Early Leadership Theories

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Within the realm of leadership there are many theories that have been put forward which try to explain how or why someone is a great leader. Early leadership theories focused on what qualities distinguished between leaders and followers, while subsequent theories looked at other variables such as situational factors and skill levels. I will be going through the main contributions of each of the following theories in the following order. • Trait theories • Behavioural theories • Contingency theories • Charismatic theories • Participative theories Trait theories This is among the earliest of the theories of leadership, dating back to the Greeks who concluded that leaders are born, not made. Trait theories assume that people inherit certain qualities…show more content…
According to this theory, no specific type of leadership is universally the ‘best’ for every situation. It highlights the importance of context of which the leadership is occurring. Leadership researchers White and Hodgson have put forward the belief that truly effective leadership is about striking the right balance between behaviours, needs and context. They believe that a good leader should assess the situation and adapt their leadership style and behaviour accordingly. The success of this style purely depends on variables, context, the quality of the followers, as well as the leader’s ability to adapt to the situation. A study conducted by Fred Fiedler (1970s) with the intention of answering the question ‘What is it about leadership behaviour that leads to effective group working’ i.e. how well the group performs at the given task. He identified two styles: ‘Relationship-motivated’ and ‘Task-motivated’ leaders. ‘Relationship-motivated’ leaders obtain satisfaction through good relationships with others, encouraging their teammates etc., whereas ‘task-motivated’ leaders put emphasis on task completion. This is again a major contribution to leadership and still applies today, as similar to behavioural theories, finding the correct balance between styles is key to unlocking optimum performance from followers, but also adds the importance of situational awareness, being able to adapt based on the context of the situation and other variables. To a certain extent contingency leadership theories are an extension of the trait theory, in the sense that human traits are related to the situation in which the leaders exercise their leadership. It is generally accepted within the contingency theories that a leader is more likely to express their leadership when they feel that their followers will be
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