Research Proposal: Leadership Has Been Ongoing for Centuries

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Leadership has been ongoing for centuries, but in modern times several theories have emerged that have become predominant leadership thought. One of these is situational leadership. This style combines elements of task behavior (direction), relationship behavior (socio-emotional support) and building a readiness level in followers such that each situation is met with excellence and responses that are unique to that situation (Schermerhorn, 2001). Another leadership theory is the contingency model, wherein a leader has both a natural leadership tendency and also a fit between the leader's tendencies and the situation. The best fit between these two elements will be the best leader (Fiedler, 1964).

Another variant on contingency management theory is the Vroom-Yetton Model (1973), which expands on Feidler's contingency model but places emphasis on the way that the leader facilitates group action. Leaders can be manager-centered or group-centered, with the degree of freedom given the group dependent on the situation. In addition to these contingency-based models, there are other schools of leadership thought as well. Blake and Moulton (1964) developed the Managerial Grid Model, wherein leaders are determined based on a set of traits that they possess and their managerial style. Thus, managers can be categorized based on their concern for people and their concern for production. Their leadership abilities are essentially set by their leadership style, and are not based on contingencies (Enos, 2007).

2. My personal theory of leadership is that most contingency theories tend to ignore the degree to which the tone must be set before crisis emerges. The team, therefore, will have a predetermined response to a situation based on the leadership demonstrated to that point. I believe we can see this with organizations when they experience cultural inertia, even after the leadership team has been replaced. A leader's style influences the organization over a long period of time, even when the leader is no longer present. This personal theory leans towards some of the older theories such as the Blake-Moulton Managerial Grid, but I do not dismiss other theories, such as the Transformational-Transactional theory.

This theory, still somewhat in development I feel, is an adaptation of the concept of leadership style that I feel has merit. Some leaders are strong at one or the other, but few leaders are strong with both. To me, this explains why some organizations have substantial cultural inertia. I look at General Motors and see a firm that has experience decades of transactional leadership and is now in crisis because they cannot shift their culture to work under a transformational leadership model.

I believe that the ideal leadership theory has yet to be developed, in part because modern thought on the issue is new, and can be difficult to quantify. I feel that to some degree the leading theories require more synthesis in order to be ideal. Situational leadership is the strongest today because it incorporates elements of organizational readiness and seems to ascribe to the understanding that leadership begins with transactional leaders who set the tone for the organization's readiness and then in situations of crisis transformational leaders are able to exert their influence, building upon the work of previous leaders.

3. My current performance as a leader is oriented more towards transactional. I feel that leaders need to be able to lead on a day-to-day, transactional basis with an underlying feel for the way in which that day-to-day will eventually prepare the organizational for crises. This requires a strong sense of the ways in which the everyday leadership contributes to the bigger picture. Each action builds to subsequent actions, the sum of which should be smooth operational performance and the ability to not only deflect crisis but to avoid it… [END OF PREVIEW]

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