Leadership endures relevance in virtually every field of life, and it cannot be overstated in the business world. The success and failure of every firm or organization rest on its leadership. This immense importance of leadership has garnered many interests around it for years, and this explains exhaustive researches in various fields and disciplines such as management, psychology, sociology, political science, educational and public administration (Yukl, 1989). Due to its importance and immense relevance, a lot of theories have been proposed which attempt to describe leadership based on several schools of thoughts. Each theory attempts to shed light on some basic characteristics of leadership. Undeniably, the theories on leadership align with the five big ideas on leadership as pointed out by Allio (2009) which include good leaders have good character, there is no best way to lead and leaders must collaborate, adaptability makes longevity possible, leaders are self-made. These all parameters can be dubbed in the doctrine of effective leadership to some extent and of course, they are well buttressed in leadership theories. This essay delineates some important leadership theories and concepts to aid our understanding on effective leadership.
What Is Leadership?
There is no single acceptable definition for leadership. The exact meaning of leadership has been long debated on by researchers. In fact, Stogdill was right in opining that the definitions of leadership are almost equal to the number of people who attempt to define it. Thus, it would be very easy to find definitions based on some important concepts such as influence over followers, influence on task goals, individual traits, interaction patterns, leader behavior, follower perspectives, influence on organizational culture and so forth (Yukl, 1989). A careful scrutiny of the definitions of leadership will reveal its relationship with influence. However, this does not write-off leadership as a process of social influence, even though the social influence is included in leadership because leadership in itself is much more encompassing. Furthermore, there is a hot debate on the relationship between leadership and management. Some schools of thoughts assert that leadership and management are qualitatively different and even mutually exclusive whereas some others assume that leadership and management are the same. Irrespective of the various ideologies and schools of thoughts on leadership, there are some generally held concepts of leadership. For instance, the immense power held and wielded by leaders is an interesting subject quite apparent to all. Moreover, the ethics in leadership is another interesting field of leadership that seems to garner a lot of attention among researchers and theorists. On discussing leadership ethics, three interesting subjects comes to mind, and these include emotions, fit/congruence, and identity/identification. Leadership is generally held responsible to promote ethical conducts in the organization. This distinguishes ethical leaders from unethical leaders. Unethical leaders exhibit unethical or illegal behavior and this too often than not reflect on the organization (Brown & Mitchell, 2010).
Theories and leadership experts have propounded several theories on leadership. Some of these theories fall into various categories including transformational and charismatic approach, trait, situation, power and influence, behavior and so forth. Obviously, leadership actions, activities can be best understood by examining them in the light of some of these useful theories, but this does not imply that every theory would tally with one's experiences on leadership. Most theories on leadership are being improved upon by theorists in order to tend towards greater effectiveness, and indeed effective leaders must be able to learn, unlearn and likewise relearn to maintain effectiveness as times and trends change.
House’s Charismatic Leadership Theory
According to Yukl (1989), House’s charismatic leadership theory was propounded by House in 1977, and it aims at identifying the behavior of charismatic leaders and the major differences between this behavior to that of other people. Furthermore, this theory also attempts to clarify the factors and conditions under which a charismatic leader would function effectively. According to the theory, a charismatic leader is described by how the followers perceive him. However, to be perceived as a charismatic leader, a leader must possess certain traits including high self-confidence, a strong need for power and strong convictions. This also reckonings well with the Conger and Kanugo Charismatic Theory, which pointed out certain traits of a charismatic leader such as making self-sacrifices and risking the personal loss of money, status or membership; acting in an unconventional way to achieve a given vision, self-confidence and so forth. House’s theory further states that charismatic leaders are expected to put up behaviors such as impressive management to maintain the confidence the followers have on their leader. The leader should also be able to express confidence in the ability of the followers to build their self-confidence and likewise build the commitment of the followers by coming up with a vision that defines the task (Yukl, 1989). It also emphasizes that charismatic leaders’ behaviors should be an example to their followers. As a matter of fact, the demeanor of charismatic leaders should be such that it would arouse the motives of followers for the task.
The word ‘charisma’ refer to personal magnetism that implies the ability to inspire enthusiasm, affection or interest in others via personal influence or charm. Evidently, it is possible to have all or most of the characteristics of a charismatic leader mentioned above but still not be magnetized by most of the associated subordinates. Moreover, a charismatic leader is described as a leader who influences the followers. However, the effectiveness of a leader especially as it relates to his influence on subordinates is defined with respect to his self-knowledge, self-concordance, self-concept, self-concept clarity, person-role merger and how the leader’s behavior is expressed by his self-concept (Charisma,2009; Ünsar, 2014) ). As a matter of fact, these qualities reflect what Shamir & Eilam (2005) dubbed in authentic leadership. In other words, this is possible for a charismatic leader not to be authentic. Apparently, a charismatic leader too often than not reproduces subordinates that are charismatic or poised at achieving a goal. A leader’s disposition often rubs off on his followers and can be easily picked up from an ardent follower. Therefore, a charismatic leader usually achieves his vision through the followers, but that does not really imply that charismatic leadership usually tends towards effective followership according to House’s theory.
In addition, House’s Theory assumes a charismatic leader as one who does not need to learn from his followers but this ought not to be so. A leader is by no means a custodian of all knowledge. His knowledge level might be higher than those of his subordinates in some given fields, but usually, a leader has a lot to learn from his followers. This is why the Burn's Theory of Transforming Leadership is a more appropriate theory as it describes leadership as a process of changing inter-relationship in which leaders influence followers. Consequently, they are also influenced and could modify their behavior so as to meet responsiveness or resistance (Yukl, 1989), but House’s Theory fails to make room for such a transformational relationship.
Moreover, another aspect of transformational or charismatic leadership that is often questioned is morality. Bass & Steidlmeier (1999) stressed on the ethics, character and authentic transformational leadership behavior drawing focus on the criticism of this form of leadership by libertarians, organizational development consultants, and grass root theorists. Obviously, transformational leadership must draw its life from morality. Charismatic leadership theory as proposed by House does not really move the serious motion on morality. It seems to be salient on the issues of morality and ethics. In general, charisma is essentially useful and relevant for effectiveness in leadership, but charismatic leadership theory does not simply bring in everything in leadership.
Leader-environment-follower-interaction theory abbreviated as LEFI is another interesting leadership theory that stems from the situational leadership approach proposed by Wofford. The LEFI theory assumes that the performance of the subordinates of a leader is based on four mediating variables which include the ability to do the work, perceiving the role clearly and appropriately, task motivation and the presence or absence of environmental constraints. Moreover, the theory suggests that a leader could influence the performance of his subordinates simply by influencing and modifying these variables. Moreover, the deficiencies in these variables could often be accessed by leveraging the diagnostic behaviors, and these deficiencies can be corrected by making the most of the corrective behaviors (Livingston, 2003; Yukl, 1989). The theory also suggests the use of improved selection procedures as an avenue for avoiding faults in the abilities of the subordinates. The deficiencies could also be avoided by redesigning the job in such a way as to match the skills of the subordinates and also increasing the training. More so, effective leaders can ensure optimal level of subordinate motivation by selecting subordinates with a high need for achievement, providing the right feedback and encouragement and setting specific but challenging goals. The subordinates could also be further motivated using incentives, competition, participation, communication, job redesign and so forth. Tools like guideline, feedback, formalization, instruction and so forth can also be used by effective leaders to achieve role accuracy and clarity and constraints in the work environment can be dealt with by reorganizing the work, refashioning the technology, removing physical constraints and providing resources. This theory suggests that the intervening variables coupled with factors like the traits of the leader and situational variables. The situational variables influence the intervening variables and limit the effects which the leader’s behaviors have on the intervening variables. As wonderful as this theory sounds, it has been criticized on the basis of its complexity. Yukl, (1989) also clearly indicated that the complexity of this theory makes it quite difficult to test more than a small part of it at a time.
This theory rests heavily on the philosophy of motivation. It stresses the importance of motivation as a primary driver of leadership. Here leadership is defined regarding motivation while keeping some other leadership characteristics silent. However, the theory has strong parameters especially as it relates to working hand in hand with the followers to ensure success in a venture. The concept of feedback in leadership becomes convenient here because Harms & Roebuck (2010) defined feedback in the workplace as a process of evaluating and discussing the performance of both employees and managers. It observes the feedback process as a way of discussing the strengths and weaknesses of the individuals and also giving suggestions on how to improve the weakness with an ultimate goal of aligning the workplace behavior with the overall goals of an organization or a team. This theory can be best viewed by examining its four compartments namely the leader, the environment, the follower and the interaction. Obviously, these four vital components define an effective leadership and must be carefully considered. Usually, the environment is not given appropriate consideration by most scholars when it comes to effectiveness in leadership, but no effective leadership occurs in an unfavorable environment. As a matter of fact, the environment must have to be tailored in such a way as to favor both the leader and the follower. Of course, the leader and followers are vital components of effective leadership because without followers, a leader ceases to be a leader. Lastly, the interactions between the leader and followers are also of vital importance. This is where the feedback process comes. Hence, it is imperative to consider that the feedback process is not a one-way process but a two-way process involving giving and receiving from the leader to the follower and vice versa. In other words, albeit this theory is deemed complex and difficult to test, it defines the right model of effective leadership from my point of view stressing the importance of the vital components that makes up an effective leadership. Moreover, this form of leadership makes it easy to bounce back from adversity as an organization (Margolis & Stoltz, 2010). This is because effective feedback and interaction with other leaders and subordinates help one to ascertain the duration, breadth and imparting control over an adversity. Moreover, this leadership theory also makes room for identifying an adversity ahead of time. Therefore, making necessary preparation and taking adequate steps in order to contain and deal with it. A clear identification of the environmental constraints provide an essence giving room for pinpointing the challenges faced by the firm in the physical environment and the appropriate approaches to deal with those challenges.
A Personal Perspective on Leadership
Various literature on leadership assumes that leadership and management are two separate concepts. Yukl (2001) brought the two concept together and thereby forming the word ’managerial leadership’. Obviously, management becomes effective when the manager is a leader. Charismatic leadership as proposed by House assumes that certain charismatic attributes must be present in a leader before he can lead effectively. This is akin to stating the leaders are born and not made. Of course, good leaders could possess some intrinsic characteristics that distinguish them, but essentially effectiveness can be ensured by acquiring knowledge. A leader must be able to keep abreast of every necessary detail on leadership and also wield them appropriately. Leadership is a practical activity (Denis, Langley & Rouleau, 2010) and too often than not the leadership role, which is a function of the organization in particular could change with the trends and seasons. The theories and concepts of leadership as pointed out above namely situational and transformational leadership are quite encompassing but do not truly paint the picture of leadership as a practical activity in a complex organization (Denis et al. 2010). Apparently, the practice of leadership is a complex process which cannot perfectly be defined by a single theory, concept or model. In fact, this is obviously what spurred Allio (2009) to assert that there is no best way to lead. This means that there might be different models or ideas on effective leadership and no single model or theory truly defines an effective leader. In fact, an integration of all of the leadership theory would go a long way to giving a model of an effective leader in an organization or a system.
The models and theories of effective leadership do not comprehensively consider the factors that result to the derailment of executives or top managers. The study conducted by Velsor & Leslie (1995) explored the reasons associated to executives derailment across times and cultures. The study noted that derailment could be prevented if managers and those around them will work on some hard developmental issues. To prevent derailment, the study also observed that managers need to improve themselves in their interpersonal relationships, their ability to build and lead a team, ability to develop or adapt and ability to meet the objectives of the business. Essentially, it can be noted that derailment is a developmental issue and not a value issue and can be prevented by working on the aforementioned developmental processes and not the value system. More so, the leadership theories discussed here especially House’s charismatic theory does not really take the development of the leader into consideration. The leader is presented here as someone who is already perfect and can be emulated in all ramification by the followers or subordinates. Of course, the leader should serve as an example to the followers, but there should be room for improvement and development to avoid the issues of leadership derailment.
In conclusion, being a very vital and important subject, leadership demands careful consideration and study in every organization. Leadership has no single definition, and many theories have been propounded by various theorists to describe this important concept. A leader can simply be defined as a person who has a follower regardless of the number of followers. This definition clearly writes management off as different from leadership. However, managerial leadership concept tries to marry the two important concept namely leadership and management together. A manager must be a leader to be effective. Leadership is usually defined regarding motivation and influence. Charismatic leadership tries to capture and define a leader as someone who is endowed with some sort of charisma that magnetizes followers to him and causes them to follow his footsteps. However, it can be argued that an effective leader is not only defined in terms of the innate abilities, but a leader must be able to learn, unlearn and relearn to ensure effectiveness. Moreover, effective leadership should be transformational. In other words, the feedback process must be developed in such a way that the leader could learn and communicate to and from his subordinates creating room for absolute effectiveness.
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