Leadership Theories Comparison and Evaluation
Part I: Leadership Theories: Comparison and Evaluation
John Adair: Action Centred Leadership
is one of the most influential leadership gurus. He became the world’s first Professor of Leadership Studies at the University of Surrey and is regularly cited as one of the world’s most influential contributors to leadership development and understanding. Adair’s leadership work is written in a hugely rich, detailed and insightful manner that reflects his string academic interest in both modern and classical history. Adair is most famous for his ‘Action Centred Leadership’ (ACL) model of leadership. The ACL model is represented by three interlocking circles encompassing the following:
1. Achieving the task
2. Building and maintaining the team
3. Developing the individual (Thomas 2005).
Adair’s concept asserts that the three needs of task, team, and individual must be balanced. People expect their leaders to help them achieve the common task, build synergy of teamwork, and respond to individual’s needs.
- The Task needs work groups or organizations to come into effect because one person alone cannot accomplish it.
- The Team needs constant promotion and retention of group cohesiveness to ensure that it functions efficiently.
- The individual’s needs are the physical one (salary) and the psychological ones such as recognition, sense of purpose and achievement, status, and the need to give and receive from other in a work environment.
According to Adair the Task, Team and Individual needs overlap. To achieve the common task, maintain network and satisfy the individuals, certain functions have to be performed. These functions are:
- Defining the task
- Providing an example (Kermally 2005)
Attributes/Qualities/Characteristics of a Leader
According to Adair a leader needs to exhibit certain attributes/qualities/characteristics in order to effectively exercise the functions above. These are:
- Group Influence – a leader must generate willingness to achieve desired goal or objective.
- Command – a leader must decide upon a course of action as quickly as the situation demands and to carry through with a firmness and strength of purpose.
- Coolness – a leader must remain composed under testing or trying conditions.
- Judgment – a leader must possess the ability to arrange available resources and information in a systematic and commonsense way to produce effective results.
- Application/ Responsibility – a leader must demonstrate sustained effort combined with a degree of dependability in order to complete a task or achieve an objective (kermally 2005).
Leadership is described by Adair as similar to juggling or balancing the three circles or balls in the air at the same time. One of the strengths of Adair’s model is that it sets out in simple terms the classical tasks that need to be performed by an effective leader. Adair believes that leadership is all about effectiveness. He stresses the importance of what the leader does rather than who he or she is. Adair’s model helps leaders to assess their effectiveness. The framework stresses the importance of balancing the three circles arguing that success cannot be achieved by focusing only on one circle. Leaders have to focus on all three dimensions. Adair’s Action Centered Leadership can be summarized by the following activities:
- Set the tasks – the leader must exude enthusiasm as he communicates and details the tasks that must be completed.
- Make leaders accountable for four up to fifteen people – the leader must be trained in the leadership dimensions – task, team, and individual.
- Plan the work, design the roles, check progress and manage work processes to ensure that members and teams are committed.
- Set individual targets after discussion and consultation with staff – discuss performance and progress with each team member.
- Delegate decisions to individuals.
- Consult early the people that may be impacted with any decisions the leader makes.
- Communicate the importance of individual roles. Explain decisions fully to help people in implementing them. Brief the team monthly on any developments, successes, policy changes, people developments or other critical points.
- Constantly seek to train and develop people.
- Care for the well-being of team members – improve working conditions or arrangements and deal with any grievances promptly.
- Monitor all management actions – learn from successes and mistakes.
- Practice Managing by Wandering Around and observe, listen and praise people.
- Remember to have fun and ensure that the team enjoys itself.
Two of the main strengths of Adair’s concept are that it is timeless and os not culture or situation-dependent. A third strength of Action-Centered Leadership is that it can help the leader to identify which dimension of the organization or team needs to be strengthened in order to achieve its goals (Kermally 20005).
Weaknesses and Criticisms
One major criticism of Action-Centred Leadership is that it takes little account of the flat structures that are now generally advocated as the best organizational form. Action-Centred Leadership is also criticized for being ‘authoritarian’, applicable in a rigid, formal, military-type environment, but less relevant to the modern workplace, where the leadership emphasis is on leading change, empowering, enabling, managing knowledge and fostering innovation (Chartered Management Institute 2003).
Fred Fiedler: Contingency Theory
Fred Edward Fielder is a globally recognized guru in the fields of psychology and leadership. Fiedler presented one of the most intuitive leadership models, which is known as the Contingency Theory. Fiedler propose that effective leadership is a function of a proper match between the leader’s style of interacting with followers and the degree to which the situation gives control and influence to the leader. According to Fiedler, a leader’s style could be identified based on how the leader describes an individual he or she last enjoyed working with. When a leader describes this person in favorable terms, this indicates that the leader is interested in good relationships. Accordingly, that leader’s style would tend to be more people-centered. On the other hand, describing the least-preferred individual in unfavorable terms indicates more of a task-centered style. Fiedler felt that one’s style is fixed. Using three situational factors (degree of respect for employees; structured jobs; and influence over the employment process) he identified eight situations where either the task-centered or people-centered styles would work best. The situational factors according to Fiedler dictate which leadership style would be more effective (Sims 2002).
Fiedler developed the Least-Preferred Coworker (LPC) questionnaire, which claims to measure whether a person is task-oriented or relationship-oriented. Leader-member relations refers to the degree of employee confidence, loyalty, respect, and trust in the leader. Acceptance leads to commitment and loyalty, a rating of unacceptable leads to friction and tension. This dimension is measured on a continuum ranging from good to poor. Obviously, the better the relationship, the easier it is to lead people. When the relationship is characterized as poor, the leader is at a great disadvantage. Leader position power refers to the authority that is granted based on coercive, reward, and legitimate power. According to Fiedler, the more position power possessed, the easier it is to lead others. Fiedler classifies leadership styles into task-oriented and relationship-oriented categories using the LPC. Respondents describe the person they are least able to work with in either favorable or unfavorable terms. The leadership style of the person is judged relationship-oriented if the person is favorably evaluated, and task-oriented if unfavorably judged. To determine whether task or relationship is appropriate, the user answers three questions pertaining to situational favorableness, using the Fiedler model. After a leader’s style is determined through the LPC, a match can be determined through the other major contingency variables: leader-member relations, task structure, and position power. Organizations, Fiedler claims, should match tasks and work environments with an individual’s leadership style to ensure high group performance (Sims 2002).
Fiedler argued that because leadership is primarily the exercise of social influence, the ease with which a leader is able to influence his or her followers should make a big difference on how favorable the leadership situation is for the leader. The most important consideration according to Fiedler is the quality of interpersonal relations between parties. If the leader is respected and liked by the followers, the leader can influence them with ease. Another consideration is the nature of the task assigned to the group, particularly the degree of clarity and structure in the task. Task clarity can increase authority and influence. The third consideration is the amount of authority that the leader held by virtue of a formal position or designation of leadership (Chemers 1997).
Strengths of the Contingency Theory
Fiedler’ model is considered as the first highly visible theory to present the contingency approach. It emphasized the importance of both the situation and the leader’s characteristics in determining leader effectiveness. It stimulated a great deal of research, including tests of its predilections and attempts to improve the model and inspired the formulation of alternative contingency theory (Sims 2002).
On of the weaknesses of the contingency model presented by Fiedler is that it sometimes fails to reflect the personality traits that it intends to reflect. It has also gained criticism because of its implications on replacing the leader as the only way to solve the mismatch between leader orientation and unfavorable situation. The method of measuring leadership style through the LPC inventory and the nature of supporting evidence is also questionable.
Part II: Contemporary Thoughts on Leadership
Leading in the Future
The first part of this paper looked at the historical models of leadership. Popular theories on leadership were analyzed and evaluated. In this section, the future of leadership, particularly the skills and competences that are needed to be an effective leader in today’s and the future’s organizations. One famous contemporary writer on leadership is (1994). According to there are four things that people want from their leaders. These are:
o Direction - People want leaders to have a purpose. Leaders have a clear idea of what they want to do. The leaders love what they do and love doing it. Followers want passion and conviction from a strong point of view.
o Trust - The ability to trust a leader is perhaps more important today than any time in recent history. Integrity, maturity, and candor are essential elements of building a relationship of mutual trust.
o Hope – Leaders believe, and kindle the fire of optimism in followers.
o Results – Accomplishments of difficult tasks. Success breeds success.
(1987) contend that leadership is an observable, learnable set of practices. Given the opportunity for feedback and practice, those with desire and persistence to lead can substantially improve their abilities to do so. After examining the experiences of managers who were leading others to outstanding accomplishments, Kouzes and Posner identified five practices and ten specific behaviors that can be learned and used by managers at all levels. The practices and corresponding behaviors include:
- Challenging the process (searching for opportunities, experimenting, and taking risks)
- Inspiring a shared vision (envisioning the future, enlisting the support of others)
- Enabling others to act (fostering collaboration, strengthening others)
- Modeling the way (setting an example, planning small wins)
- Encouraging the heart (recognizing contributions, celebrating accomplishments)
Another contemporary thought is transformational leadership or charismatic leadership. According to Louis and Riley (2000), transformational leadership focuses on the people involved and their relationships, and requires an approach that seeks to transform feelings, attitudes and beliefs. Transformational leadership has four components:
- Individualized consideration (the leader is alert to the needs of followers and also takes care to develop them)
- Intellectual stimulation (the leader encourages followers to think in creative ways and to propose innovative ideas)
- Inspirational motivation (energizing followers to achieve extraordinary things)
- Idealized influence (offers followers a role model)
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