Different Methods of LeadershipResearch Paper

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Individuals often interchangeably use the words management and leadership, regardless of the fact that the two terms can refer to variant and at times overlapping roles and responsibilities. Leadership, in the organizational context, refers to the ability to set and communicate a vision or a direction towards which an organization should move. While in some situations academics have defined leadership based on personal capabilities of individuals to bring about changes in organizations (transformational leadership), other academics have defined leadership by focusing on the managerial aspect of it, which is based on the capabilities of an individual to guarantee employees' compliance through giving them incentives (transactional leadership). There are several other approaches to leadership such as agency theory in which the skills and capabilities of individuals are considered separate/distinct from the organization and systematic leadership approach in which the emphasis is put on the duty or rather role of an individual to institute changes within the organization's context. More recent leadership approaches focus on the need to have leaders who are both transformational (i.e. charismatic, entrepreneurial and visionary) and transactional (having the ability to organize staff and ensure goals are met) to ensure success in organizations (Northouse P., 2013) (De Vries, 2010).

This paper examines different leadership approaches, styles and aspects of leadership.

Leadership Approaches

Trait Leadership

The trait approach is one of the earliest attempts to study and classify leadership models. And to date the approach is style widely used to select leaders. However, it must be said that the word trait is surrounded by a lot of confusion and ambiguity when used in the organizational context. This is owing to the fact that trait can be used to mean several different attributes such as the abilities of a person, his dispositions, temperaments, personality, demographic attributes or physical attributes (Zaccaro, Kemp, & Bader, 2004, p. 103). Early in the twentieth century researchers studied leadership traits in an effort to investigate what traits made individuals great leaders and what traits did not. The researchers who conducted these studies later published several innate characteristics or qualities that could be used to assess whether one was a great military, social or political leader. The traits were published with the belief that they were hereditary and that they were only possessed by the people who would become "great" later in life. The very first studies that investigated trait leadership focused only on determining the exact traits that distinguished leaders from the rest (Northouse P. G., 2007). This lead to many theories being formed regarding leadership traits owing to the fact that being a leader is a difficult job that involves taking on serious responsibilities. Thus, it is argued that only the persons with the leadership traits would have the ability to carry out the serious tasks that leaders are faced with (Virkus, 2009).

Trait leadership is now interpreted to mean the personality, physical traits and mental capabilities that are unique to individuals who are great leaders and are absent in persons who are not great leaders. Trait leadership is one of the earliest leadership models and continues to be used in organizational settings (212 books, 2012). Leaders in different fields need to have different traits for them to succeed in their fields. For example, the best social leaders are those that have effective interpersonal skills; are self-driven; emotionally intelligent; sensitive to the needs of others; are sociable and passionate about people. All of these traits are innate -- they are things that persons are born with, things that they cannot acquire. Based on this model of leadership, studies conducted since the early 1900s have led to the compilation of lists of attributes or traits that are unique to great leaders. One such attempt is that of researchers Kirkpatrick and Locke (1991). The two researchers identified 6 traits that distinguish great leaders from weak leaders. The distinguishing traits include:

Knowledge of business -- leaders must be well informed and must have in-depth knowledge of the market that they are operating in so that they can make informed decisions fully aware of all the possible consequences.

Cognitive ability -- great leaders are individuals that are highly intelligent and have the ability to formulate effective plans and find solutions to problems.

Self-confidence -- a great leader has the confidence to make tough choices and the ability to inspire all stakeholders to follow his or her vision for the company.

Honesty -- honesty and integrity are two of the greatest traits that make effective leaders. These two traits form the foundation of trust between an organization and its stakeholders.

Leadership motivation -- great leaders are individuals who have a drive or desire to inspire and convince others to follow his or her vision. He or she also quickly takes charge when situations present themselves.

Drive -- according to Kirkpatrick and Locke (1991), this is one of the most important traits unique to great leaders. This trait collectively describes the energy, initiative, ambition, and achievement characteristics of great leaders. These characteristics represent a high level of effort.

As mentioned before the trait approach focuses on the attributes possessed by the leader and ways to determine the individuals who posses these traits. The main assumption in this leadership model is that the traits / attributes of an individual are critical to how well he or she assumes a leadership role. For companies this has eased the process of selecting leaders. For managers, this leadership model means that they too can assess their traits and understands their strengths and weaknesses and also understand how other people in the organization see them (Northouse P. G., 2007, pp. 23-24). Some of the strengths of the trait leadership model include:

1. It backs the popular argument that great leaders are special people who have an inborn potential to do great things. Societies have a need to see their leaders as special or gifted person, and this model meets this need.

2. This leadership model has a detailed research background and is supported by numerous studies.

3. The approach concentrates entirely on the leader and his role in the leadership process.

4. This approach presents standards that can be used to search for or to assess shortlisted individuals (Northouse P. G., 2007).

In the last few years more and more scholars have become interested in the trait leadership model. This has led to many researchers attempting to describe how personal traits determines ones potential leadership status. According to Northouse (2007, p.16) the study of the trait leadership model started with a focus on the determination and listing of the attributes that a great leader naturally has; next, the focus shifted to encompass the effects of certain situations on the success of a leader, and lately the focus has moved back to the examination of the important role played by traits in the success of a leader.

Critics of the trait leadership model have argued that studies have revealed that there are no great differences between great leaders and those without a leadership potential with regards to the identified 'leadership traits' in fact, some critics have even go ahead to argue that the individuals who have these traits have a lower probability of becoming leaders. It is true that some researchers have established that the links between these traits and the success of a leader are weak. This is however owing to the fact that few of these traits do not clearly distinguish between weak and strong leaders, leading to the mixed results in organizational success when leaders are selected using this model. When studies investigate the trait leadership approach the most common challenge is that that are very many leadership trait variables with small reliabilities and there is no specific rationale to use to select the variables to include in a research. The rationale currently used to pick variables has been referred to as "dustbowl empiricism." Furthermore, there are even fewer studies that have investigated the processes through which persons acquire the qualities or potential for being leaders. If leadership potential is truly specific to some individuals and absent in others, then very little information is available as to what brings about the potential in those who have it (Fleenor, 2011).

Behavioral leadership

As scholars became frustrated with their inability to clearly find the traits that effectively distinguished leaders from non-leaders, they shifted their focus to how leaders behaved (particularly towards those who followed them). The focus shifted from leaders to leadership. This leadership model became a very common way of approaching the leadership question in organizations in the mid twentieth century. Various behavioral patterns were grouped together referred to as styles. The studying of behavioral leadership became a critical component of managerial training. Perhaps one of the most popular training materials that incorporated this leadership approach was the Managerial Grid by Blake and Mouton (1964; 1978). Different researchers came up with schemes to diagnose and classify the various ways in which people worked. In spite of different names, the underlying concepts were very similar.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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