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Leadership Management | Principles And Practices

510 Downloads1 I Published: 25 Oct ,2019

Introduction

The vision of the leaders often ensures success of organizations by leading a team towards desired direction fulfilling all the prerequisites. The leader is the key personality to lead a group of people ensuring right deeds, setting direction and framing inspiring vision. Avolio et al. (2009) noted that leaders map out the things need to be done to attain the set goal. There is always a debate whether trait theories or the contingency theories are more useful while applying the same in the organization. On this note, it must be mentioned that trait theories put more stress on assessing characteristics (creativity, intelligence) of the leaders (either born or made). Conversely, contingency theories focus on the situation based upon which capabilities of the leaders are determined. The current study mainly aims to develop a critical analysis illustrating the applicability of trait and contingency theories. In addition to that, discourse on comparative (critical) analysis will be made to assert the applicability of theories on situations within organizations.

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Trait theories of leadership

Trait theory of leadership deals with the mental, physical and social characteristics common in all the leaders. The theory points out the common traits among all the leaders and elucidates those are necessary characteristics a leader needs to possess to be efficient and successful enough. Bennis (2007) stated that capabilities are rooted among the leaders that they usually possess in organization. Over the years, many researchers and scholars have conducted researches to point out the catalysts (variables) behind success of the well-known leaders. Research conducted by Boies et al. (2015) assessed that there is a significant link between the successful leadership and personality traits. Characteristics such as openness, self-efficacy, introversion and intelligence are some of the traits that ensure success of the leaders. However, argument put forward by Certo and Trevis Certo (2014) depicts that leaders are made based upon divergent situations and tasks they perform. At the initial stage, the theorists used to believe leadership to be an instinctive quality however; the conception has been altered by modern ideas in the past years. Some of the critics criticize the traits not as ultimate factor behind success as it does not ensure success for any of the leaders.

Trait theories also indentify the successive and failure factors for the leaders to predict effectiveness of applied leadership approach. The resulting traits are listed and are compared to the leaders to evaluate the likelihood of failure and success. While assessing the effectiveness characteristics such as demographic, social, personal and intellective are considered. It is strongly believed that there are certain qualities such as personality and ability that are different in successful leaders comparing to less effective leaders. Achievement drive, knowledge of business, cognitive ability, honesty and integrity are some of the factors those do not necessarily ensure success for the leaders but are the preconditions a leader needs to possess. Conger (2004) mentioned that through trait theories, the requisite elements of the leadership can be determined. Nevertheless, there are certain limitations such as subjective judgment, limited traits, lack of differentiation in terms of traits (high, low), and complexity are the some of the areas because of which the theory is often criticized that hampers to acceptability to a greater extent among the leaders.

Contingency theories of leadership

Contingency theorists strongly believe that there should be no particular way to lead but adoption of leadership style should be based upon the situation or the tasks. In other words, it can be stated that leaders are there who give best responses when the situation demands more. It should also be noted that the contingency theories are none but extension of the trait theories that explain leadership approach vividly. Daft (2011) established the link by saying that traits are linked with the situation (directly/indirectly). The emergence of the theory came from the hypothesis that whether leaders remain ‘leaders’ in all situations. From the formed hypothesis, it is noted that a leader leading successfully in one situation may not lead in different situation with the same traits or approach. As per this assumption, scholars noted that there is no set of traits (personality characteristics) ensuring effectiveness of the leaders. Nevertheless, the interaction between the traits and situations may ensure successive path (Day, 2012). Conversely, this theory shows that success of the leaders is ensured with the combination of personal traits and the demands of the situation. In this light, one of the contingency theories proposed by Fiedler’s theory could be averred where the author focuses on the interaction of leadership approach and the situation. Three crucial factors such as quality of relationship (with members), structure of the tasks and amount of formal authority are listed as successive factors.

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Contingency theorists possess the conception that successes of the leaders are the functions of different contingencies that may come in altered form such as group variable, subordinate or the task itself. In addition, the effectiveness of the leadership style is the dependent on the criteria imposed by the very situation. Contingency approach proposes different styles of leadership based upon the situation created within the organization. In this form of theories, authors propagated divergent forms. For example, Hersey and Blanchard’s situation theory propagates three dimensions such as task, leadership and readiness. On the other hand, Vroom and Yetton’s decision participation theory postulates that effective decision-making depends on quality, relevance and amount of information obtained.

Discourse on applicability of the proper leadership theory

It is debatable to comment on applicability of a particular theory as situation is ever changing in modern business organizations. One leadership approach may be significant for one situation but it may get vain in other situation. While taking a glance at the modern organizational environment, it can be found that the nature of team and tasks have been changed due to encouragement of diversity, equality, fairness. People from different background (culture) may work within a team and may be led by a leader from another background. Form this observation, it can be noted that the leaders may need to alter the approach as per demands of the situation. Differences in business operations of different organizations that may need advanced or altered leadership approach to ensure success (Higgs and Rowland, 2011). Debate on applicability of leadership approach may raise questions that do not necessarily find any valid answer. It could be seen that trait theory has been advanced with the thought that traits may be developed that widen the chances of acceptability. However, the theory is limited within the listed traits. If studied more, some more traits could have been added. On the other hand, there is certain goodness in the theory that it is applicable for all the leaders and provides with constructive framework of leadership. Leaders may evaluate their position within the organization and can find the ways to sharpen their conduct of leadership to make it more effective. Trait approach also guides the leaders to determine the weaknesses and work on those to be more effective.

Some of the instances of great leaders and their skills can be averred here to get lucid understanding. For instance, Steve Jobs is considered as one of the prominent and successful leaders until date. Some of the capabilities listed from his entire career of being a successful entrepreneur include confidence, adaptability, sense of urgency and vision. It is seen that he has not only successfully led Apple and Pixar but could be able to lead many other organizations with ease and simplicity. The level of confidence he used to possess gave him self-assurance and gave the power to break the barriers (Snow, 2015). He was too focused and compassioned at the same time turning himself into a favorite leader of all time. Clear vision where he wanted to lead gave him the strength to be clear and fair. Another instance of Bill gates can be given here who used to possess successive factors such as growing and learning with time, clear vision, caring attitude towards the employees. The individual owns one of the most successful companies in the world and receiver of many medals and awards in his continuing career. He is often considered as a philanthropist having a clear vision as a result of which Microsoft exists. On an important note, it should also be observed that he possesses a caring approach for the employees and believes in the notion of humanitarianism.

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While having a glance at the contingency theories it is noticed that situation is given more emphasis than the traditional traits (as per trait theory). The success of the leaders is determined based upon the readiness to deal the situation with competencies. However, link can easily be found between trait and contingency theory as if the leaders lack basic traits, will not be able to deal with the situation resulting in vain. In the modern organizations, teams are formed containing people from different backgrounds (especially in multinational companies to greater extent) therefore there are chances of conflicts all the time (Boies et al. 2015). Now, this is the very responsibility of the leader to deal with the conflicts and take effective measures to solve those maintain an approach that is competent enough to solve the issues. There are presence of other leadership approaches such as transactional, transformational based upon the viability of the situation. Members come from different societal and cultural background expanding the room for misunderstanding and conflicts. Here, the leader should possess the qualities to deal the situation. Traits need to be there but the correct approach also determines the conflict resolution mechanisms (Conger, 2004). Contingency theories on the other hand hold greater scope than the trait theory as the extension of the same that might be more applicable for the modern age leaders. Through these, different dimensions of corrective leadership styles are exposed that help in dealing the critical situations with ease. Now argument can be put forward by saying that both the theories complement each other and there is a clear link. Without having some traits such as empathy, readiness, creativity, intelligence situation cannot be dealt. Conversely, the traits cannot determine the success alone as situation wise it may change the nature lowering the chances of success. On the other hand, if the person uses corrective approach (leadership style) based upon situation but lacks the traits then chances of success in terms of dealing the situation are low.

However, the applicability of contingency theories is greater due to wider scope than the trait theory. Trait theory is one of the conventional theories but in the modern diverse situation, it may not be fruitful for the leaders while following simplistic mechanism (Certo and Trevis Certo, 2014). Conversely, contingency theory is propagated as the extension having wider scope to deal a situation from different dimensions that is more coherent. Leaders get the chance to apply and show their abilities as per the demands of the situation turning them into superior leaders. The conception is novice than comparing it with the preceding one. There might be some inborn qualities among the leaders but these need encouragement and nourishment through which capabilities get polished. All these qualities does not necessarily ensure effectiveness of the leaders as there are question of personal choice, belief, knowledge (depends on gene as well) that determine a good leader. From the comparative analysis, it can be stated that contingency theory is having wider scope than the trait theory as it is limited under listed traits. Contingency theory gives more creativity to deal a crisis from different dimensions that is required in modern-days organizations.

Conclusion

In this current study, efforts have been made to develop a comparative analysis between contingency and trait theory based upon their applicability. It is noted from the arguments that scope and viability in contingency theory provides it with more scope to be applied in crises. The study was helpful in developing understanding regarding effectiveness of leadership styles in organization while leading people towards desired goal. Most importantly, linkage between the two theories has also been averred to acquire vivid understanding.

References

  • Avolio, B.J., Walumba, f.O. and Weber, T.J. (2009) ‘Leadership: Current Theories, research, and Future Directions’, Annual review of Psychology, 60, pp. 421-449.
  • Bennis, W. (2007) 'The Challenges of Leadership in the Modern World', American Psychologist, 62(1), pp. 2-5.
  • Boies, K., Fiset, J. and Gill. (2015) ‘Communication and trust are key: Unlocking the relationship between leadership and team performance and creativity’,The Leadership Quarterly. Dec. 26(6) pp. 1080-1094
  • Certo, S.C. and Trevis Certo, S. (2014) Modern Management: Concepts and Skills. 13th edn. International Edition. Harlow: Pearson.
  • Conger, J. A. (2004) 'Developing Leadership Capability: what’s inside the black box?' Academy of Management Executive, 18(3), pp. 136-139.
  • Daft R. L. (2011) Leadership. 5th edn. – International Edition, London: South-Western Cengage Learning
  • Day, D. V. and Antonakis, J. (Eds.) (2012) The Nature of Leadership. 2nd edn. London: Sage
  • Higgs, M. and Rowland, D. (2011) ‘What does it Take to Implement Change Successfully? A Study of the Behaviors of Successful Change Leaders’, Journal of Applied Behavioral Science,47(3), pp. 309-335
  • Snow, C.C. (2015) ‘Organizing in the Age of Competition, Co-operation, and Collaboration’, Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 22(4), pp 433-442
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