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In determining my personal leadership style, I will choose the trait approach. I believe I am a born leader. This is so because I have held several leadership positions within the company as a team leader in various projects. In this I have assessed my personal characteristics and the motives which drive me in carrying out tasks. I have also considered the values I hold and the skills that I have brought to the workplace. I am very enthusiastic when carrying out my duties, have a high level of intuition and considerably informed about market dynamics. In addition, I am very persuasive, with exceptional ability to convince and influence people.
Nevertheless, this leadership style is too general to capture the complexities found within the workplace. Similarly, it relies on general intelligence: no explicit rationale has been provided for the use of general intelligence as opposed to specific cognitive skills. This style would be improved by identifying specific aspects of intellectual ability relevant to the task and to the job.
Having this style of leadership allows one to develop a network of support relationships that will help in stressful conditions.
The personal trait of leadership is useful if one is a system analyst or a programmer within an organization. These two roles require specific leadership skills as one has to lead a team of computer technicians. The roles also require that one should posses a high intelligence so as to utilize technology within the business.
According to Abell (1980), leadership is a process by which an individual exerts influence over other people. This may be done to guide, structure, or facilitate activities and relationships in a group or organization. Leadership theories emphasize leader characteristics in determining the kind of leadership. However, it has been a common practice to limit the focus to one type of leadership qualities. They could be traits, behavior or power. Therefore, the theories are classified into five approaches:
The trait approach theory
This emphasizes the leader’s attributes such as personality, motives, values, and skills.
It is based on the assumption that some people are natural leaders and are endowed with certain traits that are not possessed by others. Some of the traits include energy, intuition, foresight and persuasive powers. But none of these traits guarantee absolute leadership success (Abell 1980).
Behavior Approach theory
This approach began in the early 1950′s. It pays close attention to what managers do on the job. It falls into two general subcategories. One line examines how managers spend their time and the typical pattern of activities, responsibilities, and functions for managerial jobs. Some of the researches also investigate how managers cope with demands, constraints, and role conflicts within their jobs. According to this theory, leadership effectiveness depends in part on how well a manager resolves role conflicts, copes with demands, recognizes opportunities and overcomes constraints (Thompson, 1998).
Power-Influence Approach theory
It examines influence processes between leaders and other people. It takes a leader-centered perspective with an implicit assumption that leaders act and followers react. This research seeks to explain leadership effectiveness in terms of the amount and type of power possessed by a leader and how power is exercised. Power is important to influence subordinates and peers, superiors and people outside the organization. These include clients and suppliers. The study of influence tactics acts as a bridge linking the power-influence approach and the behavior approach.
Situational Approach theory
This theory emphasizes the importance of contextual factors that influence leadership processes. Major situational variables include the characteristics of followers, the nature of the work performed by the leader’s unit, the type of organization, and the nature of the external environment. It has two major sub categories. One line of research attempts to discover the extent to which leadership processes are the same or unique across different types of organizations, levels of management, and cultures.
The other subcategory of situational research attempts to identify aspects of the situation that moderate the relationship of leader attributes to leadership effectiveness. The assumption is that different attributes will be effective in different situations, and that the same attribute is not optimal in all situations.
An integrative approach involves more than one type of leadership variables. An example is the self-concept theory of charismatic leadership .This attempts to explain why the followers of some leaders are willing to exert exceptional effort and make personal sacrifices to accomplish the group objective or mission.
Conceptualization for Leadership
Leadership can be conceptualized as
Most leadership theories are focused on processes at only one of these levels. The level that is emphasized determines the criterion variables used to evaluate leadership and the type of mediating processes used to explain effective leadership.
These theories are rare as most definitions of leadership involve influence processes between individuals. Nevertheless, a number of researchers used psychological theories of decision making, motivation, and cognition to explain the behavior of an individual leader. The self-management theory, describes how a person can become more effective as a leader or follower. Self-management involves identifying personal objectives and priorities, managing one’s time efficiently, monitoring one’s own behavior and its consequences and trying to learn to be more effective in accomplishing personal objectives.
The dyadic approach focuses on the relationship between a leader and another individual who is usually a follower. Most dyadic theories view leadership as a reciprocal influence process between the leader and another person. The approach makes an implicit assumption that leadership effectiveness cannot be understood without examining how the leader and follower influence each other over time.
Although the theory recognizes that the leader has multiple dyadic relationships, the focus is clearly on what happens within a single relationship.
This approach considers the nature of the leadership role in a task group and how a leader contributes to group effectiveness. Group processes theories provide insights about leadership processes and relevant criteria for evaluating leadership effectiveness. Extensive research on small groups and teams identifies important determinants of effectiveness such as work organization, commitment of members to performing their work roles, confidence of members that the task can be accomplished successfully and the extent to which members trust each other and cooperate in accomplishing task objectives.
Leadership is seen as a process that occurs in a larger open system in which groups are subsystems. The survival and prosperity of an organization depends on adaptation to the environment and the acquisition of necessary resources. Adaptation is improved by anticipating consumer needs and desires, assessing the actions and plans of competitors, evaluating likely constraints and threats and identifying marketable products and services that the organization has unique capabilities to provide.
Other Bases for Comparing Leadership Theories
Leader- vs. Follower-Centered Theory
This is the extent to which a theory is focused on either the leader or followers. The leader focus is the strongest in theory and research. It identifies traits, skills, or behaviors that contribute to leader effectiveness. Empowerment theory describes how followers view their ability to influence important events.
Attribution theory describe how followers view a leader’s influence on events and outcomes. Other theories explain how followers can actively influence their work role and relationships with the leader, rather than being passive recipients of leader influence (Peters 1987). The leader attribute theory describes aspects of the situation and follower attributes that make a hierarchical leader less important. The emotional contagion theory of charisma describes how followers influence each other.
Descriptive vs. Prescriptive Theory
Another distinction is the extent to which they are descriptive or prescriptive. Descriptive theories explain leadership processes, describe the typical activities of leaders, and explain why certain behaviors occur in particular situations. Prescriptive theories specify what leaders must do to become effective and they identify any necessary conditions for using a particular type of behavior effectively.
Universal vs. Contingency Theory
A universal theory describes some aspect of leadership that applies to all types of situations. It can either be descriptive or prescriptive. A descriptive universal theory describes typical functions performed to some extent by all types of leaders, whereas a prescriptive universal theory may specify functions all leaders must perform to be effective (Peters 1987).
A contingency theory describes an aspect of leadership that applies to some situations but not to others. Contingency theories are either descriptive or prescriptive. A descriptive contingency theory explains how leader behavior typically varies from one situation to another, whereas a prescriptive contingency theory may specify the most effective behavior in each type of situation.
These to theories differ if we consider the matter of degree and not a sharp dichotomy. Some theories fall in between the two extremes (Peters 1987).