Trait, Skills, and Situational Leadership Approaches: a Comparative Examination Essay

Words: 7419
Pages: 30


LEAD 720: Leadership Theory and Practice

Professor: Dr. David C. Greenhalgh

Submitted by:
Ronald Greilich
Eastern University
April 15, 2011

There are many theories of leadership but three of the more formative are the trait approach, the skills approach, and the situational approach theories. This paper will compare these approaches, their foundations, and their research records as well as challenges to the theories and their position in the current examination of leadership, with discussion as to what is required to fully comprehend them and the future of research in these areas. Of all the leadership theories that are studied,
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The model is sometimes referred to as the three skill taxonomy. Katz’ behavioral approach was seminal in that it paved the way for a more detailed, complex model of defining skills almost thirty five years later.
Similar to Machiavelli preceding Carlyle, Flanagan (1951) preceded Katz in behavioral skills research and like Machiavelli, received minimal credit for his efforts, which was studying subordinates, peers, and managers who were asked to describe effective and ineffective leader behavior. Incidents were categorized by similar behavior profiles-by researchers, panel, or participants. Common categories were found across categories (eg. planning, human skills, etc.) that were forerunners to Katz and later variations of the skills approach.
Katz’ theory was criticized because its scope was limited. Specifically, the importance of each skill varies between management levels. At lower management levels, technical and human skills are most important. For middle managers, the three skills are equally important, but at upper levels, human skills are more important (Northouse, p.65). Additionally, around this time scholars were starting to question behavioral leadership theories; while “behavioral theories help managers develop particular leadership skills they give little guidance as to what constitutes effective leadership in different situations” (Bolden,et al. 2003, p.8).
The situational approach
It could be