Leadership Series (2): Theories of leadership

Dr. Ugbaja

In this series unlike other health related series by Dr. Ugboaja; the CMAC of Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital ventured into administration, in which he gave a perfect touch on leadership.

In this edition he digested the leadership theories and strongly maintained that the application of this theories varies with varying situation. Ugboaja upholds that wrong or bad or not properly timed application of these leadership theories is largely responsible for bad governance

Read his submission below

I warmly welcome you to this edition of our leadership series meant to stimulate our interest in becoming good and effective leaders. At the last session, we discussed some basic concepts in leadership and we were able to establish that leaders are made not born. We reviewed the four important factors in effective leadership which are the leader, the follower, the situation and the mode of communication. We also differentiated leadership from management. We saw that managers derive their power through occupying a formal position while leaders derive their power by their influence on people based on their personal characteristics. We also learnt that while part of a manager’s role is leading, not all managers are leaders and leaders do not have to occupy management positions.
In today’s presentation, we are going to discuss theories of leadership. These theories and the underlining assumptions will prepare you for more specific lessons in leadership. One might actually think that there is a specific ideology or theory behind what it takes to be a leader. The truth is that, there are several different theories that can be applied to leadership. Thus there are, really no right or wrong theories, simply different perspectives.
We will be discussing the classical theories of leadership, the path to goal theory, the new leadership theories, Hersey-Blanchard’s Model of Situational Leadership and Fiedler’s Contingency theory and then conclude. The aim is to arm you with these theories to help your growth as a leader.
Let’s start the discussion with the Classical Leadership theories. In this session, you’ll learn about the four classical leadership theories: trait theory, behavior theory, contingency theory, and transformational theory. In the end, we will compare these theories.
You may be conversant with age-long debates surrounding leadership that posits questions like, ‘What characteristics make someone a leader?’ and ‘Are leaders born or made?’ I am sure you would have looked at a particular leader and wondered what made him or her great leader. You will soon find out from this lesson as we discuss some of these theories. Actually, there have been many theories concerning what makes a leader, a leader. But the most widely known leadership theories are the trait theory, behavior theory, contingency theory, and transformational theory. So let’s start with the trait theory.

Some people believe that there are certain traits, or personal characteristics, that leaders have and others do not. The trait theory assumes that people are born with inherited traits and some of these traits are particularly suited to leadership. Therefore, people who make good leaders have the right (or sufficient) combination of traits. Some of these identified traits include charisma, intelligence, self-confidence, determination, integrity, high energy, sociability etc. In as much as the idea that leadership traits are inborn and unchangeable appears to be incorrect and have been challenged severally, managers can utilize the information from the theory to evaluate their position in the organization and to assess how their position can be made stronger in the organization. This theory makes the manager aware of their strengths and weaknesses and thus they get an understanding of how they can develop their leadership qualities. The trait theory is also useful in identifying leadership potential in people and many organizations use the principle in making recruitment decisions. It is often thought that since these traits are associated with proficient leadership, if one could identify people with them, one would be able to identify potential great leaders.
The Behaviour theories focus on what leaders do, as opposed to who they are as basis for effectiveness. Leadership behaviors can be divided into two dimensions: task-oriented behaviours and people-oriented behaviours. One famous behavior theory is the managerial grid model developed by Robert Blake and Jane Mouton in the early 1960s.
This theory posits that the extent to which the leader focuses on these dimensions determines his or her leadership style. While some leaders are more concerned with getting the tasks at hand completed successfully, others favour creating solid interpersonal relationships with their employees. The style of, and approach to leadership by leaders is dependent on the mix of these dimensions.
For example, if you have a high concern for the task and achieving results with little concern for maintaining relationships with people, you would likely be an authoritative-compliance manager. While a high concern for achieving results and great concern for maintaining relationships with the employees makes you a team leader. If you have been in a leadership position, you can assess your style.
Generally, the task oriented leader usually ignores the positions, ideas and feelings of others; engages in rigid, stylized communication; interrupts others; makes demands and focuses on facts, data and information as they relate to tasks. He/she often emphasizes productivity through the acquisition of technical skills. Most of the time, he/she communicates in writing and maintains a “closed door” policy
In contrast, the people-oriented leader solicits opinions, recognizes the positions, ideas, and feelings of others, engages in flexible, open communication and listens carefully to others. As against making demands, he makes requests, focuses on feelings, emotions, and attitudes as they relate to personal needs, emphasizes productivity through the acquisition of personal skills and most often communicates orally. He/she maintains an “open door” policy.
Studies have evaluated the behavioural patterns associated with effective leadership and found three critical characteristics of effective leaders. These are:
Task-oriented behavior
Effective managers studied did not do the same kind work as their subordinates. Their tasks were different, and included planning and scheduling work, coordinating activities and providing necessary resources. They also spent time guiding subordinates in setting task goals that were both challenging and achievable.
Relationship-oriented behavior:
Effective managers not only concentrated on the task, but also on their relationship with their employees. They were more considerate, helpful and supportive of subordinates, including helping them with their career and personal problems. They recognized effort with intrinsic as well as extrinsic reward, thanking people for efforts.
Overall, they preferred a general and hands-off form of supervision rather than close control. They set goals and provided guidelines, but then gave their subordinates plenty of leeway as to how the goals would be achieved.
Participative leadership/team-oriented behaviour
Effective leaders also used a participative style, managing at the group level as well as individually. For example, they used team meetings to share ideas and involve the team in group decisions and problem-solving. By their actions, such leaders model good team-oriented behavior. The role of the manager was found to be more facilitative than directive, guiding the conversations and helping to resolve differences. The manager, however, is responsible for results and is not absolved of responsibility. As such, they make final decisions based on the recommendations of the team. The effect of participative leadership is to build a cohesive team which works together rather than a set of individuals.

A2. Blake and Mouton Managerial Grid
Let us conclude the discussion on the behavioural theories by looking at the Blake and Mouton Managerial Grid which is a managerial grid model developed by Robert Blake and Jane Mouton in the early 1960s and serves as an assessment tool used by managers to determine their predominant leadership style.
The Two Behavior Dimensions
The x/y axis on the grid consists of two behavior dimensions, concern for people and concern for production. Concern for people is the degree to which a leader considers the needs of employees when deciding how tasks or jobs should be done. This can be personal or professional development. Concern for production is the degree to which a leader emphasizes objectives and productivity goals when deciding how tasks or jobs should be done. This can be rules, policies or performance standards. The grid is divided into five possible leadership styles: Country club leader, Impoverished leader, middle-of-the-road leader, team leader and produce or perish leader. Let’s look closely at the behaviours of several different managers to gain a better understanding of the managerial grid.
Country Club Leader
Ada is a departmental manager in a Bookstore. She is very concerned about how employees feel. Ada often covers shifts to cover for late or absent employees. She doesn’t want to overwork employees. This means that shelves are not always stacked with the newest novels. Her employees are very happy at work. In fact, her employees even gave her a mug with the words ‘World’s Best Boss’ printed on it. Ada is a country club leader.
The country club leader has the most concern for people. This leader assumes that if employees are happy, they will work hard. This leader’s high interest in the needs and feelings of employees affects productivity. With much of the focus on employee comfort, this leader finds it difficult to punish an employee. As a result, the relationship between employee and leader is very casual, like that of friends. The country club leadership style is plotted at the top-left corner of the grid and shows the most concern for people but the least concern for production.
Impoverished Leader
Emeka is the manager of a security firm at a Teaching hospital. He manages a staff of about 15 security guards. Emeka has no plan for security rounds. Security guards wander the hospital without a clear plan. Emeka also has no plan for employee satisfaction. He does not give compliments or offer assistance to employees. As a result, his employees are confused about their job and find no joy in coming to work. Emeka is an impoverished leader.
The impoverished leader has the least concern for people and for completion of tasks. This leader has no system of getting work done, nor is the work environment satisfying or motivating for employees. This leader’s low interest in the work and the work environment results in disorganized work, dissatisfied employees and a lack of harmony. The impoverished leadership style is plotted at the bottom-left corner of the grid and shows the least concern for production and for people.
Middle-of-the-Road Leader
Brenda is the bar manager at a city Cocktail lounge. Brenda directs the bar staff to do their jobs and pays them weekly for their services. She does not push them to upsell drinks or to clean when they are not busy. She does not offer additional training or opportunities to attend bartending seminars or workshops. Guests get their drinks on time alright, but no small talk is exchanged. As a result, her employees are neither satisfied nor dissatisfied with their jobs, and their performance is average. Brenda is a middle-of-the-road leader.
The middle-of-the-road leader has a balanced concern for both production and people. This leader settles for average performance from employees. This leader’s balanced interest results in mediocre production and employee satisfaction. The middle-of-the-road leadership style is plotted in the center of the grid and shows balanced concern for production and people.
Team Leader
Obiora is the manager of Dry Cleaning Company. He has a staff of five employees. Obiora requires employees to wash and iron hundreds of shirts a day. He sets high standards for his employees and rewards them with incentives for getting the work done on time. He makes sure each of his employees has cold water to drink while working. He even gives employees breaks throughout the day. But the wash must get done – and on-time. He accomplishes this by setting production goals and works with employees to be sure all of their needs are met. He often sends them on training on modern methods of dry cleaning. Obiora is a team leader.
The team leader stresses high production and employee satisfaction equally. This leader stresses high productivity by employees and believes that employees ‘satisfaction and development are also key. The team leadership style is plotted at the top-right corner of the grid and stresses high production from employees.
Produce or Perish Leader
Walter is the manager of an Eatery shop. He is a strict manager who directs every action his employees take. He watches over the employees all the time. He has been known to send employees who are not performing home for the day. He has even fired employees who over-salt the soup or pour a little too much into the cups. When an employee is not feeling well, he demands that they continue working. Walter is a produce or perish leader.
The produce or perish leader is authoritarian. This leader stresses production with little concern for people. This leader does not find the needs of employees important. Strict rules, policies and procedures are in place. Punishment is necessary to increase production. The produce or perish leadership style is plotted at the bottom-right corner of the grid and stresses high production with little concern for employee satisfaction. In summary, the Blake and Mouton Managerial Grid is an x/y-axis grid that represents the degree to which managers have a concern for production and for people which determines the manager’s leadership style.
Contingency theories suggest that leaders behave differently depending on the situation. For example, a leader may use a team approach on a day-to-day basis; however, during periods of crisis, he or she may choose to become more authoritative. The most effective leaders are those who can be flexible and adapt to a wide variety of situations. Can you think of a time when you had to change your leadership style to fit the situation?
Transformational theories are concerned with how leaders motivate, stimulate, and inspire others. Nearly synonymous with transformational leadership is the personality trait charisma. They use this trait to inspire others, and they set high moral standards and high expectations for their followers. These leaders have a clear vision, and they empower others to reach their full potential. In essence, transformational leaders are able to transform followers into better people. Some well-known transformational leaders are Gandhi and Oprah Winfrey.
Path-Goal is a type of leadership theory that focuses on establishing a clear path to goal achievement. This theory proposes that subordinates’ characteristics and characteristics of the work environment determine which leader behaviors will be more effective. The theory includes four different leader behaviors, which are directive leadership, supportive leadership, participative leadership, and achievement-oriented leadership. According to the theory, leader behavior should reduce barriers to subordinates’ goal attainment and strengthen subordinates’ abilities for improved performance.
Robert J. House, founder of Path-Goal theory, believes that a leader’s behavior is contingent to employee satisfaction, employee motivation and employee performance. Path-Goal theory states that a good leader provides clear direction, sets high goals, gets involved in goal achievement and supports his employees. The employees, as a result, will be more satisfied and productive. It also states that employees will accept a leader’s direction if the employee believes that there will be an immediate or future benefit that results from work.
Let’s apply Path-Goal theory to a football team. The team is made up of many different people including coaches, players and other technical team members. Each plays a particular role in the team. Each team member must know his role, be encouraged to do their part to win games, feel the coach’s commitment and have the support of others in order to perform at their best. Path-Goal theory emphasizes the application of these different leadership styles in order to achieve result.
There are several different approaches a coach can take to win a match or tournament depending on the players available to him, the opposition team/s and the prevailing circumstances. Let’s analyze the possible actions of the coach through the leadership
In achievement-oriented leadership challenging goals are set, high performance is expected and management has a high level of confidence in the employee’s ability to achieve the goals. This style of leadership is well suited for the coach at the beginning of a new season. The coach designs the program for the year, distributes assignments and sets the goal for the season. The main goal is to win games, but there are smaller, equally important goals for the execution of plays during a game. He, in conjunction with the other members of the technical team, designs the system of playing, the tactics and the expectations from the members of the team. He also brings in new players, members of the technical team and ideas to improve the team’s performance for the season. He also assigns duties to the members of the team and design program to build the team’s morale and physical fitness.
The coach uses a different leadership style with individual players. He gives directives by assigning specific plays to the team and to individual players. Directive leadership involves giving specific advice or directives, clarifying expectations and assigning tasks to individuals or a group. During a match, the coach stays at the sideline and gives directives to individual players and to the entire team through the captain. An individual player, like a defender, may be directed to be in a certain area of the field to counter and mark a particular swift attacker. He may also be directed to run with the ball as a wing back. Each player is expected to play according to the instructions of the coach.
The coach does not always have the final say. The team is usually given the opportunity to participate in play strategies. This is a participative leadership style which involves sharing information between the manager and the group to gather input for goal achievement. When the team gathers in the locker room prior to the game, the coach, members of the technical crew and team members discuss the game strategy and individual plays for the day. Team members usually make inputs. The tactics are discussed between members of the group to determine the best possible strategies for winning the game.
Some players may require a more personal approach either because of their position or need to improve on performance. For instance, there are star players in the team, usually strikers that are targets of the opposing team. These players are more prone to injuries. Players in this position must be able to run fast, move out of the way of burly defenders and make nimble jumps over piles of downed players. Supportive leadership is necessary for these players. Managers foster good relations and show personal concern for the health and well-being of these individuals or groups. These players are rested for matches that are not too challenging and they are also given special massages and even therapies for their leg muscles.
In summary, Path-Goal theory establishes a clear path to goal achievement. There are various leadership styles that managers can use to do this. In achievement-oriented leadership managers set challenging goals, have high performance expectations and have a high level of confidence in the employee’s ability to achieve the goals. Directive leadership involves giving specific advice or directives, clarifying expectations and assigning tasks to individuals or a group while managers who use participative leadership share information with the group to gather input for goal achievement. Supportive leadership fosters good relations between managers and specific employees whereby managers exhibit personal concern for the health and well-being of the individual or the group.
Hersey-Blanchard’s Model of Situational Leadership assumes that follower maturity is a major indicator of an employee’s readiness to perform work. There are four leadership styles associated with the model: delegating, participating, selling and telling. This theory contends that leaders must adjust their leadership style according to the maturity of their ‘followers’ or employees. The maturity of the employee directly influences their readiness to work.
Let’s look at how situational leadership works in the marketing department of Acon Bank plc. The sales team is made up of many employees with varying abilities and confidence levels. Some employees have a lot of experience selling bank products like financial plans and also attracting deposits. Others are enthusiastic about selling but lack experience doing the job. And there are some employees in between.
Mr. Emeka, the director of marketing at the bank, looks at two factors to determine the maturity level of his followers (or employees): follower ability and follower confidence.
Follower ability is the degree to which a follower has the skills and ability to perform a task. A follower who possesses experience at a particular skill will need less instruction than one who has little experience. Interns with little experience in the financial world would need far more instruction than a seasoned marketer. When an employee does not possess the skills to perform a task, he will need plenty of direction.
Follower confidence is the degree to which a follower believes he or she can perform a particular task. A follower with a high level of confidence will need less direction than one who feels little confidence in his or her ability to complete the task. A marketer with many years at the bank has a high level of confidence, so he needs less direction than a newer salesperson. This employee is highly motivated, and that makes learning the skill easier.
C1.The Leadership Style Matrix in HB model
Leaders must be able to change their leadership style to deal with different employees possessing various skill levels. The right leadership style for each employee or group of employees is decided by using a matrix. The matrix is divided into four sections representing four possible leadership styles: delegating, participating, selling and telling.
Delegating is necessary when the follower is ready, willing and able to perform a particular task. This follower has a high level of confidence in his or her ability to perform. Decisions are turned over to this follower. There is little need to build a relationship because the follower shows a high level of maturity and can perform with little to no direct supervision or instruction. This is defined on the matrix as low-task, low-relationship style.
At Acon Plc, Mr. Emeka uses a delegating style for his most senior marketers. These employees have been with the company for many years. They worked on major sales projects and have attracted many deposits. They are given client names and phone numbers and left to do their job without any further direction or supervision.
Participating is necessary when the follower is able but unwilling to perform a particular task. The unwillingness is generally due to low confidence in his or her ability to perform. The leader must participate by sharing ideas with the follower. There is need to build a relationship because although the follower shows a medium level of maturity and the ability to perform, he or she needs the extra coaching from the leader. This is defined as low-task, high-relationship style.
When working with newer salespeople, Mr. Cash uses a participating style. These workers have been trained but only worked with clients under the supervision of more senior marketers. These newer salespeople are able to open accounts and sell financial products but are concerned that they may do something wrong. Mr. Emeka spends more time with them; goes through their work activities and offers advice along the way. This approach eases their jitters, and they are able to improve on their confidence.
Selling is necessary when the follower does not possess the skill or ability to perform but is confident and willing to learn. The leader must explain the task and any decisions regarding how to perform the task to this follower. Although the follower demonstrates medium maturity, there is a need to focus on tasks and build a relationship with the follower. The leader must persuade this follower to take direction. A persuasive leader can sell the decisions to the follower. Training and follow-up are necessary. This is defined on the matrix as high-task, high-relationship style.
There are a few interns at Acon Plc who do not have the experience or training to sell financial services, but they are eager to learn and sell. Mr. Emeka likes to give these employees a chance to learn the business by working directly with them. He meets with these eager employees to discuss strategies, offer advice and give direction. He convinces them that they can do it through kind words of encouragement.
Telling is necessary when the follower does not possess either the ability or the confidence to perform a particular task. Because of this follower’s low maturity, the leader must provide explicit direction and close supervision at all times. Sometimes Mr. Emeka takes on high IT students as interns, and they are just not as eager and need more than persuading. They also lack work experience. They arrive at Acon with no experience and no confidence. This is a bit trickier for Mr Emeka because he has to direct their every move. So, he tells them exactly what to do and monitors their progress at every step.
In summary, Hersey-Blanchard’s Model of Situational Leadership states that leaders should adjust their leadership style based on the maturity of their followers. There are two factors used to determine the maturity level of followers. Follower ability is the degree to which a follower possesses the skills and ability to perform a particular task and follower confidence is the degree to which a follower believes in his or her ability to perform a particular task. Leaders can use any one of four different leadership styles, depending on the follower’s maturity level. A leader can use a delegating style with followers who possess the skills, ability and confidence to perform the task. He can also use a participative style with followers who possess the skills and ability but lack the confidence to perform the task. When a follower does not possess the skill or ability but has a high level of confidence, the leader can take a more persuasive leadership approach – selling. The leader may use convincing language to explain how to perform the task. Finally, a follower who has little skills and ability and lacks confidence would benefit from a telling style. The leader must provide clear direction and supervision at all times.
Has there ever been a time in your professional career when you worked for a company that had just one person as the sole position of authority? Did that person believe that any and all decisions came from them, without any input from any employees? If you have, then you were part of the old traditional leadership theory, which was based upon one person having the ultimate power and authority without having to consult others. The new leadership theory, on the other hand, is a concept that is focused on subordinates or employees having more of a voice when it comes to resolving problems. This fosters a shared leadership type of work culture. Let’s take a look at two primary forms of new leadership theory.
The first form is transformational leadership, which can be defined as a type of leadership which encourages interactions between a manager and their subordinates, who help the manager decide what changes, if any, need to be made to help the organization. This form of leadership motivates employees which, in turn, help to raise productivity and employee morale.
The second form of leadership in new leadership theory has to do with charisma. What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the term ‘charismatic’? Is it picturing an individual that displays an exuberant attitude and enthusiasm? Well, a charismatic leadership style holds some of those same characteristics. The charismatic leadership style centers around leaders that have the ability to influence others through behaviors, such as displaying positive enthusiasm along with a pleasant attitude. The concept behind the charismatic leadership theory is that by exhibiting positive attitudes and vibes, leaders have an edge in motivating employees without using their position of power. Those employees that follow the leader in this particular style are known to perform at higher levels, because they are self-engaged and interested, without having someone twist their arm to do so.
Now that we know the two types of new leadership theory, let’s explore some ways in which this leadership style varies from traditional leadership theory. Imagine that you work for the XYZ company. Your boss at this company utilizes the traditional method of leadership and is known to be intimidating through the use of aggressive tone and reputation for confrontation. You have just made an honest mistake at your job and must report to your boss to explain what happened. During the meeting, you are verbally chastised, ridiculed, and virtually embarrassed due to the negative tone and gestures that the boss has given off. In contrast, let’s imagine that you now work for the CDE Company. The boss at the CDE Company uses the new leadership theory. While working on a project at work, you’ve made another honest mistake and must report to your boss for a meeting to discuss what happened. As you enter the office, the boss offers you coffee and a bagel. During the meeting, the boss has a calm tone and demeanor, which allows you to remain at ease. The meeting concludes with you and the boss agreeing to work on a solution together, so the problem doesn’t occur again. The new leadership theory has helped leaders and their methods of leading to evolve and adjust by working collectively with employees to become more efficient.
The new leadership theory was designed to help leaders relate better to their employees, which also helps boost productivity and employee morale. By using transformational and charismatic leadership, the new leadership theory is certain to help organizations in today’s work climate to become much more efficient.
We have looked at the various leadership theories. There is no one-fit-all theory. Leaders are expected to apply different theories as the situation warrants. Inappropriate application of the theories leads to ineffective leadership and results in employee dissatisfaction and reduced productivity. Next edition will focus on the various types of leadership; their merits and demerits. This will enable us examine and improve upon our leadership styl

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