The work of researchers and the historical and emerging theories of what constitutes effective leadership inform leadership practices. The different theories may have similarities and differences. Aims of research and development of theories are to resolve leadership issues. Current concern is how these theories address the issues faced by contemporary leaders.
If practitioners seek to involve themselves in research, this will enable them to critically examine the different theories on leadership. The leaders could compare their experiences and discoveries and findings made through research. They could then adjust their leadership practices to enhance organization effectiveness and performance. These are transformational, transactional, contingency and trait theory. Those involved in leadership should understand the implications of these theories for leadership models and the issues facing contemporary leaders.
The researcher will give definitions of each theory and examine the similarities and differences. Issues faced by contemporary leaders and how the theories maybe used to address them will then be looked at. Next, the researcher will consider the implications of each leadership theory for the different leadership models.
Transactional leadership incorporates the concept of exchange or bargain. Borrowing from Baca, Meese 111 and Ortmeier it is an approach where there is an exchange between leaders and followers. One example given is that politicians trade promises for votes.
The transformational leader is not only aware of and exploits the needs of the follower but is interested in the development of the individual. According to Baca, Meese 111 and Ortmeier Burns projected that the transformational leader tries to satisfy the higher-level needs of the follower. This may lead to the follower developing leadership skills or becoming a moral change agent.
Contingency leadership style theory focuses on different leadership style for different situations. According to Yun, Cox, and Sims (2006) the majority of managers believe that there is no one appropriate style of leadership for all situations worldwide. Trait theorists believe that leaders are born with certain characteristics, which equip them with the ability to lead. Baca, Meese and Ortmeier (2004) described trait theory belief, that individual and especially outstanding psychological, innate characteristics in people, forms the basis for leadership skills. Baca, Meese and Ortmeier have suggested that leaders are born and that they maybe identified by special characteristics.
Leaders using any of the four theories may use power. The transformational leader is cognizant of the needs of the follower and exploits them. According to Meese, Ortmeier and Baca (1990) the transformational leader does not use power negatively. There is more a sharing of power and not an exercise of power over, which according to. Wren (2005) was Mary Follet’s belief. Implied in this is the belief that followers should be allowed to participate in decision-making. Borrowing from Schuster (1994), the true stewards demonstrate mastery passively. This passive use of power according to Schuster is referent power, which is transformational leadership. The leader using referent power, Schuster believed will be a credible person.
Schuster’s passive mastery is where the leader operates behind the scene and provides training and the resources for the followers to grow. The use of active mastery aptly describes the transactional leader. According to Schuster, this type of leader likes power and influence. Followers then try to satisfy the standard of this transactional leader as he leaves them no opportunity to participate in decision-making
A leader, practising the contingency style recognizes that situations and followers’ reactions differ. Shenhar (2001) asserted that one size would not fit everyone, suggesting that leaders need different leadership styles to handle different projects. An effective leader needs to understand his followers and select his leadership style contingent to the situation. Buchanan and Huczynski (1997) supported this in defining contingency theory as the need for the leader to adapt his leadership style, if he is to be successful. The adjustment has to be in a manner, which is in accordance with crucial areas of the organizational perspective; that is the type of task, and the characteristics of the followers. There might be followers according to Buchanan and Huczynski who are only able to complete a task when a certain level of authority or power is excersized by the leader. Buchanan and Huczynski stated that Fiedler one of the proponents of the contingency theory identified three situations under which a leader may have to work. In one situation, the leader has a very high power position.
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