Traditional Approaches to Understanding Leadership
The trait approach A leadership perspective that attempts to determine the personal characteristics that great leaders share. is the oldest leadership perspective; it focuses on individual leaders and attempts to determine the personal characteristics (traits) that great leaders share. What set Winston Churchill, Alexander the Great, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr. apart from the crowd? The trait approach assumes the existence of a leadership personality and assumes that leaders are born, not made.
From 1904 to 1948, researchers conducted more than 100 leadership trait studies.38 At the end of that period, management scholars concluded that no particular set of traits is necessary for a person to become a successful leader. Enthusiasm for the trait approach diminished, but some research on traits continued. By the mid-1970s, a more balanced view emerged: Although no traits ensure leadership success, certain characteristics are potentially useful. The current perspective is that some personality characteristics—many of which a person need not be born with but can strive to acquire—do distinguish effective leaders from other people:39
Finally, there is one personal skill that may be the most important: the ability to perceive the needs and goals of others and to adjust one's personal leadership approach accordingly.47 Effective leaders do not rely on one leadership style; rather, they are capable of using different styles as the situation warrants.48 This quality is the cornerstone of the situational approaches to leadership, which we will discuss shortly.
Three general categories of leadership behavior have received particular attention: behaviors related to task performance, group maintenance, and employee participation in decision making.
Group Maintenance In exhibiting group maintenance behaviors Actions taken to ensure the satisfaction of group members, develop and maintain harmonious work relationships, and preserve the social stability of the group., leaders take action to ensure the satisfaction of group members, develop and maintain harmonious work relationships, and preserve the social stability of the group. This dimension is sometimes referred to as concern for people, supportive leadership, or consideration. It includes a focus on people's feelings and comfort, appreciation of them, and stress reduction.51 This type of leader behavior has a strong positive impact on follower satisfaction, motivation, and leader effectiveness.52
What specific behaviors do performance- and maintenance-oriented leadership imply? To help answer this question, assume you are asked to rate your boss on these two dimensions. If a leadership study were conducted in your organization, you would be asked to fill out a questionnaire similar to the one in Table 12.1. The behaviors indicated in the first set of questions represent performance-oriented leadership; those indicated in the second set represent maintenance-oriented leadership.
Leader-Member Exchange (LMX) theory Highlights the importance of leader behaviors not just toward the group as a whole but toward individuals on a personal basis. highlights the importance of leader behaviors not just toward the group as a whole but toward individuals on a personal basis.53 The focus in the original formulations, which has since been expanded, is primarily on the leader behaviors historically considered group maintenance.54 According to LMX theory, and as supported by research evidence, maintenance behaviors such as trust, open communication, mutual respect, mutual obligation, and mutual loyalty form the cornerstone of relationships that are satisfying and perhaps more productive.55p. 427
Questions Assessing Task Performance and Group Maintenance Leadership
SOURCE: Reprinted from J. Misumi and M. Peterson, “The Performance-Maintenance (PM) Theory of Leadership: Review of a Japanese Research Program,” Administrative Science Quarterly 30, no. 2 (June 1985), by permission of Administrative Science Quarterly, © 1985 by Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell University.
Remember, though, the potential for cross-cultural differences. Maintenance behaviors are important everywhere, but the specific behaviors can differ from one culture to another. For example, in the United States, maintenance behaviors include dealing with people face-to-face; in Japan, written memos are preferred over giving directions face-to-face, thus avoiding confrontation and permitting face-saving in the event of disagreement.57
Participation in Decision Making How should a leader make decisions? More specifically, to what extent should leaders involve their people in making decisions?58 As a dimension of leadership behavior, participation in decision making Leader behaviors that managers perform in involving their employees in making decisions. can range from autocratic to democratic. Autocratic leadership A form of leadership in which the leader makes decisions on his or her own and then announces those decisions to the group. makes decisions and then announces them to the group. Democratic leadership A form of leadership in which the leader solicits input from subordinates. solicits input from others. Democratic leadership seeks information, opinions, and preferences, sometimes to the point of meeting with the group, leading discussions, and using consensus or majority vote to make the final choice.
The Effects of Leader Behavior How the leader behaves influences people's attitudes and performance. Studies of these effects focus on autocratic versus democratic decision styles or on performance- versus maintenance-oriented behaviors.
Decision Styles The classic study comparing autocratic and democratic styles found that a democratic approach resulted in the most positive attitudes, whereas an autocratic approach resulted in somewhat higher performance.59 A laissez-faire leadership philosophy characterized by an absence of managerial decision making. style, in which the leader essentially made no decisions, led to more negative attitudes and lower performance. These results seem logical and probably represent the prevalent beliefs among managers about the general effects of these approaches.p. 428
Democratic styles, appealing though they may seem, are not always the most appropriate. When speed is of the essence, democratic decision making may be too slow, or people may want decisiveness from the leader.60 Whether a decision should be made autocratically or democratically depends on the characteristics of the leader, the followers, and the situation.61 Thus, a situational approach to leader decision styles, discussed later in the chapter, is appropriate.
Performance and Maintenance Behaviors The performance and maintenance dimensions of leadership are independent of each other. In other words, a leader can behave in ways that emphasize one, both, or neither of these dimensions. Some research indicates that the ideal combination is to engage in both types of leader behaviors.
A team of Ohio State University researchers investigated the effects of leader behaviors in a truck manufacturing plant of International Harvester.62 Generally, supervisors who were high on maintenance behaviors (which the researchers termed consideration) had fewer grievances and less turnover in their work units than supervisors who were low on this dimension. The opposite held for task performance behaviors (which the research team called initiating structure). Supervisors high on this dimension had more grievances and higher turnover rates.
When maintenance and performance leadership behaviors were considered together, the results were more complex. But one conclusion was clear: when a leader is high on performance-oriented behaviors, he or she should also be maintenance oriented. Otherwise, the leader will face high rates of employee turnover and grievances.
At about the same time the Ohio State studies were being conducted, a research program at the University of Michigan was studying the impact of the same leader behaviors on groups' job performance.63 Among other things, the researchers concluded that the most effective managers engaged in what they called task-oriented behavior: planning, scheduling, coordinating, providing resources, and setting performance goals. Effective managers also exhibited more relationship-oriented behavior: demonstrating trust and confidence, being friendly and considerate, showing appreciation, keeping people informed, and so on. As you can see, these dimensions of leader behavior are essentially the task performance and group maintenance dimensions.
After the Ohio State and Michigan findings were published, it became popular to talk about the ideal leader as one who is always both performance and maintenance oriented. The best-known leadership training model to follow this style is Blake and Mouton's Leadership Grid®.64 In grid training, managers are rated on their performance-oriented behavior (called concern for production) and maintenance-oriented behavior (concern for people). Then their scores are plotted on the grid shown in Figure 12.2. The highest score is a 9 on both dimensions.
As the figure shows, joint scores can fall at any point on the grid. Managers who did not score a 9,9—for example, those who were high on concern for people but low on concern for production—would then receive training on how to become a 9,9 leader.
For a long time, grid training was warmly received by U.S. business and industry. Later, however, it was criticized for embracing a simplistic, one-best-way style of leadership and ignoring the possibility that 9,9 is not best under all circumstances. For example, even 1,1 can be appropriate if employees know their jobs (and therefore don't need to receive directions). Also, they may enjoy their jobs and their coworkers enough that whether the boss shows personal concern for them is not very important. Nonetheless, if the manager is uncertain how to behave, it probably is best to exhibit behaviors that are related to both task performance and group maintenance.65
In fact, a wide range of effective leadership styles exists. Organizations that understand the need for diverse leadership styles will have a competitive advantage in the modern business environment over those that believe there is only “one best way.”p. 429
The Leadership Grid®
SOURCE: The Leadership Grid® Figure from Leadership Dilemmas—Grid Solutions, p. 29, by Robert R. Blake and Anne Adams McCanse. Copyright © 1991, by Robert R. Blake and the Estate of Jane S. Mouton. Used with permission. All rights reserved.
Situational Approaches to Leadership
According to proponents of the situational approach Leadership perspective proposing that universally important traits and behaviors do not exist, and that effective leadership behavior varies from situation to situation. to leadership, universally important traits and behaviors don't exist. They believe effective leader behaviors vary from situation to situation. The leader should first analyze the situation and then decide what to do. In other words, look before you lead.
A head nurse in a hospital described her situational approach to leadership:
This nurse has her own intuitive situational approach to leadership. She knows the potential advantages of the participatory approach to decision making, but she also knows that in some circumstances she must make decisions herself.
The first situational model of leadership was proposed in 1958 by Tannenbaum and Schmidt. In their classic Harvard Business Review article, these authors described how managers should consider three factors before deciding how to lead: forces in the manager, forces in the subordinate, and forces in the situation.67 Forces in the manager include the manager's personal values, inclinations, feelings of security, and confidence in subordinates. Forces in the subordinate include his or her knowledge and experience, readiness to assume responsibility for decision making, interest in the task or problem, and understanding and acceptance of the organization's goals. Forces in the situation include the type of leadership style the organization values, the degree to which the group works effectively as a unit, the problem itself and the type of information needed to solve it, and the amount of time the leader has to make the decision.
Consider which of these forces makes an autocratic style most appropriate and which dictates a democratic, participative style. By engaging in this exercise, you are constructing a situational theory of leadership.
Although the Tannenbaum and Schmidt article was published more than a half-century ago, most of its arguments remain valid. Since that time, other situational models have emerged. We will focus here on four: the Vroom model for decision making, Fiedler's contingency model, Hersey and Blanchard's situational theory, and path-goal theory.
The Vroom Model of Leadership This situational model follows in the tradition of Tannenbaum and Schmidt. The Vroom model A situational model that focuses on the participative dimension of leadership. emphasizes the participative dimension of leadership: how leaders go about making decisions. The model uses the basic situational approach of assessing the situation before determining the best leadership style.68
Table 12.2 shows the situational factors used to analyze problems. Each is based on an important attribute of the problem the leader faces and should be assessed as either high or low.
The Vroom model, shown in Figure 12.3, operates like a funnel. You answer the questions one at a time, choosing high or low for each, sometimes skipping questions as you follow the appropriate path. Eventually, you reach one of 14 possible endpoints. For each endpoint, the model states which of five decision styles is most appropriate. Several different decision styles may work, but the style recommended is the one that takes the least amount of time.
Situational Factors for Problem Analysis
SOURCE: V. Vroom, “Leadership and the Decision-Making Process,” Organizational Dynamics, Spring 2000, pp. 82–94. Copyright © 2000 with permission from Elsevier Science.p. 431
Vroom's Model of Leadership Style
SOURCE: V. Vroom, “Leadership and the Decision-Making Process,” Organizational Dynamics, Spring 2000, pp. 82–94. Copyright © 2000 with permission from Elsevier Science.
Table 12.3 defines the five leader decision styles. The five styles indicate that there are several shades of participation, not just autocratic or democratic.
Of course, not every managerial decision warrants this complicated analysis. But the model becomes less complex after you work through it a couple of times. Also, using the model for major decisions ensures that you consider the important situational factors and alerts you to the most appropriate style to use.
Fiedler's Contingency Model According to Fiedler's contingency model of leadership effectiveness A situational approach to leadership postulating that effectiveness depends on the personal style of the leader and the degree to which the situation gives the leader power, control, and influence over the situation., effectiveness depends on two factors: the personal style of the leader and the degree to which the situation gives the leader power, control, and influence over the situation.69Figure 12.4 illustrates the contingency model. The upper half of the figure shows the situational analysis, and the lower half indicates the appropriate style. In the upper portion, three questions are used to analyze the situation:
Vroom's Leader Decision Styles
SOURCE: V. Vroom, “Leadership and the Decision-Making Process,” Organizational Dynamics, Spring 2000, pp. 82–94. Copyright © 2000 with permission from Elsevier Science.
These three sequential questions create a decision tree (from top to bottom, in the figure) in which a situation is classified into one of eight categories. The lower the category number, the more favorable the situation is for the leader; the higher the number, the less favorable the situation. Fiedler originally called this variable “situational favorableness” but now it is “situational control.” Situation 1 is the best: relations are good, task structure is high, and power is high. In the least favorable situation (8), in which the leader has very little situational control, relations are poor, tasks lack structure, and the leader's power is weak.
Fiedler's Analysis of Situations in Which the Task- or Relationship- Motivated Leader Is More Effective
SOURCE: D. Organ and T. Bateman, Organizational Behavior, 4th ed., McGraw-Hill, 1990. © 1990 by The McGraw-Hill Companies.p. 433
Different situations dictate different leadership styles. Fiedler measured leadership styles with an instrument assessing the leader's least preferred coworker (LPC); that is, the attitude toward the follower the leader liked the least. This was considered an indication more generally of leaders' attitudes toward people. If a leader can single out the person she likes the least, but her attitude is not all that negative, she received a high score on the LPC scale. Leaders with more negative attitudes toward others would receive low LPC scores.
Based on the LPC score, Fiedler considered two leadership styles. Task-motivated leadership Leadership that places primary emphasis on completing a task. places primary emphasis on completing the task and is more likely exhibited by leaders with low LPC scores. Relationship-motivated leadership Leadership that places primary emphasis on maintaining good interpersonal relationships. emphasizes maintaining good interpersonal relationships and is more likely from high-LPC leaders. These leadership styles correspond to task performance and group maintenance leader behaviors, respectively.
The lower part of Figure 12.4 indicates which style is situationally appropriate. For situations 1, 2, 3, and 8, a task-motivated leadership style is more effective. For situations 4 through 7, relationship-motivated leadership is more appropriate.
Fiedler's theory was not always supported by research. It is better supported if three broad rather than eight specific levels of situational control are assumed: low, medium, and high. The theory was quite controversial in academic circles; among other arguable things, it assumed that leaders cannot change their styles but must be assigned to situations that suit their styles. However, the model has withstood the test of time and still receives attention. Most important, it initiated and continues to emphasize the importance of finding a fit between the situation and the leader's style.
Hersey and Blanchard’s Situational Theory Hersey and Blanchard developed a situational model that added another factor the leader should take into account before deciding whether task performance or maintenance behaviors are more important. Originally called the life-cycle theory of leadership, Hersey and Blanchard's situational theory A life-cycle theory of leadership postulating that a manager should consider an employee's psychological and job maturity before deciding whether task performance or maintenance behaviors are more important. highlights the maturity of the followers as the key situational factor.70Job maturity The level of the employee's skills and technical knowledge relative to the task being performed. is the level of the follower's skills and technical knowledge relative to the task being performed; psychological maturity An employee's self confidence and self-respect. is the follower's self-confidence and self-respect. High-maturity followers have both the ability and the confidence to do a good job.
The theory proposes that the more mature the followers, the less the leader needs to engage in task performance behaviors. The required amount of maintenance behaviors is a bit more complex: Maintenance behaviors are not important with followers of low or high levels of maturity but are important for followers of moderate maturity. For low-maturity followers, the emphasis should be on performance-related leadership; for moderate-maturity followers, performance leadership is somewhat less important and maintenance behaviors become more important; and for high-maturity followers, neither dimension of leadership behavior is important.
Little academic research has been done on this situational theory, but the model is popular in management training seminars. Regardless of its scientific validity, Hersey and Blanchard's model provides a reminder that it is important to treat different people differently. Moreover, it suggests the importance of treating the same individual differently from time to time as he or she changes jobs or acquires more maturity in her or his particular job.71
Path-Goal Theory Perhaps the most comprehensive and generally useful situational model of leadership effectiveness is path-goal theory. Developed by Robert House, path-goal theory A theory that concerns how leaders influence subordinates' perceptions of their work goals and the paths they follow toward attainment of those goals. gets its name from its concern with how leaders influence followers' perceptions of their work goals and the paths they follow toward goal attainment.72p. 434
The key situational factors in path-goal theory are (1) personal characteristics of followers and (2) environmental pressures and demands with which followers must cope to attain their work goals. These factors determine which leadership behaviors are most appropriate.
The four pertinent leadership behaviors are as follows:
These situational factors and leader behaviors are merged in Figure 12.5. As you can see, appropriate leader behaviors—as determined by characteristics of followers and the work environment—lead to effective performance.
The theory also specifies which follower and environmental characteristics are important. There are three key follower characteristics. Authoritarianism is the degree to which individuals respect, admire, and defer to authority. Locus of control is the extent to which individuals see the environment as responsive to their own behavior. People with an internal locus of control believe that what happens to them is their own doing; people with an external locus of control believe that it is just luck or fate. Finally, ability is people's beliefs about their own abilities to do their assigned jobs.
Path-goal theory states that these personal characteristics determine the appropriateness of various leadership styles. For example, the theory makes the following propositions:
Appropriate leadership style is also determined by three important environmental factors: people's tasks, the formal authority system of the organization, and the primary work group.
The Path-Goal Frameworkp. 435
Path-goal theory offers many more propositions. In general, the theory suggests that the functions of the leader are to (1) make the path to work goals easier to travel by providing coaching and direction, (2) reduce frustrating barriers to goal attainment, and (3) increase opportunities for personal satisfaction by increasing payoffs to people for achieving performance goals. The best way to do these things depends on your people and on the work situation. Again, analyze, and then adapt your style accordingly.
Substitutes for Leadership Sometimes leaders don't have to lead, or situations constrain their ability to lead effectively. The situation may be one in which leadership is unnecessary or has little impact. Substitutes for leadership Factors in the workplace that can exert the same influence on employees as leaders would provide. can provide the same influence on people that leaders otherwise would have.
Certain follower, task, and organizational factors are substitutes for task performance and group maintenance leader behaviors.73 For example, group maintenance behaviors are less important and have less impact if people already have a closely knit group, they have a professional orientation, the job is inherently satisfying, or there is great physical distance between leader and followers. Thus, physicians who are strongly concerned with professional conduct, enjoy their work, and work independently do not need social support from hospital administrators.
Task performance leadership is less important and will have less of a positive effect if people have a lot of experience and ability, feedback is supplied to them directly from the task or by computer, or the rules and procedures are rigid. If these factors are operating, the leader does not have to tell people what to do or how well they are performing.
The concept of substitutes for leadership does more than indicate when a leader's attempts at influence will and will not work. It provides useful and practical prescriptions for how to manage more efficiently.74 If the manager can develop the work situation to the point where a number of these substitutes for leadership are operating, less time will need to be spent in direct attempts to influence people. The leader will be free to spend more time on other important activities.
Research indicates that substitutes for leadership may be better predictors of commitment and satisfaction than of performance.75 These substitutes are helpful, but you can't put substitutes in place and think you've completed your job as leader. And as a follower, consider this: If you're not getting good leadership, and if these substitutes are not in place, create your own “substitute” for leadership—self-leadership. Take the initiative to motivate yourself, lead yourself, create positive change, and lead others.
47S. Zaccaro, R. Foti, and D. Kenny, “Self-Monitoring and Trait-Based Variance in Leadership: An Investigation of Leader Flexibility across Multiple Group Situations,” Journal of Applied Psychology 76 (1991), pp. 308–15.
53G. Graen and M. Uhl-Bien, “Relationship-Based Approach to Leadership: Development of Leader-Member Exchange (LMX) Theory of Leadership over 25 Years: Applying a Multi-Level Multidomain Perspective,” Leadership Quarterly 6, no. 2 (1995), pp. 219–47.
56C. Nobel, “The Smart Business of Diversity,” InfoWorld, January 22, 2007, http://www.infoworld.com (interview with Carly Fiorina).