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Introduction To Leadership Theories And Models

Introduction To Leadership Theories And Models

The wealth of knowledge about leadership available all around us is impossible to imagine, yet there are few leaders. A touch of the button on your computer will reveal millions of input about leadership and all it entails. Leadership literature abounds with theories and models about what leadership is and how people lead (prescriptive and descriptive). The more we study this concept, the more we realize how complex nature of the individuals who lead and the people they lead; but more importantly, the less we know about the best way to lead. The truth is: there is no one best way to lead. Leaders, real leaders, have come to an understanding of this fact that there is no one-cap-fit-sall leadership style or behavior for all situations and environments. In fact, leadership experts keep describing, or discovering, the different parts of the mammoth, called leadership. (Can you remember the story of the four blind men and the elephant?)

Be that as it may, empirical studies reveal that we cannot stop digging because the more we know the better we are as individuals and leaders; and the better and safer our organizations will be. In the next few months, we will be considering various leadership theories and models. The intention is to learn from empirical findings and practice and also finetune our leadership knowledge in order to help us and help others. The following articles will also serve the purpose of coaching and mentoring individuals who desire to improve their performance and organizational outcomes. These theories are applicable at all levels – individual, family, group, team, organization, communities, and the nation at large. In fact, leaders and managers in private and public, profit and nonprofit will all improve on their skills as we learn together.

Leadership: A definition Leadership has been defined by different people in different ways. There are as many definitions as the experts who have attempted (Stodgill, 1974) to put their fingers on this elusive concept and those who have achieved incredible results while engaging in the business of leading. The simplest definition has been, “Leadership is influence.” This is good enough for popular literature, but not for those who want to know what goes on when people lead. One question, which readily comes to mind, when you hear this quip is, “What kind of influence?” Can we say anyone who has the capacity to make you do what you would not do on your own qualifies to lead? If someone puts a gun on your head in order to take your purse, does the person possess leadership qualities? Are those with destructive tendencies and tyrants the type of leaders we are considering? Can Hitler or Jim Jones be safe examples of leadership we want to espouse and model? No. For the purpose of this exercise, and for deeper understanding of this concept, leadership is defined as: “The process of influencing others to understand and agree about what needs to be done and how to do it, and the process of facilitating individual and collective efforts to accomplish shared objectives” (Yukl 2006, p. 8).

From the aforementioned:

  • Leadership is an influence process, not just influence;
  • Leadership is purposeful and beneficial because it exists to satisfy the common good and not the whims and caprices of the individual;
  • The leader must possess an understanding of the task to be accomplished before sharing such understanding with others. The Bible, therefore, warns that novice must not be put in a position of leadership (1 Tim. 3:6);
  • The leader must also possess the ability to persuade others to participate in accomplishing the common objective through willful contribution. Research studies have established the relationship between leadership outcomes and communication. For example, de Vries and BakkerPieper (2010) submitted that charismatic and humanoriented leadership are more communicative than taskoriented leadership.
  • There are intervening variables between the leader and the organizational outcomes. In other words, the results achieved by an organization are not only the effort of the leader, but also the contributions of the followers, the situation, the culture, the organizational climate, and so on.
  • Hence, the leader is aware that, with changes in the individuals and situations, the styles must also change. The antecedents of leadership styles are the competence and the commitment of the followers. The situational leadership model matches the leader behavior (directing, coaching, supporting, and delegating) with the development levels of the followers (Hersey and Blanchard, 1969; Blanchard, 1985; Blanchard, Zigarmi & Zigarmi, 1985).

This definition and the outcomes reveal the limitations of the trait theory of leadership that dominated the landscape in 1930s and 1940s, with many empirical studies that attempted to unveil the characteristics or qualities leaders must possess. Elusive? It was a wild chase! Bennis (1959) wondered when he submitted “The concept of leadership eludes us or turns up in another form to taunt us again with its slipperiness and complexity” (p. 259). Can we then say that we have known all we should know about leadership? Nothing can be further from the truth. This is a marathon we must all run, with active participation, until we are able to affect our society for the better. When one takes a look into the Nigerian society and the various institutions and organizations, discover that there is a long way to go if we will compete with the real runners in the comity of nations and leave a better legacy. The difference between the real runners and alsoran is in the maturity of their leaders, and the continuous improvement both the leaders and followers have subjected themselves. Come along with us in this quest and we will all be the better for it. See you soon! References Bennis, W. G. (1959). Leadership theory and administrative behavior: The problem of authority. Administrative Science Quarterly, 4, 259260. Blanchard, K. H. (1985). SLH: A situational approach to managing people. Escondido, CA: Blanchard Training and Development. Blanchard, K., Zigarmi, P., Zigarmi, D. (1985). Leadership and the one minute manager: Increasing effectiveness through situational leadership. New York: William Morrow. de Vries, R. E., BakkerPieper, A., & Oostenveld, W. (2010). Leadership= communication? The relations of leaders’ communication styles with leadership styles, knowledge sharing and leadership outcomes. Journal of Business and Psychology, 25(3), 367380. Hersey, P., & Blanchard, K. H. (1969). Lifecycle theory of leadership. Training and Development Journal, 23, 2634 Stodgill, R. M. (1974). Handbook of leadership: A survey of literature. New York: Free Press. Yukl, G. (2006). Leadership in organizations, 6th Ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Ezekiel A. Odeyemi is Special Assistant to the General Overseer (Education and Training) and Regional Pastor for Central Africa.

Article written by Ezekiel A. Odeyemi

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