Leadership Theory Essay

1805 words - 7 pages


1. Definition of leadership and how it differs from management.

Leadership and management are two words that are commonly mistaken; the relation and the differences between them are often unclear. Leadership can be defined as „the ability to influence a group toward the achievement of a vision or a set of goals." Managers are there to plan, organize, lead and monitor employees' activities. Leaders also have to be able to guide an organization through change. As we will see later, vision is a crucial component in the success of this task.

2. Basic theories on leadership.

We can divide the theories that deal with leadership in 3 chronological groups. First were the trait theories. Until the 1940's, research in the field of leadership was dominated by these theories. Second came the behavioral theories which were very influent until the late 1960's. Finally, contingency theories are the most modern theories about leadership.

a. Trait theories.

Trait theories are „theories that consider personal qualities and characteristics that differentiate leaders from nonleaders." Early results aimed at confirming this theory were inconclusive. Many research studies were conducted and each identified key traits supposed to differentiate leaders from nonleaders. The problem is that they didn't get the same results, thus failing to discover common traits, which should have shown in each research study. When applying the Big Five Personality framework (extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability and openness to experience) to the study and research of leadership traits, results were more encouraging. They showed that the most important trait for leaders was extraversion. Still, this founding should be mitigated. Extraversion seems to be a crucial trait in getting leaders into leadership positions or being recognized by others as being a leader but isn't necessary related to effectiveness in the long run.
Finally, another trait that was identified by recent studies is emotional intelligence. The point is that if a leader doesn't have emotional intelligence all his other skills and qualities such as, competence, experience, excellent analytical skills, vision, etc. may fail to have a positive influence on the people he leads. Central to emotional intelligence is empathy and „the caring part of empathy, especially for the people with whom you work, is what inspires people to stay with a leader when the going gets rough. The mere fact that someone cares is more often than not rewarded with loyalty."

b. Behavioral theories.

Instead of focusing on personality traits, behavioral theories focus on the behavior of effective leaders. This distinction is very important because if behavioral theories proved to be true they would mean that people can be trained to become better leaders, in contrast to the trait theories, which assumed that characteristics that made the difference between leaders and nonleaders were...

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