Leadership Theories Trait and Contingency Leadership
Uploaded by dylanb98 on Oct 31, 2011
This paper discusses two leadership theories and how they can help managers relate to subordinates.
Organizational leadership is important for many reasons. A company must have someone who takes the ultimate responsibility for the organization’s actions. A company may seem monolithic and unapproachable unless it wears a human “face,” and a leader can supply that. (Think of Ben and Jerry and their ice cream company, or Lee Iococca and Chrysler.) A leader sets the “tone” of the organization as well. For all these reasons and many others, organizational leadership is vital.
This paper will examine two types of leadership: trait leadership and contingency leadership. It discusses what they are, who devised the theories, and how a knowledge of them can contribute to effective organizational leadership.
II Theory of Trait Leadership
As one might expect from the name, trait theory posits that leaders have certain “traits” that make them effective, and that these traits can be recognized. One formal definition is this: “Trait Theory: A type of leadership theory based on the idea that personal characteristics determine leader emergence and leader performance.” (Aamodt, PG).
The word “emergence” is interesting, since it indicates that a leader will “emerge” naturally if he or she has the traits of a leader; it implies that a true leader is born, not made.
The idea behind the trait theory of leadership was developed by an individual named Bird in 1940; there may have been others. It was his idea that it should be possible to look at leaders and identify the traits that they had in common; he listed approximately 79 characteristics of leaders. (“Theories of Leadership,” PG). Like most leadership theories, this one is susceptible to criticism, and in fact Stogill objected to the theory as early as 1948. (“Management Style,” PG). In this case, the theory doesn’t take into account those people who become effective leaders by experience, study, or other means that have nothing to do with innate qualities.
This is the “charismatic” leader, the one people follow because of his “magnetic” personality.
III Theory of Contingency Leadership
The “contingency theory” was developed by Fred Fiedler, and explains that “group performance is a result of interaction of two factors. These factors are known as leadership style and situational favorableness.” (Antoine, PG). “Leadership style,” according to Fiedler,...