Research Paper: Comparing and Contrasting Four Leadership Models or Theories

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¶ … Leadership Theories

Comparing and Contrasting Four Leadership Models or Theories

Great Man, Transformational/Transactional, Situational, and DISC theories of leadership

Four leadership theories:

Great Man, Transformational/Transactional, Situational, and DISC theories of leadership

One of the first formal theories of leadership ever conceptualized was the so-called 'Great Man' theory of leadership, which stressed that some individuals possess certain innate gifts or personality traits that make them uniquely compelling leaders (Wren, 1995, p.45). This idea has been reformulated for the modern era as Transformational leadership, which focuses on the charismatic personality or style of leadership of the head of the organization. Transformational leaders create a vision for the organization, and promise additional spiritual as well as material benefits for fulfilling their stated mission. They inspire others to lead, as well as to follow. The process of allowing transformational leadership influences to infuse an organization is complex and difficult but results in improved employee performance and loyalty (Tichy & Devanna 1990)

The mission statement of the transformational leader must be larger than the scope of the leader's ego, or the followers will see through such transparent self-interest (Avolio & Yammarino 2004). Instead, the transformational leader makes a tacit promise that the followers as well as the leader will be improved through the process of reaching a goal. The founder of transformational leadership, James MacGregor Burns (1978), said: "I define leadership as leaders inducing followers to act for certain goals that represent the values and the motivations -- the wants and needs, the aspirations and expectations -- of both leaders and followers" (Cited by Homrig, 2001).

Transformational leadership is seen as an antidote to the more mundane and typical day-to-day transactional exchanges that exist within organizations. "Transactional leadership is based on a transaction or exchange of something of value the leader possesses or controls that the follower wants in return for his/her services. The relations of most leaders and followers are transactional-leaders approach followers with an eye to exchanging one thing for another: jobs for votes, or subsidies for campaign contributions." (Homrig 2001). Of course, it would be unrealistic for organizational leaders at most for-profit business organizations not to offer some transactional exchanges as motivation to employees, including a salary. However, transformational leadership stresses that paychecks and promotions alone are not sufficient to motivate the worker: because of financial scarcity, and also because of the law of diminishing returns, once a worker has his or her basic needs satisfied, he or she is less apt to be motivated by more pay.

Unlike 'Great Man' theories, transformational leadership is participatory -- the leaders learn from the follower's input. Hierarchies are transcended in contrast to the 'carrot and stick' approach of conventional transactional pay-for-performance exchanges. For example, at an innovative organization such as Google, a new hire with a great idea about a new product might feel motivated by the fact that the company is willing to give him the ability to manage the team developing his idea. The transformational nature of the organization is evident in its willingness to give every idea serious consideration, even those of recent college graduates with little formal status.

The downside of transformational and participatory approaches, however, is that such a visionary method might anger people with seniority or a substantial personal investment in organizational standard operating procedures. "The transformational leader strives to achieve a true consensus in aligning individual and organizational interests. In true consensus, the interests of all are fully considered, but the final decision reached may fail to please everyone completely. The decision is accepted as the best under the circumstances even if it means some individual members' interests may have to be sacrificed" (Homrig 2001).

While transformational leadership focuses on the leader, other theories of leadership focus on the context in which leadership takes place, stressing that leadership is not a single quality, but a series of approaches that must change with the nature of the situation. Situational leadership reflects the idea that for some "work is a means, for some people, not an end," and thus different types of employees may be motivated by different influences (Wren, 2004, p. 438). Even transformational leadership approaches suggest that not every exchange within an organization is potentially transformational and hierarchy-transcending.

Situational leadership defines four leadership styles that are required to deal with four basic, different types of organizational situations. A 'telling and directing' (S1) leadership' style may be required when dealing with… [END OF PREVIEW]

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