Leadership theories are explanations on the aspect of leadership that help to offer an understanding with a practical value in appreciation, prediction and control of successful leadership. This offers an attempt to explain the distinctive characteristics that account for effective leadership. No given definition exists that can completely define what attributes aggregate to define an ideal or model leadership.
Theories of leadership have undergone a radical paradigm shift over the years to suit into that which can be perceived ideal for qualities of a good leadership. Paradigm represents a shared mindset that represents a fundamental thinking and aggregation of perceptions, research or understanding, especially pertaining a leadership approach. As this has been changing over time, the various theories represent a paradigm shift from one state concept to another. These theories can be broadly classified based on the attributes analyzed as follows.
The trait model theory was postulated at about the 1930s and 1940s. It details that there are a given set of characteristics or traits that are possessed by a leader. Based on whether an individual has this set of traits or not, his or her effectiveness or lack of it thereof is thence determined.
Traits of effective leaders
The list of the desirable attributes or traits for a leader can extend to a myriad number of values. However, no given combination can be said to constitute comprehensive quality leadership.
The process of determining these traits usually involved analysis of physical and physiological attributes of an individual. The general mindset was that leaders are born and not made, thus, they need to possess these character traits.
A case example on Steve Jobs, the late CEO of Apple, is relevantly applicable. The workers described him as temperamental, tough, aggressive, intimidating and demanding. Due to some of these qualities, he pushed the organization to being the best in competitive innovation.
The behavioral theory was developed in the 1950s to replace the earlier mentioned one. Its postulates concentrated on finding out the behavioral qualities of effective and ineffective leaders. Distinctive styles are bound to be used by effective leaders as dictated by their inherent behavior.
This led to the development of the Mintzberg's managerial roles that contained all the behavioral qualities that characterize effective leaders. Although there was no one agreeable set that can be described as complete, the above set was used in training of leaders on effectiveness. Two generic dimensions of leaders were studied and described, that is the task oriented and people oriented types of leadership.
In the 1960s, the contingency theory approach was developed. Under this theory, the appropriate style was based on aspects of the leader, followers and situation. Factoring on the underlying situational factors at any given point was important in determining the traits or characteristics that would lead to success in leadership.
These situational factors include the nature of work performed, the external underlying environment and characteristics of followers. Culture also plays a part in determining the type of leadership that is accepted. A combination of all these factors and assumption of an integrated approach is the approach of most recent times.
It is important to appreciate that no single variable noted can completely describe the desired form of leadership. In addition, there has been a move from managers to leaders in the approach in governance. This shift helps to scrape off the older autocratic style and replace it with a new participative model where all stakeholders' issues are regarded equally. Leaders work in motivating others and creating favorable conditions, not just managing them.
The importance and value of these aspects does not just involve learning and comprehending them in school. It extends to the practical application in real life situation. The aspects learnt from these theories would help in cultivating and molding the best leadership attributes to apply in real life situations.
For instance, we learn that no single set can wholly comprise the best approach to assume. A perfect mix is desired for every unique situation. Also notable is the fact that the dynamics of time result in paradigm shift. No single approach would not need modifications to suit it to the current situation.
A practical example is from the management style assumed by Jeff Imelt at the helm of General Electric. The company is diverse and dynamic with a number of acquisitions and subsidiaries. The role played by the CEO is notable in the success achieved in incorporating all the different team players and working towards a common innovation and development strategy. Such a role requires the application of the aspect of inclusivity of diverse ideas of the different players. If one is to be a successful leader thus, regard needs to be paid to these details.
From my course work, I have learnt these various theoretical ideas on leadership that I can subsequently refer to in positions of leadership. They would also be crucial in followership. One needs an understanding on the expectations of leadership and followership in equal measure.