Essay on the Four Major Theories of Leadership

From the above theoretical discussions, we can group various leadership theories in to following four categories:

1. Trait Theory of leadership

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2. Behavioural Theory of leadership

3. Situational Theory of leadership

4. Great Man Theory of leadership

1. Trait Theory of Leadership:

Trait Theory seeks to determine personal characteristics of effective leaders. It points out that the personal traits or personal characteristics of a person make him an effective or successful leader. Charles Bird examined twenty lists of traits attributed to leaders in various surveys and found that none of the traits appeared on all lists. Leaders are characterized by a wide variety of traits ranging all the way from neatness to nobility.

Leaders are presumed to display better judgment and engage themselves in social activities. The study of the lives of successful leaders reveals that they possessed many of these traits. According to the Trait Theory, the persons who possess the following traits or personal characteristics could become successful leaders:

Good Personality:

Physical characteristics and level of maturity determine the personality of an individual. Success of a leader, to-a great extent, depends on the good personality.

Intellectual Ability:

For a leader, the level of intelligence should be higher than his followers. Intellectual ability enables a leader to analyse the situation accurately and take decision accordingly.

Initiative:

A leader should have the initiative to undertake activities on time.

Imagination:

It is also an essential trait for a successful leader. He must be able to visualize trends and adopt the right course of action to achieve the result.

Maturity:

A leader should have emotional maturity and balanced temperament. Maturity is reflected through behavioural tolerance.

Desire to Accept Responsibility:

Accepting responsibility for his actions (irrespective of the results) creates a positive impression in the minds of the followers. A leader should have this trait also.

Self-confidence:

A leader should be self-confident. His self-confidence motivates his followers and boosts their morale.

Flexibility and Adaptability:

To become flexible and adaptable, a leader should have an open mind to accept others view points. This fosters innovation and creativity in an organization.

Objectivity and Fairness:

In dealing with followers, a leader should be objective and fair. This trait requires a leader to be honest, fair, impartial, unbiased and of integrity.

Considerate:

To be considerate to the followers ensures cooperation from the followers, which adds to the success of a leader.

Limitations of Trait Theory:

1. One of the major limitations of this theory is that it assumes leadership to be a born quality. This is not always correct. Leadership quality can also be developed through training. Even by successful handling of a crisis situation, one can emerge as a leader. This has happened in case of Russy Mody on 1 May 1947 at Jamshedpur plant of Tata Iron and Steel Company, where he could pacify the militant workmen, who were beating executives and supervisors to outburst their grievances.

2. A particular trait or some traits may help a leader to successfully manage a situation but he may fail in other situations. It is also difficult to find a leader with all such listed traits.

3. There is no quantitative tool to measure a trait or traits. Absence or presence of traits could only be understood only when a situation occurs and a leader manages the situation.

4. List of personal traits are only indicative and not exhaustive. A successful leader may have other traits like; foresight, vision, methodical, thorough, etc., also.

5. Personal traits are only a micro part of leadership. In order to be a successful leader, one must have other qualities also. Hence, measuring leadership quality only on personal traits may be wrong.

2. Behavioural Theory of Leadership:

As per this theory, a particular behaviour of a leader provides a greater satisfaction to the followers. Such behavioural attribute enables followers to recognize a leader. This theory is based on the premise that a leader plays a role behaviour, using his conceptual, human and technical skills, which influence the behaviour of followers.

Behaviour is not a trait; it sets a particular role pattern. For instance, a leader may have a nurturing parent behaviour, which appreciates the problems of followers and even cajoles them when they fail to deliver, whereas, there are also leaders who may have a critical parent behaviour, which depicts critical nature in dealing with such situation. He never appreciates, only reprimands.

Limitations of Behavioural Theory:

1. The behavioural theory cannot justify why a particular leadership behaviour is effective in one case and fail in another case. To take an example, nurturing parent behaviour may be effective to stop the recurrence of failure on the part of subordinates in one case, whereas, it may not work in another case, where followers may take advantage of this behaviour on the part of the leader and repeat the same mistake. Critical parent behaviour could have been better in the second situation.

2. This theory does not recognize the traits of leaders. Certain traits, however, may make a successful leader.

3. Situational Theory of Leadership:

This theory attributes leadership emerges from a situation, i.e., how in a given situation a leader performs. Followers tend to follow a leader who is capable to fulfil their aspirations in a given situation. A leader, duly recognizing the need of the situation, performs. Hence, his style may differ from situation to situation. Again, we can cite the example of Russy Mody, who had emerged as a leader because of his proactive way of dealing with militant workmen.

Limitations of Situation Theory:

1. Major limitation of this theory is that it lays emphasis on the leadership of a leader in a given situation. If the situation changes, there is no mention whether a person still continue to be a leader. The best example here is trade union leaders. Followers may reject the leadership, if a trade union leader fails to meet their expectations in different situations.

2. Since situation changes, same style in all situations may not guarantee success. However, the style of leadership is influenced by particular traits and the behavioural role of a leader.

4. Great Man Theory of Leadership:

This theory emphasizes that leaders are born and not made. Hence, great leaders are natural leaders. It is partly true that some leadership qualities cannot be acquired even through training, for example, commanding personality, charm, courage, intelligence, persuasiveness and aggressiveness. This theory, therefore, emphasizes that leadership qualities are inborn; hence “ordinarily people cannot become leaders.

Limitations:

1. This theory is not scientific and also has no empirical basis. In many cases, one can prove this theory wrong.

2. This theory neither explain who are leaders and how they emerge as leader, nor how they behave and emerge as achievers.

Language of Leaders:

The six most important words: ‘I admit I made a mistake.’

The five most important words: ‘You did a good job.’

The four most important words: ‘What is your opinion?’

The three most important words: ‘If you please.’

The two most important words: Thank you,’

The one most important word: ‘We’

The least most important word: ‘I’