THEORIES OF LEADERSHIP
Leadership is the process of social influence in which one
person can enlist the aid and support of others in the
accomplishment of a common goal.
Theories in leadership explain the effectiveness of a type
leadership or leader and can be used to assess the
likelihood of the success or failure of it.
4 major leadership theories are:
Path Goal Theory
The trait theory of leadership theory is based on the
characteristics of many leaders both successful &
In this approach factors like,
1. Physiological – Height, Appearance & Weight
2. Demographic – Age, Education & Socio-economic
3. Personality – Self confidence & Aggressiveness
4. Intellect – Intelligence, Decisiveness, Judgment &
5. Task Related – Achievement Drive, Initiative & Persistence
6. Social Characteristics – Sociability & Cooperativeness
are identified with leader emergence & leader effectiveness.
Successful leaders definitely have interests, abilities
& personality traits that are different from those of
the less effective leaders.
With research, a set of core traits of successful
leaders have been identified. These traits are not
solely responsible for the success of leadership but
are essential for a leadership to become successful.
The identified core traits are listed on the next page.
CORE TRAITS OF SUCCESSFUL LEADERS
Achievement Drive – High level of effort, high levels of
ambition, energy & initiative.
Leadership Motivation – An intense desire to lead others to
reach a common goal.
Honesty & Integrity – Trustworthy, Reliable & Open
Self Confidence – Belief in one’s self, ideas & ability.
Cognitive Ability – Capable of exercising good judgment,
strong analytical abilities & conceptually skilled.
Knowledge of Work – Knowledge of the work they are doing,
the assets they are using etc…
Emotional Maturity – Well adjusted, does not suffer from
severe psychological disorders.
Others – Charisma, Creativity & Flexibility.
1. It is naturally pleasing theory.
2. It is valid as a lot of research has
been done on it.
3. It serves as a yardstick to assess
the leadership traits.
4. Gives detailed knowledge &
understanding of the leader
element in the leadership
1. Subjective judgment is bound to
exist in the assessment.
2. There are more than 100 traits
identified in effective leadership
which makes it a long process.
3. There is a disagreement over
which traits are more important
4. Physical traits are not
necessarily required for effective
leadership except for military.
5. The theory is very complex.
IMPLICATIONS OF THE TRAIT THEORY
The trait theory gives constructive information about
It can be applied by people at all levels in all types of
Managers can utilize information from this theory to
evaluate their position in the organization.
This theory makes a manager aware of his strengths
It can help understand how to develop the leadership
qualities to progress in life & career.
Contingency theories of leadership recognize that the
leadership effectiveness of particular leadership
behaviors or styles is contingent on the properties of
the leadership situation.
Some styles are better suited to some situations or
tasks than are others. For example, different
behavioral styles are suited to an aircrew in combat,
an organizational decision-making group, a ballet
company, or a nation in economic crisis.
FIEDLER’S CONTINGENCY THEORY
The first & best contingency theory was given by Fred
Fiedler in 1964. It was first published in 1967 in his book
“A Theory Of Leadership Effectiveness” & was the first
theory to measure member leader relationships.
Fiedler, like Bales (1950), distinguished between
1. Task-oriented leaders who are authoritarian, value
group success and derive self-esteem from
accomplishing a task rather than being liked by the
2. Relationship- oriented leaders who are relaxed,
friendly, non-directive and sociable, and gain self-
esteem from happy and harmonious group relations.
FIEDLER’S CONTINGENCY THEORY
Fiedler measured leadership style with his least
preferred co-worker (LPC) scale in which respondents
rated the person they least preferred as a co-worker on
a number of dimensions (e. g. Pleasant-unpleasant,
The resultant LPC scores were used to differentiate
between two different leadership styles.
1. A high LPC score indicated a relationship-oriented leadership
style because the respondent felt favorably inclined towards a
fellow member even if he or she was not performing well.
2. A low LPC score indicated a task-oriented leadership style
because the respondent was harsh on a poorly performing co-
FIEDLER’S CONTINGENCY THEORY
Fiedler classified situations in terms of 3 dimensions in
descending order of importance:
1. The quality of leader-member relations;
2. The clarity of the structure of the task; and
3. The intrinsic power and authority the leader had by virtue of his or her
position as leader.
Fiedler used the concept of situational control to make
leadership effectiveness predictions:
1. Task- oriented (low LPC) leaders would be most effective when
situational control is low(the group needs a directive leader to focus on
getting things done) and when it is high (the group is doing just fine, so
there is little need to worry about morale and relationships within the
2. Relationship-oriented (high LPC) leaders are more effective when
situational control lies between these extremes.
CRITICISMS OF FIEDLER’S THEORY
Fiedler’s hierarchy of the dimensions put leader- member
relations at top whereas it has been argued that the relative order
of importance should start from situational factors.
Contingency theory distinguishes between the leadership
effectiveness of high and low-LPC leaders, generally classifying
‘highs’ as those with an LPC score greater than 64 and ‘lows’ as
those with score of less than 57. So, how do people in the 57–64
Although contingency theory explores how the properties of the
person and of the situation interact to influence leadership
effectiveness, it neglects the group processes that are responsible
for the rise and fall of leaders, and the situational complexion of
NORMATIVE DECISION THEORY
A second contingency theory, which is focused
specifically on leadership in group decision-making
contexts, is normative decision theory.
NDT identifies three decision-making strategies among
which leaders can choose:
1. Autocratic (subordinate input is not sought);
2. Consultative (subordinate input is sought, but the
leader retains the authority to make the final decision);
3. Group decision making (leader and subordinates are
equal partners in a truly shared decision- making
NORMATIVE DECISION THEORY
The efficacy of these strategies is contingent on the quality of
leader-subordinate relations (which influences how
committed and supportive subordinates are), and on task
clarity and structure (which influences how much the leader
needs subordinate input).
In decision-making contexts, autocratic leadership is fast and
effective if subordinate commitment and support are high and
the task is clear and well structured.
When the task is less clear, greater subordinate involvement is
needed and therefore consultative leadership is best.
When subordinates are not very committed or supportive,
group decision making is required to increase participation
CRITICISMS OF NORMATIVE DECISION
Some valid arguments against N.D.T are:
1. Predictions from NDT are reasonably well
2. However, there is a tendency for subordinates to
prefer fully participative group decision making,
even when it is not the most effective strategy.
This theory of leadership advocates “the spirit of time”.
According to this theory, it is the time and conditions
that give rise to a leader and the leader is a mere puppet
in hands of time.
For eg: The social conditions in France were so critical
that led to the desire of conquering Europe. For this
desire to materialize, different people of different caliber
had to assume different roles and the leader of the army
was one such role and Napoleon just happened to be in
such position that he became the leader of the army. If it
was not him, someone else would have been in that
position. But the desire would still be the same.
Similar was the case of
Adolf Hitler, the social
situations, joblessness in
youth, shame of losing
world war 1, the injustice
of Treaty Of Versailles, &
the Jewish dominance in
financial & Powerful
positions in Germany led
Hitler to be adopted as
the leader. He provided a
cure to all these issues.
A third contingency theory of leadership is the PATH-GOAL
It was given by Robert House in 1971 & revised in 1996.
PGT rests on the assumption that a leader’s main function is
to motivate followers by clarifying the paths (i.e. behaviors &
actions) that will help them reach their goals.
It distinguishes between 2 classes of leader behavior identified
by the leader behavior description questionnaire (LBDQ):
1. Structuring where the leader directs task-related activities,
2. Consideration where the leader addresses followers’
personal and emotional needs.
Structuring is most effective when followers are
unclear about their goals and how to reach them.
E.g. the task is new, difficult or ambiguous.
When tasks are well understood, structuring is less
effective. It can even backfire because it seems like
meddling and micro-management.
Consideration is most effective when the task is
boring or uncomfortable, but not when followers are
already engaged and motivated, because being
considerate can seem distracting and unnecessary.
CRITICISMS OF PATH-GOAL THEORY
Empirical support for path-goal theory is mixed,
1. The tests of the theory suffer from flawed
methodology, as well as being incomplete and
2. The theory also has an interpersonal focus that
underplays the ways in which a leader can motivate
an entire work group rather than just individual