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Contingency theories of leadership were intended to resolve the problems of Trait and Behavioural theories. To what extend have they achieved this?

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MANAGEMENT 120 - Essay 'Contingency theories of leadership were intended to resolve the problems of Trait and Behavioural theories. To what extend have they achieved this?' Katerina Gavrielidou Lonsdale College 06021311 Introduction From the early years of the twentieth century many leadership studies have been published, let alone thousands of pages that have been written about leadership. It is quite obvious that leadership is the most popular subject studied in the organizational sciences the last years. Most of the studies, though, emphasize on the nature of leadership in workplaces of leaders, firms and organizations. It is well known that in order for an organization to be successful and hence profitable it is necessary to have a highly effective leadership. When all the employees work to achieve organization's goals then the probability of being successful is high. And if we consider that leadership involves influencing others toward the achievement of a particular goal then we are sure that the answer in success is nothing else than leadership. Definitions of Leadership Many definitions of leadership have been derived from all this studies through all these years. A classical definition presents leadership as 'an interpersonal influence directed toward the achievement of a goal or goals'. The key words from the above definition are interpersonal, influence and goal. Leading is interpersonal, between people. Thus we see that a leader has to do with more than one person. A leader has to lead a group of people, two or more. In addition a leader influences people. This is the ability of a leader to affect others, to make people consider his/her words and want to help him/her, follow or work in his/her team. ...read more.


As a result of the unclear traits of leaders that trait theory presented, leadership studies moved from leader's traits to behaviour. They now examine how leaders behave and what they do rather than what they are. Behavioural theory appears in the 1940s and 1950s with the main assumption that great leaders are made, not born. Behavioural theory emphasizes on the actions of leaders and their behaviour in non normal situations and not on their traits and characteristics. Thus leadership can be learned through teaching, observation and training. Theorists have developed training programs with the main assumption that effective leadership can be learned and leaders can be trained. Behavioural theorists presented various styles of leadership, many with different names, where the basic ideas were similar. Despite the great number of styles that appeared to describe behaviors of effective leaders, the following ones are the dominant. First of all we have concern for task. Here leaders focus on the achievement of objectives and they expect high productivity of their subordinates. They find effective ways of organizing employees to attain their high standards of production. Second style is concern for people. Leaders look upon their subordinates, they care about their needs, problems and interests and they don't face workers as means of achieving goals. After comes directive leadership where leaders take decisions and expect employees to follow their instructions and directions. Lastly comes participative leadership where we have cooperation among leaders and employees since leaders share decision-making with subordinates (Wright 1996: 36-7). One of the most famous behavioral leadership studies has been done at the University of Michigan in the late of 1940s and 1950s. ...read more.


Selling/coaching- high focuses on both task and relationship. Leaders defines again roles and tasks but they consider subordinate's ideas. Suitable for people who lack of commitment. Participating/supporting style- low emphasis on task but high on relationship. Leaders share control with the followers but support is necessary to motivate and inspire them. Delegating has both low task and low relationship focus. Its is more suitable for people who are willing and able to work by themselves without lot of support and supervision. An effective leader though knows in which of these styles is in and is able to change according to situations. Conclusion As we see Trait and Behavior theories of leadership fail to identify which are the real and effective leaders. Traits and characteristics are not enough to identify leaders as the same traits and characteristics may be possessed by non-leaders too. Behaviours of leadership that could be trained and observed in order to built effective leaders are not enough either. Contingency theory appeared to give many answers to non replied queries of previous theories and succeeded in identifying a main factor that Trait and Behavior Theories failed: the situation. Leadership styles vary according to various situations. One leadership style may be ineffective where another one is gigantically successful. We are now able to see that leaders vary according to situations and their traits. Leaders are able to express themselves fully, says Warren Bennis. 'They also know what they want, why they want it, and how to communicate what they want to others, in order to gain their co-operation and support.' Lastly, 'they know how to achieve their goals' Bennis says. (Bennis 1998: 3). Leaders can find a way to make the difference, I say. ...read more.

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