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The process of leadership is all about influencing as well as guiding people so as to meet the stipulated goals and objectives. Leaders are people who influence others to perform their roles and responsibilities effectively. In this regard, there is a presence of varied theories that are related to leadership. These are inclusive of contingency leadership theory, trait theory of leadership, situational leadership, etc. In this regard, the current report has focused on contingency as well as trait leadership theory. The report concluded that organization management has to face different types of situations and accordingly they have to make instant decision so as to overcome the issue in terms of contingency theory. On the other hand, according to trait theory, leaders are born and cannot be developed. It is further recommended that the firms should use contingency theory of leadership as it would be helpful in making decisions according to situations.
Leadership can be defined as a process of influencing people. Most common thing among leaders is that they have followers who follow all the orders provided by them. On a contrary, if there are no followers, then one cannot be a leader. In this respect, the present essay has thus given emphasis on contingency and trait theory of leadership. There has been a comparison of both the theories of leadership on the basis of definition. Historical perspective of and trait theories of leadership has also been given. This is followed by critically analysing the advantages of contingency theories and contradicting it with the advantage of trait theories. Same concept has also been followed in limitation aspect of both the theories. Other than the usefulness of contingency as well as trait theories in different aspects in organisations have also been analysed. The essay has concluded with highlight key findings.
Contingency theory of leadership: According to Kim, Kumar and Kumar, 2012 “there are two types of leaders involved in this leadership theory which are influencers and motivators” (Kim, Kumar and Kumar, 2012). However, both the leaders in this theory have their own way of attitude towards giving orders to their followers (Gardner and Overhage, 2009).
Trait theories of leadership: According to Suter, Oelke and Armitage, 2009 “this theory is determined on the basis of different characteristic of leaders” (Suter, Oelke and Armitage, 2009). The theory thus helps to distinguish among non-leaders and leaders. However, McKenna, Rooney and Boal, 2009 stated that “leaders are born not made” (McKenna, Rooney and Boal, 2009). There are also authors like Ou, Liu and Yen, 2010 who believe that “leaders are made not born” (Ou, Liu and Yen, 2010).
Comparison: According to Snell and Bohlander, 2010 “both contingency and trait theory are ways through which leadership is analysed” (Snell and Bohlander, 2010). However, both are different in many aspects. Contingency theories provide different variable or ways for particular situation. On the other hand, trait theory takes immediate decision in order to solve the issue or problem. Further, trait theory helps in motivating and encourages employees to face difficult situations (Talib, Rahman and Qureshi, 2011). In addition to this, one of the main difference among them both is that trait focuses on the leader's focuses on the circumstances of surrounding. But contingency depends upon the situation which individuals face as it helps in developing understanding and skills related to leadership.
As per McKenna, Rooney and Boal, 2009 “contingency theory leadership emerges when different people face different types of situations which develop their qualities” (McKenna, Rooney and Boal, 2009). On the other hand, according to Suter, Oelke and Armitage, 2009 “in trait theory leaders are born with leadership skills and they make use of these skills according to the circumstances they face” (Suter, Oelke and Armitage, 2009). There have always been issues among researchers, whether leaders are born leaders or are made. In other words, it can be determined set of characteristic of people because of which they stand different form others. Snell and Bohlander, 2010 “different individuals possess different characteristic” (Snell and Bohlander, 2010). On the contrary, there would be individuals with good and bad characteristic, in both case these individuals are remembered. But in contingency theory leadership skills are developed when individuals face different situation and accordingly they understand their capabilities and work on it to enhance it.
Historical perspective of Trait Theory: Thomas Carlyle in 1804 proposed Great man theory. According to this theory, qualities which determines an individual to lead is something which is in born and it cannot be thought or developed. This study started on focusing on the difference between followers and leaders. It was based on the assumption that the leader would show his/her leadership traits when compared with subordinates (Kirkpatrick and Locke, 1991). In the research it was found that all the individuals who supported leadership traits did not prove to be a great leader.
In 1948, similar research was done by Ralph Melvin Stogdill's who stated “the reason of becoming a great leader is that of the interaction which he/she has with others and because of different types of situation which arise”. On the other hand, it was also found that there were leaders who used their intellectual and knowledge and skills which were possessed from their parents (Avolio, Walumbwa and Weber, 2009).
In 1974, Stodgills made further research and stated that both situational and traits contribute to leadership. Further, according to Beebe and Masterson, 2009 “even motivation plays vital role in developing leadership”. Individuals who get influence by other leaders try to learn and develop their skills accordingly (Beebe and Masterson, 2009). Further, Stodgills identified different leadership traits which influence appearance, knowledge, intelligence, social skills, responsibility and emotional control. On the other hand, a research held by Barry Z Posner and James M. Kouzes in 1980, they conducted a survey from about 1500 managers and focused on finding out good leadership traits which helps their employees to work effectively. According to research it was found that there were four traits which were being inspiring, competent, hones and looking forward. According to trait theory of leadership, there are many traits with the help of which leaders achieve their goals and objectives.
There are many changes which took place in these years among which following are the common changes or the different types of leaders which are involved in Contingency theory:
1. Consideration leaders: These types of leaders focus on developing relationship with the subordinates and understand their skills and accordingly they provide them tasks. According to Sage and Rouse, 2009 “developing interpersonal relationship with members help in sharing issue and problems. It also helps in improving their performance level” (Sage and Rouse, 2009).
2. Initiating leaders: These type of leaders believe in developing plans, assign roles and scheduling duties so that they could achieve the organizational goals and objectives.
Stahl, Björkman and Wright, 2012 stated that “contingency is a type of situation which occurs when a plan fails. Problems or issues arise when things do not work out according to what had been planned” (Stahl, Björkman and Wright, 2012). In such situations leaders take initiative to develop substitute plan with the help of which they solve the problems. In other words, contingency can be determined as instant thinking done to take appropriate decision to solve the any kind of issue when planned thing do not work out.
There is a model given by Fred Fiedler in the year 1967, According to Fiedler, 1967 “there are different types of leadership styles which can be followed leaders”. However, all styles have their own merit and demerits. On the contrary, effectiveness of any leadership style depends upon the situation (Zhang and Bartol, 2010). It can be determined into two factors which are 'leadership style' and 'situational favourableness'.
Advantage of contingency theory: According to Kouzes and Posner, 2010 “Contingency theory is determined as a reliable approach and has survived over the decades” (Kouzes and Posner, 2010). However, Sage and Rouse, 2009 has stated that “it has an effective leadership approach as it has grounded in empirical research” (Sage and Rouse, 2009).
This theory has enhanced the understanding of leadership scope in which it focuses on the best way through which employees could be controlled or directed.
As per Stahl, Björkman and Wright, 2012 “contingency theory has proved to have predictive powers in focusing on the leadership types which determines the best style in particular context” (Stahl, Björkman and Wright, 2012). On the other hand, Zhang and Bartol, 2010 stated that “leaders should be considered to be effective in all situations as organization should understand the skills and capabilities which leaders possess” (Zhang and Bartol, 2010).
Most importantly this theory provide organization with data regarding the leadership style which enables to develop leadership profile related to human resource planning (Kotter, 1990).
Trait theory: According to Crevani, Lindgren and Packendorff, 2010 “lot of researchers have conducted different research on it and has ensured the validity over it” (Crevani, Lindgren and Packendorff, 2010).As per Avery and Bergsteiner, 2011 “trait theory provides a yardstick towards the leadership traits with the help of which assessment of individuals is possible” (Avery and Bergsteiner, 2011).
It is very essential for the employees to see their leaders to be extraordinary and creative. In this context, trait theory develops confidence and trust among workers towards their leaders (Avery and Bergsteiner, 2011). In addition to this, trait theory develops benchmarks which is required for a person to be a leader.
Limitations of Contingency theory: It is very complex as leaders have to make decisions depending upon the situation. In order to take managerial decisions, it is very essential for them to have proper analysis but because of short to time leaders fail to conduct to have proper examination of situation.
According to Stahl, Björkman and Wright, 2012 “leaders make decisions based on the knowledge and understanding, there are cases in which they fail to take appropriate decisions because of lack in understand and knowledge towards the situation occurred” (Stahl, Björkman and Wright, 2012).
Limitations of Trail theory: As per Zhang and Bartol, 2010 “organization sometimes conduct a poor prediction of identifying the effective leaders” (Zhang and Bartol, 2010). This creates an issue in proper coordination and in completing the tasks on time or in solving any issue.
It is very important for the firm to have a proper system in order to evaluate individual behaviour and in select the best person for leading employees (Crevani, Lindgren and Packendorff, 2010). Issues arises when management fail to maintain the system effectively.
Contingency Theory: Giber, Lam and Bourke, 2009 stated that “contingency theory is helpful in know the perspective of each member towards their leaders. But there would be members who would not take it seriously and provide rating without even reading it” (Giber, Lam and Bourke, 2009). This creates issues in know the actual perception of followers on their leaders.
It helps in identifying leaders in a group easily. There are eight scales on the basis of which they could easily identify leaders effectively. However, all the areas through which skills are not covered in this model. There are many skills and qualities which a leader should possess and through this model effective leader cannot be determined.
This model can only be used by those members who know all the other members in a team. However, those employees who are new and do not know other members cannot rate properly as they got not idea regarding other members in the team (Talib, Rahman and Qureshi, 2011).It is very helpful in know the relationship among leaders and members. But there would be workers who would not be having any kind of attitude towards developing relationship with anyone. In such situation it becomes difficult for contingency theory to understand their followers effectively.
TRAIT THEORY: Task competence: As per Herman, 2011 “leaders are capable of understanding and performing any job effectively” (Herman, 2011). Further, they possess skills and capabilities with the help of which they understand the given task and provide proper guidance to their followers through which they achieve desired goals and objectives.
Confidence: Wells, Schwinghammer and Dipiro, 2010 stated that “leaders are assured of what they do”. They understand their employee’s capabilities and accordingly provide them task (Wells, Schwinghammer and Dipiro, 2010). As per Kouzes and Posner, 2010 “ if the leader is confident enough then followers develop trust towards the directions given by them” (Kouzes and Posner, 2010).
Decisiveness: According to Kim, Kumar and Kumar, 2012 “leader use their intellectual skills to make decision. They understand the situation and make decision accordingly” (Kim, Kumar and Kumar, 2012). However, followers develop confidence among the decision taken and accordingly make changes so as to solve the issues or problem (Blake and Mouton's, 1960).
Flexibility and adaptability: In an organization changes takes place frequently and it is not easy to adapt to change easily and in making other accept the change. Gardner and Overhage, 2009 stated that “leaders are flexible enough to adapt change easily. They realize the importance of change and prepare their follower so that they could understand the requirement of change” (Gardner and Overhage, 2009).
As per Sage and Rouse, 2009 “personal qualities which a person possess has an effect on leadership. For example, Mother Teresa, Lincoln, etc. they both were effective leaders but with totally different qualities” (Sage and Rouse, 2009). Both traits and situation are very helpful in developing leadership qualities. In addition to this, motivating also help in developing skills and in enhancing the performance. Motivation from different leaders helps in developing abilities and skills through which job become easy (French and Raven, 1959).
Thus, it can be concluded that both theories have their own importance and organization could make use of both theories according to their requirement and situations. With the study of both theories, that is contingent and trait theory of leadership, the best one would be contingent leadership theory. In an organization, different types of situations have to be handled and in order to solve them instant decision has to be taken. There are different models given by different authors, among which taking questionnaire from a group would be helpful in know the leadership qualities which would possess among the group members. As it was discussed, different people have set of skills and qualities, so would be developed and some would be in born qualities. All these qualities and skills contribute effectively in leading followers.
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