Theories Of Leadership

Submitted By ImMakingThisUp
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As never having researched leadership before I was both intrigued and interested in Hickman’s (2010) collection of passages found in Leading Organizations. Only being in the professional workforce a mere four years I was not savvy to the theories contained in the readings which I found both stimulating and thought-provoking. The different theories, some more or less extreme, all have similar threads woven through them all striving to define the same idea, the ideal leader, where they come from and what makes them what they are.
According to Burns (1978), “to control things- tools, mineral resources, money, energy- is an act of power, not leadership, for things have no motives. Power wielders may treat people as things. Leaders may not.” (p.68). I feel that this is the truth and a fact lost on many supervisors and managers who strive to be solid leaders. In the end, the followers have their own motivations, their own goals and aspirations and genuine leaders find the balance between the two. He also goes on to define leadership as “leaders inducing followers to act for certain goals that represent the values and the motivations- the wants and needs, the aspirations and expectations- of both leaders and followers.” (Burns, 1978, p.68). It should not be a battle of the leader’s motivations versus the followers; this only leads to a vicious cycle of agony. To act efficiently and effectively both the leaders and the followers need to stand on similar ground in terms of their purpose, their wants and their vision of the future.
Also, and most ideally, I agree that transforming leadership is preferred to transactional leadership. The former is simply an exchange of valued goods while the latter raises both the leading and the lead to a higher level of motivation and morality.
Greenleaf’s ideas on servant leadership were more difficult to concur with as I do not know whether I agree with the servant first, leader second progression. I do feel all leaders should suffer through the trenches of the lowest rungs on the corporate ladder however I do not believe that in doing this you will automatically be more concerned with another’s needs. He testifies that “the natural servant, the person who is servant-first, is more likely to persevere and refine a particular hypothesis on what serves another’s highest priority needs than is the person who is leader-first and who later serves out of promptings of conscience or in conformity with normative expectations” (Greenleaf, 1977, p. 90). I can appreciate that this may be the case in a percentage of the leading versus following population however I do not think that this is most often the truth.
The charismatic theory was one I enjoyed reading about as I see this being played out in leaders today and personally agree that a magnetic leader is one most cannot help but be drawn to. Arguably the most charismatic president, John F. Kennedy won the nation over with his charm and appeal. I find it valid that “…charismatic leaders adopt unconventional, countercultural and therefore innovative plans and strategies for achieving desired changes, and their exemplary acts of heroism involving personal risks or self-sacrifice are novel and unconventional.” (Conger, 2008, p.99). I do believe a balance is necessary however as relying too heavily on personal charm and allure will leave a leader open to criticism and disapproval from those who disagree with their vision of the future.
The four contingency theories are similar in saying that to improve the effectiveness of their leadership, leaders should modify their behavior around the followers or the situation. Hughes, Ginnett and Curphy (1996) succinctly summarized this point by stating the following:
…it was naïve to believe that sending someone to a relatively brief leadership training program could substantially alter any leader’s personality or typical way of acting in leadership…