Theories of Leadership: Practical View

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Introduction

Leadership literature reveals a trend where several theories of leadership have evolved in the recent past. This kind of revolution can be described as originating from ‘great man’ characteristics-based theories to ‘transformational’ leadership. In other words, earlier theories mainly focused on the traits and behavioral attributes of successful leaders. However, later theories are based on the role of the subject (followers), coupled with the contextual aspect of leadership as a role (Griffin & Moorhead, 2009).

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The concept of leadership theories has become a topic of interest for research in both methodological and substantive approach. Knowledge of leadership theories has become a popular and relevant approach to nurturing leadership behaviors in different organizations with proper research interests. It therefore requires a justification through practical approach in the development of leadership skills.

Theory of Skills Approach

Description

The skills approach to leadership is based on the belief that leadership skills can be acquired through learning and development. Skills approach, however, acknowledges that personality is needed in the development of skills and knowledge of leadership. According to Katz (cited in Northouse, 2010), there are three basic administrative skills namely technical, human, and conceptual. Other scholars have fronted an idea that contemporary leadership is based on a new skills-based model, commonly applicable in organizational leadership. According to Katz, the highlighted skills are based on the ability of a leader to use his or her knowledge and skills to lead any organization or a group of people forward towards achieving the set goals and objectives.

An individual’s technical skill means how the person is proficient in a specialized work, through their ability to analyze, through the help of certain tools and techniques (Northouse, 2010). For example, a statistician’s ability to use statistical packages to analyze data are essential in fostering understanding of statistical basics, thus enhancing leadership success in the filed of statistics. This is because hands-on experience is an essential part of leadership in any organization. It is noted technical skills are mainly essential for middle management of an organization, and has no importance at the top level of the organizational management (Northouse, 2010). Human skills are basically an ability to engage different people, under the people management bracket, hence requiring more people skills than technical skills. In this aspect, the leader knows how to manage people, bring people together, and make people cooperate and work harmoniously. Conceptual skills are important in enabling leaders to identify and implement concepts and ideas. It is the conceptual skill that guides the vision and strategies being applied by the organizations.

Application

I got an opportunity to attend a Malay Muslim wedding ceremony after an invitation from my close friend Zaina. Zaina had invited me to attend the wedding ceremony of her elder sister who was getting married. Before the actual wedding day I had the opportunity of attending all the important functions of my friend’s sister’s wedding and all of them were distinct and unique in their own ways. There were ceremonies like the “mehendi” ceremony in which the bride and her friends all gather together amidst much dancing and singing and apply henna on the hands and feet.

Follow-up

The mehendi ceremony was held 3 days prior to the final wedding day. There were also other important ceremonies and functions, which included rituals and religious traditions, which I found highly interesting to watch and experience, despite being unable to follow many things due to linguistic diversity. I took note of important issues that I actually needed, with the guidance from my research question.

Pleasantly surprised and amazed at the manner in which Malay Muslims strictly follow traditions and religious customs, I wondered how Zaina’s family continue to maintain their culture and traditions even while staying in an individualistic and completely different host country like America. So I resorted to interviewing the elderly, whose only role in the ceremonies seemed to be in charge of the smooth running of the ceremony as per the standards of cultural requirements. One such lady was Zaina’s grandmother, a lady of about seventy-five years of age, but with the strength, vigor and enthusiasm of a sixteen year old. I carefully planned an interview session that was to be conducted later where I took the opportunity to ask questions over the several meetings which I had with her. I had become particularly close to the family and also addressed Zaina’s grandmother as Ma, like the other members of the family did. This interview revealed Ma’s technical know –how in the matters of culture as defined in the Koran and other Muslim cultural books. She also expressed her ability to manage a large family staying together, a symbol of their cultural identity in a society full of individualization.

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An interview with Ma’s husband, Abubakar, on the other exposed what one would call a CEO in the contemporary society of organizations. Abu, as he is fondly called, is the symbol of the entire extended family. As the source of strength and cultural identity, Abu is seen as the head of the family that derives the concept of cultural maintenance and human organization in the entire family. With the support from Ma, the family begins the sustainability of the cultural identity. Ma asserts this fact when she says, “…I support my husband with my clear memories of our culture for such memories, since his age warrants a lot of memory lapse. He realized that it was he, who made me move here. This is why when he wants to remember some of our native traditions, I am always ready to help him and find all the necessary material, people, and time. My children are also eager to hear something about our native traditions, because they truly believe that our traditions are the ones, which help to support each member of the family and provide him/her with the necessary care and love”. Other than the ceremonies, the Malay Muslim community just do not just fancy the art of living together as huge but strongly nit family but also see it as away of keeping the flow of cultural passage smooth. This fact could be the reason why Ma says, “We came from India. For a long period of time, I lived in a joint family, where more than 35 people lived together”.

Evaluation

A closer look at this family clearly indicates that the family is guided by the grandfather, Abu as the CEO and grandmother, Ma as the operations manager. The family institution is headed by the elderly, who are accorded utmost respect. This tight family structure is what makes the family stronger and fosters the culture of love and care. Ma demonstrates this by saying that it is the ability to keep tabs with the cultural facts, both technical and conceptual aspects, which brings the sense of this unity between the family members including her children and grandchildren. This kind of analysis shows that the two grand parents are leaders with a mixture of skills that helps foster the family union, through learning and developing the knowledge-based aspect of leadership in a more collaborative manner. It is evident that the young ones approve of the process since they embrace the cultural identity that comes with such ceremonies as well as living together as a unit in an exceptionally large extended family.

Theory of Style Approach

Description

In the style approach theory, it is noted that the behavior of the leader is given a lot of emphasis, thus exposing the leader’s traits as well as skills that are needed to expose the ability to lead by example and as a role model. It therefore follows that whatever the leader does, especially to the subordinates, whether personal or official, is scrutinized in this theoretical aspect. It also involves how the leader behaves when carrying out a specific task in the organization in question (Fisher, 1999). It is therefore important to specify that the main purpose of this theoretical approach is to ensure that leaders are trained to combine these two types of behaviors (i.e. task and relationship behaviors), for the purpose of influencing the junior staff members to focus their works towards the set goals.

Application

Student Leadership is one aspect of leadership that has presented an opportunity to develop future societal leaders. Some few interviews with both the student leaders indicate that they are not interested in the power that comes with it, but the passion to lead and learn from their mistakes and success in the leadership process. Some students also expressed their desire to elect students leaders who have good personal relationship with them as well as those who are able to represent their welfare to the University administration.

Follow-up

According to many students, it is the responsibility of the student leader to streamline the belief in student welfare. It is also their moral duty to first show the passion for the maintenance of good interpersonal behavior with the students. It is therefore an express obligation of the student leaders lead by example by imparting the cultural of values as well as morals to the entire students’ fraternity. This is to ensure the family stay together and continue sharing the moral values and all aspects of life. This expresses the importance of unity, which accordingly could be interpreted as the source of strength and cultural identity, with the student leaders as the “fulcrum” of strength in the students’ family. For example, when new students are admitted, it is the responsibility of the students’ leaders to help them out in their new environment, by first respecting their status at personal level as well as exposing good leadership skills through command and respectful approach in all dimensions.

Evaluation

Through student leadership, it is easy to note that leadership is not just how powerful or wealthy one is in the society. Instead, it is basically the relationship between the leader and the subject. In other words, it can be stated that leadership is basically a concern to everyone, and not to the leaders themselves. Through practice, observations from role models, as well as coaching and mentoring, leadership can be developed to fit within the societal setup by establishing good personal and work relationships with the subject.

A case in point is when students end up in a situation that is very challenging and thus requires some support. It will require the student leaders to set good examples for the fellow students, through the construction and maintenance of a workable team to enhance team work in fostering future changes through trust. At the same time, this workable team and maintenance of a good teamwork can never be achieved if the student leaders do not behave in a manner that is acceptable to the entire university community, particularly personal conducts towards other students and the university fraternity as a whole.

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Theory of Situational Leadership

Description

This theory conferred that effective leadership is based on the recognition of employees needs and the ability of the leader to adapt to their individual style to satisfy the said needs. In this approach, the leaders have the responsibility of assessing the role of the subordinates, thus help them to adapt the situation as it is.

Application

In my study group, there are members from different cultural backgrounds who are brought together by a common goal of academics. It is composed of six students, from four different continents of Europe, America, Africa and Asia. Despite the common goal of academic excellence, the students have different cultural and religious backgrounds and hence require an all encompassing approach to leadership by our group leader, who is of European origin.

Follow-up

When I carried a test on whether our group leader observed this aspect of leadership, it was realized that he did not observe many aspect of this diversity. The fact that many of the group members gather together to discuss academic issues should not compromise the strengthening and preserving cultural identity. But when our group leader was tested, he expressed a lot of dissatisfaction to the way some group members conduct themselves, especially in relation to religious beliefs as well as cultural belief. Another aspect that he seemed not satisfied with is the accent that mostly led to breakdown of communication. For example, as a Christian, our group leader belief his religion is more superior to that of other group members’, hence he fails to adapt to the situation.

Evaluation

Group gatherings normally include all-important members who have special skills and knowledge, despite the cultural or religious differences that may exist. During such gatherings, the environment may not favor everyone, as far as the highlighted differences exist. The fact that situational leadership calls for the selection and application of a particular leadership style warranted by the situation may be very challenging and not help much in many situations. This is because despite the obvious biases our group leader expressed in his conduct, telling him to change is more of a mechanical approach to the situation. Visibly, the group leader felt the need to be given freedom to express his ways of leadership rather than being directed on how to handle certain situations in a liberal manner acceptable to everyone. In this aspect, management belief can never be applied, since they are unobservable, and thus the leader can really go personal at the end.

The concept of situational leadership theory is a very interesting research area in both methodological and substantive approach, with emphasis to political leadership, and lately in the business leadership filed. This knowledge has become a popular and relevant approach to nurturing leadership behaviors in different organizations, with a preparation of creating a better environment for any form of eventuality.

Path Goal Theory

Description

This theory relies on the ability of leaders to develop and describe a path to their juniors, with the aim of achieving a specific goal as described by organizational leadership. In this aspect, leaders are expected to clarify the path for the followers or subordinates to have clarity on the way forward, remove any obstacle that may stop the achievement of any goal, and finally increase the benefits that come with the path identified and followed. Basically, the approach to this leadership is based on the situation, which includes the ability of the subordinate to express his or her “motivation and capability”, and the nature of the task ahead as a leader, especially in a contextual perspective (Fisher, 1999). It entails elements such as supportive, directive, participative, and achievement-oriented leadership.

Application

An interview with the above highlighted family in the first interview revealed what would be considered path goal theory. The two heads of the family, grandma and grand pa are responsible for clearing the path for the entire members of the family, thus increasing the probability of success probability. Through them, the junior members of the family were able to express their satisfaction and motivation towards extending the cultural beliefs of the community as a whole.

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Follow-up

The wedding is considered the beginning of a new life and is treated with a lot of respect and design. The value and significance of these ceremonies prior to marriage among the Malay Muslim community is critical and the elder members of the community take it upon themselves to ensure the ceremony run smoothly, by clearing the path. The ceremonies take place in the presence of all distance relatives- a very important aspect in the preservation and extension of could be lost cultural values.

Evaluation

The path-goal theory is basically meant to provide framework for the understanding of how leader behavior and situational factors can influence subordinate attitudes and behaviors. Many researches have supported the major predictions of the theory, even though it has a major weakness of not to have been tested and refined, hence sometimes lacking validity. This has left many researchers believing that more strong result for this theory will emerge out of continual research within the system of leadership context.

LMX (Leadership Exchange Theory)

Description

This theory relies on the interrelationship between leaders, especially supervisors and their subordinate staff. In this theory, it is noted that sometimes a leader has different forms of relationship with the different members of his or her subordinate staff. This kind of relationship may be in two dimensions: one group that works effectively and often associated with high quality as well as working be yond their job description. This group is often rewarded highly. The other group is that which is considered to be the darling of the managers, despite producing little in terms of job outcome. In return, they do not get any extra benefit or pay as opposed to the former group.

Application

It is normally applied in a situation where the organization faces extreme challenges, either very low or very high. In particular, there is need for a bigger group, huge financial ability to reward the hardworking and bigger workload to distribute to the more work-oriented group for a two-way benefit between the employer and employee.

Follow-up

A follow-up test at the department where I work did not yield much as the group is smaller. Again the organization did not give such a provision to reward more work-oriented employees, hence making it impossible to identify those who would go extra mile to work for such fringe benefits.

Evaluation

Critically, LMX theory does not specify the behavioral traits of a leader that will promote quality good relationship between the leader and the subordinate. In other words, it only dwells on the general aspects of the good leadership habits like being trustworthy, respectful, autonomous and discrete.

Transformational Leaderships Theory

Description

This theory relies on the belief that effective and properly functional leadership relies in the manager’s ability to inspire his or her subordinates with a well defined corporate vision so as to enforce the overall commitment of the employees. Principally, it involves an exchange between a leader and his or her subordinates, with an aim of achieving the best out of the staff without simple motivation and visions. Fisher (1999) observes that transformational leader gives moral reward to its employees, rather than material reward.

Application

Transformational leaders is normally applied by empowering employees, the leader acting as a role model to the juniors, being ready to listen to all the views of the staff for proper corporation, and creating a vision that is strengthened by people in the organization. It can be applied on either on one subordinate or on big groups of subordinate.

Follow-up

A close look at the transformational leadership is seen mainly in political leaders, even though many contemporary business leaders have the same quality. Analysis of world leaders shows many transformational leaders. When analysis was done in the department, it was evident that transformational leadership lacks in many aspect.

Evaluation

It is evident that transformational leadership involves a wide range of leadership perspectives; hence have no specific procedure to be followed. In other words, it is not a process that is easy to follow, thus the need t learn it over a long period of time. It therefore means that for a leader to succeed through this theory, he or she must make conscious efforts to adopt the style, through the understanding of its basic styles.

Team Leadership Theory

Description

This form of leadership is where an organization is set in such a manner that a team works together towards achievement of specific goals. This is enhanced through the role of one leader who is tasked with the responsibility of motivating members of his or her staff for a long term goal to be achieved. The emphasis is normally put on the long term goal of working towards the visions of the organization rather than short term goals.

Application

This kind of leadership can be applied in hospitals, where a medical team works together to save the life of a patient. This would require different specialists in different areas of medical specialties to increase effectiveness and success.

Follow-up

In my observation in a university hospital, I came to experience a team of doctors working towards the goal of saving the life of a patient in a theatre. The team worked with different expertise, but led by one surgeon, who directed all the team members for successful operations. In this role, the team leader offers strategic direction by defining and enforcing the overall strategy and plan of the operations.

Evaluation

When I got an opportunity to analyze the team leader’s role, I realized that the he was basically in charge of directing other team members what is required of them that would ensure a successful completion of the overall goal and objective. Again the team leader was in charge of monitoring the performance of other members, and correcting where need be to ensure continuous flow of activities. The concept of team leadership theory has become a topic of interest works that require numerous specialties to succeed. This is very important in building a team that can achieve more than what individual person can achieve. This knowledge has become a popular and relevant approach to nurturing leadership behaviors in different organizations, especially manufacturing and medical fields with proper research interests.

Psychodynamic Approach Leadership

Description

This theory provides an idea that organizational leaders unconsciously plan for the activities of the organization through assessment of individual ability and change. Other than helping to explore the underlying power as well areas related to control of the organizational process, psychodynamic leadership theory also involve a leader to examine the socio-political and cultural issues that tend to affect an organization in the development process. Griffin & Moorhead (2009) states that such approaches allow one to move from the traditional instrumental approach to the point of embracing the complex nature of leadership development.

Application

In applying this theory, leaders are able to understand and be aware of the psychological inclination of specific follower or employee, hence helping them them communicate effectively in order to get specific tasks accomplished. Once the leader-follower psychological set-up is known, the leader is able to pinpoint specific tasks to assign to specific employee or subordinate staff with special skills. This makes decision-making easier and softens the process of dealing with employees.

Follow-up

When observing the behaviors of many leaders, there is usually a common notion that some employees are more effective than others in an organization, even before seeing the result of their work. In almost all the personal experience I have, there has been a consistent belief that certain types of employees would do better than others in specific areas of specialties. This notion is very common among the human resource leaders, particularly during interviews.

Evaluation

Critical evaluation of the psychodynamic approach shows that it is based on a premature assumption that sometimes may not be accurate when empirically tested. Furthermore, there are no specific standardized methods of analyzing the outcome of such assumptions. Finally, modern conventional training techniques are needed to enhance leadership skills. However, psychodynamic approaches do not blend easily with the modern training modalities.

Reference

Fisher, K. (1999). Leading Self-Directed Work Teams: A Guide to Developing New Team Leadership. London. McGraw-Hill Professional.

Griffin, W.R. & Moorhead G. (2009). Organizational Behavior: Managing People and Organizations. New York. Wiley Publishers.

Northouse, P.G. (2010). Leadership: Theory and Practice, 5th ed. Thousand Oaks. Sage Publication.

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BusinessEssay. "Theories of Leadership: Practical View." November 29, 2021. https://business-essay.com/theories-of-leadership-practical-view/.