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major leadership theories and models

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You are the supervisor of the clerical support assistant for the department. You have never had formal leadership responsibilities before, and you wish to maximize the possibility that you will be successful with this new responsibility. On your own (not at the direction of your supervisor), you investigate major leadership theories and models. Develop a Pro and Con list involving these theories/models. Reflect on each theory and comment on how the theory fits with your own personal style. For example - with a contingency style of leadership, perhaps this would not fit with someone's style if that person believes that all subordinates should be treated identically.

Supplemental Links
? Big Dog's Leadership Page - Leadership Styles
? Leadership: An Overview

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Since I don't know your own personal style, I will stick to a review of several major leadership theories and provide a detailed description of what each theory is. These descriptions will allow you determine quite readily what you personally believe are the pros and cons of each.

Great Man Theory
Assumptions
Leaders are born and not made.
Great leaders will arise when there is a great need.

Description
Early research on leadership was based on the the study of people who were already great leaders. These people were often from the aristocracy, as few from lower classes had the opportunity to lead. This contributed to the notion that leadership had something to do with breeding.

The idea of the Great Man also strayed into the mythic domain, with notions that in times of need, a Great Man would arise, almost by magic. This was easy to verify, by pointing to people such as Eisenhower and Churchill, let alone those further back along the timeline, even to Jesus, Moses, Mohammed and the Buddah.

Discussion
Gender issues were not on the table when the 'Great Man' theory was proposed. Most leaders were male and the thought of a Great Woman was generally in areas other than leadership. Most researchers were also male, and concerns about androcentric bias were a long way from being realized.

Trait Theory
Assumptions
People are born with inherited traits.

Some traits are particularly suited to leadership.

People who make good leaders have the right (or sufficient) combination of traits.

Description
Early research on leadership was based on the psychological focus of the day, which was of people having inherited characteristics or traits. Attention was thus put on discovering these traits, often by studying successful leaders, but with the underlying assumption that if other people could also be found with these traits, then they, too, could also become great leaders.

Discussion
There have been many different studies of leadership traits and they agree only in the general saintly qualities needed to be a leader.

For a long period, inherited traits were sidelined as learned and situational factors were considered to be far more realistic as reasons for people acquiring leadership positions.

Paradoxically, the research into twins who were separated at birth along with new sciences such as Behavioral Genetics have shown that far more is inherited than was previously supposed. Perhaps one day they will find a 'leadership gene'.

Behavioral Theory
Assumptions
Leaders can be made, rather than are born.

Successful leadership is based in definable, learnable behavior.

Description
Behavioral theories of leadership do not seek inborn traits or capabilities. Rather, they look at what leaders actually do.

If success can be defined in terms of describable actions, then it should be relatively easy for other people to act in the same way. This is easier to teach and learn then to adopt the more ephemeral 'traits' or 'capabilities'.

Discussion
Behavioral is a big leap from Trait Theory, in that it assumes that leadership capability can be learned, rather than being inherent. This opens the floodgates to leadership development, as opposed to simple psychometric assessment that sorts those with leadership potential from those who will never have the chance.

A behavioral theory is relatively easy to develop, as you simply assess both leadership success and the actions of leaders. With a large enough study, you can then correlate statistically significant behaviors with success. You can also identify behaviors which contribute to failure, thus adding a second layer of understanding.

Participative Leadership
Assumptions
Involvement in decision-making improves the understanding of the issues involved by those who must carry out the decisions.

People are more committed to actions where they have involved in the relevant decision-making.

People are less competitive and more collaborative when they are working on joint goals.

When people make decisions together, the social commitment to one another is greater and thus increases their commitment to the decision.

Several people deciding together make better decisions than one person ...

Solution Summary

Investigate major leadership theories and models.

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