criticism.
The findings of the Iowa experiments are significant95,96.
The group outcome in the authoritarian and the democratic
groups is equally high, but low in the laissez-faire clubs.
The democratic leadership positively correlates with
motivation and satisfaction of the group members. The
many directing approaches in the autocratic atmosphere
create social pressure and tension. The authoritarian style
leaves the smallest space of free movement which is
significantly greater in democratic groups. The laissez-faire
led clubs unexpectedly do not enjoy a greater space of free
movement due to the lack of perspective and the emerging
interference among the group members. The rigidity of
authoritarian group structure produces much more hostility
and aggression compared to the groups led democratically.
Authoritarian styles are also predestined to produce
apathetic behavior of group members.
However, all seemingly negative outcomes of autocracy
must always be analyzed according to the culturally
adopted style of living of an individual. This indicates that
cultural habits may mitigate the impacts of the authoritarian
leadership style on aggression and apathy. The last fact is
strikingly relevant for our study as we also empirically
investigate the effects of a concept which is related to
cultural habits (here: cultural embeddedness) on leadership
styles.
Critique may come from addressing the limitations of the
Iowa experiments in terms of the generalizability of results,
as all the led participants are children. Another criticism
may arise from the gender perspective, as the groups are
composed of boys only. The degree of realism also has its
weaknesses because the experimental setting has a
laboratory character and may not be applicable to all
organizational contexts and situations.
However, the Iowa studies academically persist; the three
leadership styles continue to be representatives of the
relation between leaders and led and still capture the scope
of business reality. This makes these studies a milestone,
for organizational development practitioners34,59,110, for the
organizational behavior discipline119, for research
methodology in the field of management173 and specifically
for leadership research.5,35,109
2. The Ohio studies: The Ohio State Leadership Studies
(hereafter referred to as Ohio studies), mainly conducted by
a research team around the scholar Fleishman, mark the
second behavioral real type approach in leadership studies
after the Iowa experiments. The Ohio studies begin in 1945
and are conceptualized as a two-dimensional theory107.
Here, leadership behavior is dominated either by a concern
for task objectives or a concern for relationship
objectives176. This two-dimensionality has large effects on
the following decades of leadership research; several
scholars replicate the Ohio studies with extension23,142.
Fleishman55, Halpin and Winer66 as well as Stogdill, Goode
and Day158 contribute crucial publications on the Ohio
studies to literature.
The Ohio researchers’ methodology is based on the use of
the Leader Behavior Description Questionnaire to identify
two dimensions of leadership. The initiating structure
dimension produces task behavior and the consideration for
workers dimension produces relationship behavior. These
dimensions are found not to be mutually exclusive, so that
they co-exist independently and simultaneously, i.e. one
can have high scores on both at the same time. Initiating
structure here means the focus on the accomplishment of
tasks166 whereas consideration here is equivalent with a
concern for human relations between leaders and
followers64,166. Effective and successful leaders are
believed to realize both, a high task orientation and at the
same time a high relationship orientation. Thus, they pursue
high performance through attaining goals and promoting a
motivating atmosphere for subordinates.
Figure 1: The Ohio State Leadership Quadrants
Source: self-created; with reference to Hersey and
Blanchard69
The Ohio studies contribute to the field of leadership145.
However, there are two main limitations. First, situational
and contextual factors of leadership are not sufficiently
taken into concern170. Critics and reviewers may also argue
that the quadrants can overlap and would therefore not be
completely independent. Second, the two distinct
leadership behaviors are not empirically proved to
positively correlate with effective leadership176. There is no
clear evidence for the positive effects of high scores in both
dimensions25.
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3. The Michigan studies: The Michigan State University
Leadership Studies (hereafter referred to as Michigan
studies) which begin in 1947 at the Institute for Social
Research at the University of Michigan, conducted by a
research team around the scholars Katz and Likert, propose
the third behavioral approach study to leadership asking
how a leader acts. The Michigan studies are closely
connected to the Ohio studies, as both form a building
block for further leadership studies through applying a real
type approach using the survey method (here: the Survey of
Organizations Questionnaire) to examine the leaders’
action83. Behaviors may be friendly and supportive on the
one hand or initiating and goal attaining on the other
hand55.
Likert101 names these two basic styles as production
oriented behavior with clear goal attaining concern and
employee oriented behavior with a strong focus on
interpersonal relations. The similarity to the Ohio studies
with their initiating structure and consideration dimensions
is obvious. “Both measure leadership effectiveness in terms
of how leaders treat subordinates and how they get the job
done”.38 Unlike the Ohio studies, the Michigan studies
must be identified as a one-dimensional theory, although
one can argue that it applies two dimensions of leadership
behavior. The reason for one-dimensionality is that the two
styles (task focusing and relation focusing) lie at the
opposite ends of a continuum, whereas the two Ohio
dimensions can be realized with high scores at the same
time.
Thus, the Michigan studies assert that a leader is not able to
act both, production focused and employee centered. This
is the crucial difference between the two studies. A more
participative behavior focusing on interpersonal relations
between leaders and subordinates is found to be effective
and consequently to be outperforming the production
oriented style.101,102
The two studies share the same criticism. Neither the Ohio
studies nor the Michigan studies “have produced a solid
body of scientific evidence sufficient to guide practice”.170
Locke and Schweiger103, Miller and Monge118 as well as
Schweiger and Leana150 bring into question if there is a
strong relation between participative behavior and
effectiveness if situational variables are disregarded.
Moreover, the Michigan studies assume invariance across
the diversity of situational contexts170; the importance of
the situation was ignored.167-169
4. Theory X and theory Y: Theory X and theory Y are
postulated by McGregor from 1960 on to contrast two
motivationally different ideas of man. McGregor115 argues
that the two theories, which are developed at the MIT Sloan
School of Management, do not belong to the same
continuum, but may co-exist simultaneously with different
scores or parameter values. In McGregor’s opinion, it is in
the nature of humans that in every individual one
theoretical idea of man prevails and determines the
underlying structure of a basic motivation for work.
According to McGregor114,116 theory X on the one hand
assumes that workers are naturally lazy, seek security and
are predestined to be led by external control. Theory Y on
the other hand acts on the assumption that the working
forces consider their work as naturally as their needs to rest
or play. They search for organizational challenges and
regard work as a source of satisfaction. Theory X workers
may be autocratically motivated through rewards or
sanctions disregarding human relations, while the driving
force behind a theory Y worker is the creation of an
inspiring, stimulating and participative work environment
to unfold full motivation and creativity. Theory Y workers’
needs are self-control and self-direction.
McGregor, who is influenced by the Human-
Relations130,134,140 movement and by Maslow’s hierarchy of
needs111, advocates the mentality to assume that the
average employee belongs to the class of theory Y workers
because assuming a worker belongs to theory X will lead to
a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you think that your workers are
lazy, this is what they will turn to be. However, McGregor
denies the presumption of a self-fulfilling prophecy for
theory Y workers. So, unfortunately, the counterpart of the
vicious circle of theory X is not a self-enhancing virtuous
circle of theory Y.
The main criticism comes from the argument that there is
no universal model of man. Some researchers argue that not
every worker is or wants to be creative even if stimulated
by ideal work conditions88. The critics hold the view that
there are many employees who better respond to a theory X
management29. Furthermore, theory Y has no measurable
impacts on job performance.49,155
5. The continuum of leader behavior: In 1958 the
scholars Tannenbaum and Schmidt161 develop a one-
dimensional ideal type theory to leadership on the basis of
the Iowa studies’ findings around Lewin, Lippitt and
White96 which again supports the choice of leadership
styles in the author’s empirical study. This behavioral
approach which culminates in the leadership continuum
assumes that leadership behavior can be explained as a
bipolar continuum of seven steps of behavioral classes on
the range between authority and delegation72 or between a
boss-centered and a subordinate-centered leadership99. The
more the leader tends to behave authoritarian, the lesser the
led experience participation in decisions and freedom of
actions. The more the leader tends to apply a democratic
leadership style, the better the led enjoy participation in
decision making. Figure 2 visualizes the continuum of
leader behavior.
According to Tannenbaum and Schmidt161, the choice of
the appropriate leadership style depends on the
characteristics of leaders and followers as well as on the
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situational context. Leaders may choose their style to meet
the demands of the situation99. Particularly the last fact
extends former behavioral approaches to leadership and
functions as a precursor to contribute to the later rise of
contingency theories which explicitly demand the
awareness of the varieties of situations170.
Figure 2: The Leadership Continuum
Source: self-created; with reference to Tannenbaum and
Schmidt161
The leadership continuum is criticized for its ideal type
character because it fails to be applied to real business
contexts; it rather advances theory than helps practitioners.
Apart from that the relation between the continuum and
performance remains unclear, Tannenbaum and Schmidt161
do not provide a prediction for leadership effectiveness that
corresponds with the choice of style46.
6. The managerial grid: In 1964 the scholars Blake and
Mouton23 publish conceptualized leadership theory
between 1958 and 1960 which they illustrate in the so
called managerial grid. The grid visualizes a two-
dimensional behavioral approach to leadership and is
deeply influenced by the prior research of the Ohio studies
and the Michigan studies, which are on their part
influenced by the Iowa studies24,27. Blake and Mouton
explicitly replicate and extend the Ohio state leadership
quadrants (figure 1). What Fleishman55 calls initiating
structure and consideration during the Ohio research, Blake
and Mouton name concern for performance and concern for
people23. Three out of five leadership styles which emerge
from the grid have a strong resemblance or are identical
with the original styles of Lewin, Lippitt and White96. The
grid asserts that high scores on both dimensions are
equivalent to the use of the ideal leadership style (Fig. 3).
Many scholars use the managerial grid for researches on
leadership, typically for studies focusing on organizational
development.16,21,65,85 However, critics argue that one best
leadership style does not exist. Like Fleishman’s Ohio
model, also the managerial grid is criticized for its claim to
realize leadership effectiveness through high scores on
both, people orientation and performance concern. This so
called high-high paradigm is not empirically
supported.94,126 Moreover, the grid shows little concern for
the situational context in the original Blake and Mouton
approach, although a revised theory mentions a (normally
applied) dominant style and a (rarely adopted) backup style
of a leader. The backup style is only used in stressful
circumstances26,28.
Figure 3: The Managerial Grid
Source: self-created; with reference to Blake and Mouton23
and Bass15
7. The three-dimensional theory: Reddin136 develops a
three-dimensional theory of leadership and by that he is one
of the scholars who mark the beginning of the transition
from behavioral approaches to contingency theories of
leadership3. Thus, it may be debatable to associate his work
rather with the field of situational approaches than with the
era of behavioral theories. However, as Reddin’s work
mainly covers the use of the right leadership styles which
clearly emphasizes his behaviorist perspective, his three-
dimensional theory is predominantly a behavioral
approach, but certainly with a strong situational impact.
Reddin136 whose three-dimensional model is influenced by
the findings of the Iowa studies, the Ohio studies, the
Michigan studies and the managerial grid, argues that next
to the relationship orientation and task orientation, a third
dimension has to be added: leadership effectiveness. In his
view, no matter if the basic two dimensions realize high or
low scores, the corresponding leadership style may be
effective or ineffective; all leadership styles claim the right
to exist and may be appropriate as long as they are applied
with regard to the situation137.
According to the scores on people focus and task focus,
Reddin develops four major (neutral) styles: related (high
Advances In Management Vol. 7(5) May (2014)
58
on people orientation, low on task orientation), separated
(low on both), dedicated (high on task orientation, low on
people orientation) and integrated (high on both) as in fig.
4. These basic styles can be used in situations which are
appropriate or inappropriate to them136 so leadership
behavior depends on the situation98. This leads to the
assumption that each basic style has one effective and one
ineffective counterpart.
Figure 4: The Three-Dimensional Theory
Source: self-created, with reference to Reddin139
Critics argue that it is not clear if the two basic dimensions
are independent. Furthermore, the model is a too general
concept, so that the practical relevance is considered low154.
Apart from that, the third dimension lacks a theoretical
underpinning and an empirical support for the effect of the
situation on leadership effectiveness is missing123.
Contingency theories of leadership
1. The “contingency” model: Fiedler52 enters the era of
contingency theories of leadership by asserting, that three
factors have impacts on whether a leader is effective or not:
In the tradition of Fleishman’s Ohio state leadership
quadrants55, Blake and Mouton’s managerial grid23 and
with resemblance to the aforementioned three-dimensional
approach of Reddin136, Fiedler chooses task orientation,
human relation orientation and situational favorableness to
study leadership effectiveness.
He uses a quite innovative and at the same time disputable
instrument to measure and test the degree to which a leader
focuses on task achievement or interpersonal relations37.
Fiedler50-52 assumes that a leader who assesses an imagined
least preferred co-worker (LPC) in a favorable light, which
is expressed by high scores on an LPC scale, tends to lead
with a strong focus on human relations, whereas a leader
assessing the LPC rather negatively, which is expresses by
a low score, is more task oriented170. Situational
favorableness, recalled later into situational control,
consists of the level of cooperation by the led, the clarity of
the task and the degree of the leader’s formal authority53.
Fiedler52 finds out that leaders with a low LPC score (task
oriented) achieve the highest degrees of leadership
effectiveness in situations with very high or very low
situational control. High LPC scoring leaders (relationship
oriented) are effective in situations with a moderate level of
control. “The implication of Fiedler’s theory is for a leader
to be placed in a situation that is favorable to his or her
style”.170 Fiedler51 states that the job should fit the manager
and not vice versa.
Fiedler’s contingency model faces various criticisms from
many scholars.61,117,144,151 Apart from the high level of
complexity37, the other main two critical opinions are as
follows: First, the model does not include the option to be
both, relationship oriented and task focused37. Second,
leaders are often not able to determine the degree of
situational control10. However, Fiedler’s approach
contributes to theory and practice as it provides significant
empirical support for impacts on leadership
effectiveness132,160.
2. The situational theory: In 1977 Hersey and Blanchard70
develop their situational leadership theory which first
appears under the name life cycle theory. Next to the two
variables of the Ohio studies, consideration (for
relationship orientation) and initiating structure (for task
orientation), Hersey and Blanchard advocate a third
situational variable that refers to the maturity of
subordinates. According to the two scholars, performance
is a function of maturity, consisting of job ability and
psychological willingness. The scholars distinguish four
different degrees of a subordinate’s maturity71. The lowest
level of maturity prevails if a follower is neither willing nor
able (M1); the highest degree of maturity prevails if an
employee is both, willing and able (M4). If one is able, but
unwilling his or her maturity is assumed to be higher (M3)
compared to a subordinate who is willing but unable (M2).
Here, the behavior of a leader, i.e. if he or she should act
task focused or relationship oriented, strongly depends on
the maturity level of the led (Fig. 5).
Following the argumentation and given a superiority of
ability over willingness in terms of their impact on maturity
leads to the assumption that the ability is the main source of
influence on performance. However, this conclusion is
disputable and arguments for a vice versa interpretation
also exists60. Other critics argue that the maturity of the led
ignores other contextual features that may occur in the
relation between leaders and followers170. A sound theory
explaining the middle range of maturity (M2, M3) is
missing and undermines the robustness of the situational
theory60. This reveals some internal consistency problems1.
These erode the applicability of this theory for practitioners
as a large number of subordinates may be classified to
belong to this middle level maturity section.
Advances In Management Vol. 7(5) May (2014)
59
Figure 5: The Situational Theory of Leadership
Source: self-created; with reference to Hersey and
Blanchard70
3. The path-goal theory: In 1971 the scholar House73, an
Ohio State University alumni, produces - inspired by
Evans47 - a much-noticed leadership approach, which
belongs to the contingency theories. His so called path-goal
theory, once revised77, claims that leadership effectiveness
depends on a leader’s behaviors, the follower’s
expectations and the organizational situation. House73
promotes the view that a leader’s main task is to pave a
path by behaving in a way to ensure that the employee’s
goals match with organizational goals.
Thus, the basic role of a leader is to shape paths to
subordinates’ and organization’s goals74,170. An effective
leader is believed to reduce barriers for subordinates to
motivate them and to attain goals through four different
leadership behaviors: directive, supportive, participative
and achievement-oriented74. The leader should provide
enabling conditions73,166 and make the followers see that
their organizational task orientation helps to achieve
personal goals37.
The path-goal model is criticized for not being sufficiently
empirically tested48,146. The practicability of this approach
is low because determining the appropriate leadership
behavior according to the expectancies and needs of the
followers is seen as too complex to be performable by a
leader in day-to-day managerial practice166,170. A low-
clarity and low-structure situation is found to be best
compatible with directive, task oriented leader behavior
whereas a highly structured and well predictable situation
demands supportive relationship oriented leader behavior.
However, results at the same time reveal that also the
opposite is true; thus the path-goal findings are
inconsistent37. Particularly, participative leadership in later
studies63 on the path-goal subject is practically always
found to be positively correlating with the degree of
subordinates’ motivation, satisfaction and performance so
that House’s differentiation becomes obsolete.
4. The normative decision model: Vroom and Yetton167
and later Vroom and Jago168 contribute with their
normative decision model to the contingency theories of
leadership. The Vroom-Yetton-Jago model supports a
leader in decision making processes and offers certain help
answering the question of how much subordinates’
involvement in decision making is appropriate168,169. This
contingency theory responds to prior leadership research by
explicitly taking group work into much greater
consideration167. Like other situational approaches, the
Vroom-Yetton-Jago theory also argues that the choice of an
adequate leadership style only succeeds when the scope of
the organizational context is fully captured167. The
effectiveness of participation is dependent on specific
situational variables170. A leader’s behavior is deeply
influenced by the situation98.
The scholars’ prescriptive model contains five different
leadership styles which range on a single continuum from
extremely autocratic via consultative to extremely
participative. The styles determine followers’ involvement
in decision making. As a side note and to affirm the right
choice of leadership styles in our own empirical study, this
continuum again shows a striking resemblance to the two
main styles which the research of Lewin, Lippitt and
White96 promotes. Each potential style may be an
appropriate response to a certain situation. To examine the
situation and to finally determine which style is most
effective in this situation, Vroom and Yetton167 argue to use
a decision tree. The process of answering up to eight key
questions (e.g. if there is a certain quality requirement for
the decision, if the problem is clear and structured or if the
followers’ acceptance of the decision is necessary) is
considered helpful while navigating through the decision
tree to find the recommended leadership style.
In relation to other contingency theories of leadership the
Vroom-Yetton-Jago approach is most distinctly criticized
for its level of complexity10. Even if the theory and the
corresponding findings are attractive, consistent and to an
acceptable extent empirically supported37,54, the degree of
intricacy significantly lowers the value of the model for
practitioners. However, this approach at least theoretically
equips a leader with a method that is able to promote
leadership effectiveness166. With regard to some highly
important decisions, the time to pass through the decision
tree is worth being taken.
A relational theory of leadership
The so called leader-member-exchange (LMX) theory is
the most prominent relational model165 and takes an
exceptional position among leadership approaches, as the
main focus is not on traits, behaviors or situations but on
the dyad of leader and led93. Thus, group relationships play
a minor role in this approach. Dansereau, Graen and Haga41
develop the vertical dyad linkage (VDL) model, which is
seen as the basis for the LMX theory. According to the
VDL model a leader psychologically separates his or her
followers into two sub-groups. The in-group is comprised
of subordinates to whom the leader has a very close,
Advances In Management Vol. 7(5) May (2014)
60
personal, occasionally informal and valuable relation; the
members of the out-group remain within a greater personal
distance to the leader and experience a rather formal
contact. The underlying reasons for forming two differing
kinds of relations are the shortage of time and hence, the
practical impossibility to pay equal attention to all
subordinate57,93.
Graen and Uhl-Bien62 argue that every relationship
between leader and follower begins with the out-group
stadium and some initial testing phase. It then possibly
continues to the next step and the development of trust,
loyalty and respect. The third and closest level is reached
when both, leader and follower, have a strong self-interest
to intensify the exchange of mutual support. Certainly, only
very few followers enter the final stage of relationship and
become dyad partners165. The dyad of leader and in-group
member and the corresponding reciprocity152 are
empirically proved to produce a high quality relationship
that effectively supports motivation, satisfaction and
performance43,57,147.
The LMX theory may be criticized for its unique position
and the disregard of situational factors. However, the LMX
approach is closely connected to what has emerged as
transformational leadership42,57,147 which essentially
advances leadership research and recently contributes to
literature as the latest state-of-the-art approach. Especially
the third level of LMX, when leaders and followers begin
to like each other, marks the link between the LMX
approach and transformational leadership.42,62,93
The transformational theory of leadership
The transformational approach to leadership, which is
brought to light mainly by Bass11, is based on the ideas of
Burns35 and is inspired by the charismatic leadership theory
of House76, while the literal term transformational
leadership goes back to Downtown44. The transformational
era currently is the most promising stage during the
evolution of leadership theory166. Bass13 argues that
transformational leaders motivate others to do more than
they originally intended and often even more than they
thought possible. The leader who leads according to ideal
transformational principles recognizes the needs and the
abilities of his or her subordinates and of the organization
as a whole and is able to match them. This admittedly
idealistic approach conceptualizes a vision of a future
scenario and by that it arouses intrinsic motivation of
subordinates. Thus, followers become leaders themselves7
stirred by a trustworthy leader.
Burns35 develops a transformational understanding of
leadership through separating it from a transactional
approach. While the transformational theory focuses on
followers who transcend personal interests to become
intrinsically motivated agents of collective achievement,
the transactional approach is based on mutually beneficial
transactions37.
Figure 6: The Full Range of Leadership Model
Source: self-created; with reference to Bass13
Specifically, four characterizing transformational elements
(due to the common initial letter often referred to as the
four I’s) are contrasted with three transactional
elements7,13: First, a transformational leader is always
charismatic13,76 and breeds idealized influence. This
ensures to have the led meet the moral demand to regard
their own personal interests less important than
organizational interests. Second, the leader produces
inspirational motivation to align the followers to a common
goal. Third, the leader challenges the led through
intellectual stimulation and encourages creativity and
innovativeness of subordinates. Fourth, the leader realizes
individualized consideration through fully understanding
the personality, the abilities and goals of the led to nurture
their talent and to unfold their potential. These four
characteristics polarize with the following transactional
elements of leadership:
First, the relationship of the transactional leader and his or
her subordinates is based on contingent reward which
functions as a quid pro quo system. Second, the leader
performs either active (a) or passive (b) management by
exception which means that the leader uses specific
systems or processes to keep the led under surveillance and
intervenes in case of an anticipated (a) or occurred (b)
mistake incident. Bass13 finally integrates a laissez-faire
leadership style as an additional transactional leader
behavior. This integration leads to what he calls the full
range of leadership model, a graphical illustration which
summarizes the full scope of transactional and
transformational leadership (Fig. 6).
According to Burns35 transactional leadership, which
mainly focuses on a formal exchange of work for reward
and the rather ideal transformational leadership are
incompatible. However, Avolio and Bass7 empirically
proved that a combination of both may be effective and
Advances In Management Vol. 7(5) May (2014)
61
may produce positive impacts on performance. A
continuing exchange of work for reward may be a source
for mutual trust, which is one of the bases of successful
transformational leadership6. Transformational leadership
may be built on a transactional fundament, but the more a
leader tends to apply the four transformational elements the
more effective his leadership is14,67 and the more a leader is
able to influence the whole organization in all directions175.
Research results show that transformational leadership is
more effective than transactional leadership39,86,128. If
transformational leadership depends on the situation is still
debated14,138.
One further very interesting factor, especially for managing
practitioners, is that transformational leadership is trainable
i.e. leaders can learn and practice to become
transformational leaders or to improve their ability to lead
transformational8,15,153. However, Northouse124 considers
transformational leadership and sees elements of personal
traits and natural talents that are inherent in gifted
personalities. This undermines the assumption of
trainability.
Bryman33 criticizes the disregard for contextual factors.
Miner120 argues that the transformational approach needs
some theoretical underpinning concerning what factors
nurture transformational leadership. Other scholars warn
that transformational leadership shifts away from the top
hierarchical level to be applied throughout an organization,
which may cause conflicts between the agendas of different
organizational departments148,149. Finally, the benefits of
transformational leadership clearly outweigh its
deficiencies but more research is needed to support the
promising impacts of this approach120,177.
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*****
... Finally, Chapter 5 revealscommentson the survey combined with suggestions for future studies stemming from this research effort. Busse, 2014;Jenkins, 1945). However, over the last two centuries or so, the onset of the industrial revolution ushered in competing ideologies with popular perception vacillating between individualist leadership versus system-based leadership (Bryman, 2011). ...
... The quid pro quo style of transactional leadership has made its connection with ethical and emotional behavior one of great interest (Busse, 2014). Transactional leadership is, by its nature, utilitarian, while transformational is more altruist leading to the fundamentally different application of motivation techniques. ...
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Chapter
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Kurt Lewin has had a significant impact upon modern management. His concepts are widely used and his students are among the dominant contributors to human relations, personnel and industrial psychology. Yet many students of management are completely unaware of Lewin and his contributions. His name is seldom mentioned in texts dealing with management or personnel relations. The failure to recognize Lewin's role in the evolving field of management is a serious neglect, for his philosophy of science, research methodology and approach provide a potential for advancing the discipline of management. Kurt Lewin was an innovative researcher whose ingenuity in experimental design provides a scientific basis for many of our current concepts. It is this writer's express purpose in this paper to draw attention to Lewin and his work so that serious students of management will be stimulated to study them. Lewin's contribution to management thought are intimately related to his other work. He was a "practical theorist." His interest was the world of reality and applying the science of his psychology to real problems of society. It was his concern for the realities of men's daily lives that caused him to investigate subjects having direct bearing on management. For example, he made contributions to our understanding of leadership, training factory workers, decision making, managing change, group dynamics, dealing with conflict, employment of minority groups, counteracting prejudice and dealing with bigotry.