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Trait Theory of Leadership

Discuss about the Changing Theories of Leadership and Development.

The term “leadership” can be defined as the action of leading a group of individuals associated with an organization or the society. Leadership is considered to research area as well as a practical skill that enables an individual to lead.  It should be noted that there exist several debates and viewpoint when it comes to leadership. Especially, contrast can be evidenced in eastern and western approaches to leadership. According to the US approach which defines leadership from an academic perspective, leadership is seen as a process of social influence where an individual has the potential to support others for the accomplishment of a common task. However, leadership, when seen from a European or non-academic approach, encompasses a view of leadership where the leader can be moved on the basis of both communitarian goals as well as personal power. In this report, various theories of leadership will be critically reviewed in order to understand the effectiveness of leadership theories and how one leadership approach differs from the other. The three chief theories that will be discussed in this report include the trait theory of leadership, the Behavioral theories of leadership and the Contingency theories of leadership. Apart from critically reviewing the theory, 7 leadership styles namely, Ethical Leadership, Caring leadership, Servant Leadership, Authentic leadership, Value-based leadership, Transformational Leadership and Charismatic Leadership will be critically reviewed in this report.

Leadership theories, for decades, have been the source of numerous numbers of studies. In order to find out the factors that have the potential to make leaders stand apart from the mass and provide a guidance that will have an immensely positive impact on the organization or the society, several types of research has been conducted and several theories have emerged. Among the various theories, the chief theories that are widely renowned include the Trait theories of leadership, the Behavioral theories of leadership and the contingency theories of leadership.

The trait theories of leadership involve the determination of the potential of a leader based on his or her personal characteristics.  The trait theories of leadership are based on the thought process that the success of an individual to be an effective leader is the result of his certain characteristics and qualities. The trait theories of leadership gained high popularity between the year 1930 and 1950. Researchers conducted their studies by selecting eminent leaders and then studied their intelligence, attitudes, personality, and biological factors. Through numerous researches that have been conducted in the last 3 decades of the 20th century, researchers have been able to identify a set of core traits of a successful leader. The core traits that have been identified by researchers involves the drive for achievement, motivation for leadership, integrity and honesty, cognitive abilities like strong analytical an judgmental abilities, self confidence, emotional maturity and good knowledge of the business, according to Penney, Kelloway O’Keefe, (2015), the trait approach of leadership has a prolonged research tradition as a significant body of research data that authenticates its validity. However, (MALO?, 2012) argued that the mentioned theory lacks practicality since it is impractical to expect an individual to possess all the leadership traits to be a good leader. Moreover, the absence of some generic traits does not make them any less leader. (Landis, Hill & Harvey, 2014) stated that the trait theory has failed to sustain its momentum sine authoritative traits do not possess the potential to corroborate the position of the leader.

Behavioral Theories of Leadership

The contradictory nature of the trait theory had led the researchers to focus on the behavioral aspects of leaders in an organization. Behavior theory is comprised of styles and skills which differ from the trait theories. According to Storey, (2016), the chief purpose of the behavioral theories of leadership is to understand how the behavior of a leader helps him or her to make effective decision associated with organizational issues. As being stated by (McCleskey, 2014), leadership behaviors can be segregated into relational-oriented behavior, task-oriented behavior and change-oriented behavior. While the task-oriented behavior is consist of contingent directives, rewards as well as initiating structure, relational-oriented behaviors involve enabling and developing the followers, consideration and empowerment. Change-oriented behavior involves transformation as well as exevision of charisma. (Yukl, 2012) that the chief strength of behavior theory is that the mention theory supports that leadership traits can be learned and enhanced by development and experiences. Thus the behaviour theory of leadership contradicts the great man theory that stats that leadership behaviors are inborn and cannot be developed. Hoyt, Burnette & Innella, (2012) opined that the behavioral theory has opened the path for new researches to be conducted based on the development of the leaders for producing intended results. However, Chemers, (2014) argued that the largest limitation of behavioral theories is the fact that just merely learning the behavior and practices does not make an individual to be an effective leader. As being stated by the author, it is easy to learn which behavior to be shown at a specific situation, but knowing what behavior to demonstrate at a specific situation and adapting these behaviors is a far more challenging task. The second weakness of the behavioral theory is adaptability. There prevails lack of knowledge about the usage o behavioral theory in different cultural contexts as well as situations. As being stated by the author, one behavior meant for one situation is not universal enough to be used in another situation.

Considering the fact that the work environment of an organization constantly evolves and hence is not consistent, in order to provide an effective leadership to the organization the leadership style of the leaders should be flexible as well as adaptive so that it can address all the underlying organizational issues. According to researchers both the trait theory as well as the behavioral theory of leadership lacks flexibility and hence it is inevitable to apply both the theories in a varying situation in order to access practicability (Parris & Peachey, 2013). In order to handle organizational theories more effectively, the contingency theory of leadership which was proposed by Fred Edward Fiedler has been put forward. Unlike the other leadership theories, the contingency theory emphasizes the importance of both the personality of the leader as well as the situation in which the leader operates. managers of an organization have been categorized into two distinct groups by the contingency model of Fiedler, namely, the task motivated leadership style and the relationship motive leadership style.

Contingency Theories of Leadership

According to Antonakis & Day, (2017), the contingency model enables the leaders to manipulate the environmental variables to match their style of leadership. According to the contingency model, the power positioning, as well as the relationship of a leader with his or her team members, imposes an immense impact on the structure of the task. As been opined by (Lussier & Achua, 2015), contribute leader-member relationship along with the power of the leader to both penalize as well as appreciate his team members with absolute authority provides higher structure to the task. Both tasks motivated as well as leadership motivated leadership styles to have their own set of merits and demerits. While the task motivated leadership style has the potential to gain fiscal growth by outperforming the key performers, through relationship motivated leadership style, an organization can develop effective relationships with their consumers ensuring high consumer satisfaction and higher competitive advantages. However, several limitations of the contingency theories have also be detected. According to Clarke, (2013), unlike the other theories of leadership, the complexity of the Contingency theory is much higher when put into practice. Determination of situation in which managerial action needs to be taken includes analysis of a large number of variables along with multifarious dimensions. Thus it becomes difficult for leaders of organizations who have a shorter period of time to go through the analysis to implement the contingency model of leadership for solving organizational issues. Besides that, it has been argued by the critics that since any given scenario is multivariate little similarity can be expected between two given scenarios. In such cases, the response that succeeds in one situation may not gain success in another. Another limitation of the contingency theory includes a lack of literature on the mentioned theory. This has resulted in a lack of clarity in actions that need to be taken by the leaders in a particular situation.

The term leadership style can be defined as the way by which a leader uses his or her power to lead an organization. According to the researcher, the effectiveness and appropriateness of a specific leadership style depending on the function of the leader and the team members as well as the situation (Kark, & Shamir, 2013). In the following paragraphs, a critical review of the seven most popular leadership styles has been performed.

Ethical leadership style includes respect for ethical values and dignity as well as rights of others. Ethical leadership style is associated with the concepts of trust honesty, charisma, consideration and fairness. According to Aydin, Sarier & Uysal, (2013), ethical leadership has the potential to create a well-maintained balance between the well being of the team members as well as the wider community and the profitability of the organization. The chief focus of the Ethical leaders is on the communication and collaboration with the employees in an ethical way that results in the enhancement of the employee's job satisfaction. Under ethical leadership, team members are free to express their concern and the relationship between employees of higher rank and those of lower rank is based on mutual respect. The enhanced job satisfaction of the employees prevents employee attrition and thus helps the organization to gain more annual revenue with the help of a consistent and loyal workforce.

Leadership Styles

Furthermore, effective leadership shapes the environment of the organization which in turn attracts efficient candidates with high morale towards the organization and helps the organization to impose a powerful impact on the society with helps to same to enhance its consumer base. According to researchers, organizations that follow ethical leadership has evidenced reduced business liabilities as prevention of costly errors. However, according to Huczynski, Buchanan & Huczynski, (2013), in spite of the fact that ethical leadership has several tangible advantages, the mentioned leadership style may not be considered to be the best approach for solving organizational issues. Considering the fact those ethical decisions taken by a leader depends on his or her overview, several times ethical decision made by the leader contradicts with the ethics of the employees. In such case, organizational conflict is unavoidable. Moreover, upholding high ethical standard at times can be extremely completed and bring financial hazard to the organization. In several situations like keeping up with the regulations, the cost of the organization can go up making the mentioned style of leadership harmful for the organization. Thus ethical leadership should always fall in line with the mission and vision of the organization in order to ensure a perfect balance between the ethics and profit of an organization.

While in the ethical leadership style priority is given to the ethical values of the organization, caring leadership style focus on building an effective leadership with the employees of an organization and thus ensuring higher employee satisfaction. A caring leader includes his subordinates in any vital decision making processes and prioritizes the satisfaction of the team member over any other organizational issues. This leadership style involves the leader to present himself as one of the team member in order to understand their issues and provide them with necessary training session. According to researchers, enhanced job satisfaction and employee retention are two of the most crucial advantage of caring leadership (García-Morales, Jiménez-Barrionuevo & Gutiérrez-Gutiérrez, 2012). Team members of an organization that follows caring leadership feels their effort are being valued by the management and hence the engagement and loyalty towards tasks gets enhanced. This in turn enhances the productivity of the organization along with reducing the employee attrition costs. Thus caring leadership provides long-term benefits to the company. However, Du et al., (2013) argued that caring leadership hinders an organization to meet its goal by blurring the line between a leader and his subordinates. This type of leadership makes it more difficult for the organization to terminate employees who lacks skills and thus decreases the productivity of the company.

Ethical Leadership

The concept of servant leadership style includes that the first priority of a leader should serve his subordinates by acknowledging their perspective an providing them with the support they require to meet their professional as well as personal goals and thus building a sense of community in the organization. According to Abualrub & Alghamdi, (2012), servant leadership enhances the responsibility and bonding between the teammates buy facilitating through a collaborative approach. Unlike any other form of leadership, a servant leader does not create policies to be imposed on the team members but administrate the policies through listening. Moreover, during decision making, the decision of the team members is given a priory. This makes each of the team members feel responsible for the outcome of a project. Avolio & Yammarino, (2013) argued that a huge amount of time is needed to make servant leadership effective in an organization. Considering the fact that servant leadership style requires a change in the mindset of both the leader as well as the employees, it gets difficult to make employees who are being led in an authoritarian manner to adopt the responsibility and trust them with the servant style of leadership. Besides, that lack of authority and confusion regarding the goal of leadership are other two major disadvantages that are associated with this leadership style.

An authentic leadership style is an approach to leadership that gives emphasis on building the legitimacy of the leader through an honest relationship with the followers. Like ethical and caring leadership, authentic leadership makes it easier for the leader to develop and maintain trust and cohesion among the group. Moreover, since the mentioned leadership style involves s effective listening to the ideas of the employees a positive and rewarding relationship is established in the organization. However, according to researchers, the biggest disadvantage of authentic leadership is it infancy (Abualrub & Alghamdi, 2012). This leadership style does not possess a coherent or unified theory and hence different authors have added their own opinion about what they think to be the qualities to be an authentic leader. Furthermore, questions have been asked about the ambiguity of this theory around a specific context like the moral compass of the authentic leaders. As being pointed by García-Morales, Jiménez-Barrionuevo & Gutiérrez-Gutiérrez, (2012), while it has been stated that high-end values like community and justice motivate authentic leader, the way these values influence the leadership style lacks clarity.

Caring Leadership

The term value based leadership can be defined as leading a group of people by staying true to one's values. The high similarity between the value-based leadership and ethical leadership an be noticed. The mentioned leadership style is based on the notion that the values of an organization and an individual are aligned. This approach to leadership assumes that managers’ and workers’ core principles are the same; therefore, little time is spent on office conflict. According to Kark & Shamir, (2013), this assumption can be considered to be a major disadvantage of the value-based leadership style. In situations where the values of the team members differ from that of the leader, conflicts take place. Apart from this, since the mentioned leadership style includes an all-embracing, holistic management philosophy, the initiatives to implement the leadership effective often takes a huge amount of time, resource an patient which leads to loss of profit and decrement  in the revenue of the organization.

The concept of transformational leadership includes a leadership style where both leader as well thee follows raise on another to a higher level of motivation and moral so that they both can gain success in their professional life. According to researchers, transformational leadership allows quick formulation of a vision by proper communication between leaders and their employees. This, in turn, helps the employees to deal with challenging scenarios. Besides that, the leadership style motivates and makes the employees more enthusiastic about their work. However, Parris & Peachey, (2013) argued that this style of leadership often struggles with detail orientation at times. Transformational leaders need support from other executives in order to maintain  a transactional focus for being successful. Moreover, since the leadership style depends too much on the passion and emotion, it sometimes gets detached from the reality. Thus lacking the potential to face harsh situation may result in affecting the organization adversely.

This leadership style involves a process by which leaders gain the admiration of their subordinates by using their communication style and personality. Charismatic leaders possess emotional sensitivity that helps them to communicate effectively, maintain emotional control in the critical situation and impose a considerable emphasis on social ties. The mentioned leadership style has the potential to enhance the loyalty of the employees through effective motivation and inspiration. This, in turn, enhances the productivity and profit of the organization. the charismatic leadership style can also be seen as a move towards inwards innovation since the never-ending search of the charismatic leaders for better strategies helps the organization to stay up to date and has gained a competitive advantage in the market. 90 argued that charismatic leadership being majorly about the personality and belief of the leader often makes the leader forget the chief focus and turn him arrogant and shun humility or compassion. Moreover, since this leadership style often converts subordinates into followers, the organization often suffer if an influential charismatic leader leaves the organization.

Servant Leadership


From the above discussion, it can be concluded that all the theories an styles of leadership have contributed to the understanding of leadership. In spite of the fact that both merits, as well as demerits, have been obtained while analyzing all the theories and style of leadership, it has been understood that a specific theory has contributed to the development of another leadership theory. It has also been evidenced that where older theories of leadership consider leadership as a process that has been developed to influence others and to attain a specific goal, recent models of leadership has put emphasis on the role of a leader for defining organizational reality. Finally, it can be said that in order to implement an effective leadership in an organization, leaders need to analyze both advantage and disadvantage of their leadership style and implement strategies to eradicate the disadvantages.

Reference List

Abualrub, R. F., & Alghamdi, M. G. (2012). The impact of leadership styles on nurses’ satisfaction and intention to stay among Saudi nurses. Journal of nursing management, 20(5), 668-678.

Antonakis, J., & Day, D. V. (Eds.). (2017). The nature of leadership. Sage publications.

Avolio, B. J., & Yammarino, F. J. (Eds.). (2013). Introduction to, and overview of, transformational and charismatic leadership. In Transformational and Charismatic Leadership: The Road Ahead 10th Anniversary Edition (pp. xxvii-xxxiii). Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

Aydin, A., Sarier, Y., & Uysal, S. (2013). The Effect of School Principals' Leadership Styles on Teachers' Organizational Commitment and Job Satisfaction. Educational sciences: Theory and practice, 13(2), 806-811.

Chemers, M. (2014). An integrative theory of leadership. Psychology Press.

Clarke, S. (2013). Safety leadership: A meta?analytic review of transformational and transactional leadership styles as antecedents of safety behaviours. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 86(1), 22-49.

Du, S., Swaen, V., Lindgreen, A., & Sen, S. (2013). The roles of leadership styles in corporate social responsibility. Journal of business ethics, 114(1), 155-169.

García-Morales, V. J., Jiménez-Barrionuevo, M. M., & Gutiérrez-Gutiérrez, L. (2012). Transformational leadership influence organizational performance through organizational learning and innovation. Journal of business research, 65(7), 1040-1050.

Hoyt, C. L., Burnette, J. L., & Innella, A. N. (2012). I can do that: The impact of implicit theories on leadership role model effectiveness. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 38(2), 257-268.

Huczynski, A., Buchanan, D. A., & Huczynski, A. A. (2013). Organizational behaviour (p. 82). London: Pearson.

Kark, R., & Shamir, B. (2013). The dual effect of transformational leadership: Priming relational and collective selves and further effects on followers. In Transformational and Charismatic Leadership: The Road Ahead 10th Anniversary Edition (pp. 77-101). Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

Landis, E. A., Hill, D., & Harvey, M. R. (2014). A synthesis of leadership theories and styles. Journal of Management Policy and Practice, 15(2), 97.

Lussier, R. N., & Achua, C. F. (2015). Leadership: Theory, application, & skill development. Nelson Education.

MALO?, R. (2012). THE MOST IMPORTANT LEADERSHIP THEORIES. Annals of Eftimie Murgu University Resita, Fascicle II, Economic Studies.

McCleskey, J. A. (2014). Situational, transformational, and transactional leadership and leadership development. Journal of Business Studies Quarterly, 5(4), 117.

Parris, D. L., & Peachey, J. W. (2013). A systematic literature review of servant leadership theory in organizational contexts. Journal of business ethics, 113(3), 377-393.

Penney, S. A., Kelloway, E. K., & O’Keefe, D. (2015). Trait theories of leadership. In Leadership in Sport (pp. 31-45). Routledge.

Storey, J. (2016). Changing theories of leadership and leadership development. In Leadership in Organizations (pp. 33-58). Routledge.

Yukl, G. (2012). Effective leadership behavior: What we know and what questions need more attention. Academy of Management Perspectives, 26(4), 66-85.

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