Leaders play important roles in our everyday lives. Quinn Mills defines leadership as the process through which a person influences the ideas, attitudes and conduct of others (11). This suggests that leaders are capable of exercising their authority over other people using this influence. They do this by setting the direction that their subjects follow and by helping their followers to see what they could potentially achieve. Leaders have played very important roles in the history of humanity and they still do today. If different civilizations and societies had not had strong and effective leaders, then the world would be a very different place today. Different theories have been formulated in a bid to explain the concept of leadership. The different theories of formulated over time have helped to analyze leadership and create a good understanding of what it entails.
One popular leadership theory deals with traits. The trait theory claims that leaders are born with special skills, characteristics and qualities that make them fit to lead and distinguish them from the people who become followers. Gosling, Marturano and Dennison argue that almost all positive human traits have been used to describe leaders at one time or another (6). Some of these attributes are outstanding physical features such as height and personality features like extraversion. Thomas Carlyle and Francis Galton were some of the first people to explore the question of leadership traits in depth. One thing about the trait theory is that the arguments it makes suggest that only some people are meant to be leaders while others cannot qualify for such positions (Northouse 15).
In response to the trait theory, several scholars claimed that leaders were molded by different situations. The situational theory was first put forward by Fred Fiedler who argued that leaders did not shape history but the times did determine what kind of a leader that a person became. The characteristics required in a leader varied depending on the situation. This means that the actions that a leader took were mostly dictated by the ongoing events (Lussier and Achua 154).
Other scholars argued that the trait and situational theories could not stand on their own. They fused the trait and situational theories to formulate the contingency theory. The contingency theory argues that different leadership traits and styles fit varying situations. Multiple versions of this theory were created but it is Fiedler’s that is most recognized. Northouse argues that this theory attempts to match leaders to the fitting theories, making it a leader-match theory (111). This means that a leader is only effective if their style matches the setting.
The leader-member exchange (LMX) theory has also been used to describe leadership.LMX argues that people in leadership positions have limitations on the amounts of social, organizational and personal resources that they can use (Lussier and Achua 244). These limitations force them to selectively distribute the resources to their subjects. The leader member exchange is the quality found in the exchange relationship between a follower and his or her leader (Lussier and Achua 244). This exchange does not affect the leader but it does have an effect on the employee’s output. The features of the follower (for instance, their loyalty and integrity), the behavior of the leader (how a leader relates with his or her team and treats the team members) and the prevailing situation affect the exchange in these relationships (Lussier and Achua 269).
Another key theory in the field is transformational theory. Northouse argues that the theory, which was developed by Downton, is one of the most recent and popular ones pertaining to leadership (171). It falls within the “new leadership” archetype, which focuses more on the leadership attributes that involve charisma and affection. Proponents of this type of leadership have argued that the style focuses more on the motivation and development of the subjects. This makes it applicable in the modern day office and corporation. The main idea in this kind of leadership revolves around transforming the followers and this is what gives it appeal within the modern corporate world (Northouse 171).
The theories explained all apply different approaches in explaining what leadership is. They also look at the specific features, styles and situations that leadership entails. Each theory has its strengths and flaws and some have received more attention and acclaim than others have. One important thing to note is that together, the theories all help in explaining what a leader truly is, the ways that a he or she should behave and the different characteristics that help to define a person in charge. These theories also help to show that leadership is an important aspect of any organization or entity by pointing out the different roles and responsibilities that leaders have. However, it should be noted that the theories contrast in many ways, and this leaves several key issues unsolved such as the question of whether leaders are born or made and if leaders must have certain traits distinguishing them from everybody else.
Gosling, Bolden R., J. Marturano, and P. Dennison. A Review of Leadership Theory and Competency Frameworks. Exeter: Centre for Leadership Studies, 2003. Print
Lussier, Robert N., and Christopher F. Achua. Leadership: Theory, Application, Skill Development. Australia: SouthWestern/Cengage Learning, 2010. Print.
Mills, Daniel Q. Leadership: How to Lead, How to Live. Waltham, MA: MindEdge Press, 2006. Print.
Northouse, Peter G. Leadership: Theory and Practice. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2010. Print.
Top-quality papers guaranteed
100% original papers
We sell only unique pieces of writing completed according to your demands.
We use security encryption to keep your personal data protected.
We can give your money back if something goes wrong with your order.
Enjoy the free features we offer to everyone
Get a free title page formatted according to the specifics of your particular style.
Request us to use APA, MLA, Harvard, Chicago, or any other style for your essay.
Don’t pay extra for a list of references that perfectly fits your academic needs.
24/7 support assistance
Ask us a question anytime you need to—we don’t charge extra for supporting you!
Calculate how much your essay costs
What we are popular for
- English 101
- Business Studies