Session 20: Leadership

What is leadership?

The ability to influence a group toward the achievement of goals is leadership. The source of influence may be formal such as that provided by the possession of managerial rank in an organization. However not all leaders are managers. However, all managers are not leaders too. There is a concept of no sanctioned leadership where it reflects the capacity to influence beyond formal authorities.

Difference between leader and manager

When you are promoted into a role where you are managing people, you don’t automatically become a leader. There are important distinctions between managing and leading people. Here are nine of the most important differences that set leaders apart:

  1. Leaders create a vision, managers create goals.

Leaders paint a picture of what they see as possible and inspire and engage their people in turning that vision into reality. They think beyond what individuals do. They activate people to be part of something bigger. They know that high-functioning teams can accomplish a lot more working together than individuals working autonomously. Managers focus on setting, measuring and achieving goals. They control situations to reach or exceed their objectives.

  1. Leaders are change agents, managers maintain the status quo.

Leaders are proud disrupters. Innovation is their mantra. They embrace change and know that even if things are working, there could be a better way forward. And they understand and accept the fact that changes to the system often create waves. Managers stick with what works, refining systems, structures and processes to make them better.

  1. Leaders are unique, managers copy.

Leaders are willing to be themselves. They are self-aware and work actively to build their unique and differentiated personal brand. They are comfortable in their own shoes and willing to stand out. They’re authentic and transparent. Managers mimic the competencies and behaviors they learn from others and adopt their leadership style rather than defining it.

  1. Leaders take risks, managers control risk .

Leaders are willing to try new things even if they may fail miserably. They know that failure is often a step on the path to success. Managers work to minimize risk. They seek to avoid or control problems rather than embracing them.

  1. Leaders are in it for the long haul, managers think short-term.

Leaders have intentionality. They do what they say they are going to do and stay motivated toward a big, often very distant goal. They remain motivated without receiving regular rewards. Managers work on shorter-term goals, seeking more regular acknowledgment or accolades.

  1. Leaders grow personally, managers rely on existing, proven skills.

Leaders know if they aren’t learning something new every day, they aren’t standing still, they’re falling behind. They remain  curious and seek to remain relevant in an ever-changing world of work. They seek out people and information that will expand their thinking. Managers often double down on what made them successful, perfecting existing skills and adopting proven behaviors.

  1. Leaders build relationships, managers build systems and processes.

Leaders focus on people – all the stakeholders they need to influence in order to realize their vision. They know who their stakeholders are and spend most of their time with them. They build loyalty and trust by consistently delivering on their promise. Managers focus on the structures necessary to set and achieve goals. They focus on the analytical and ensure systems are in place to attain desired outcomes. They work with individuals and their goals and objectives.

  1. Leaders coach, managers direct.

Leaders know that people who work for them have the answers or are able to find them. They see their people as competent and are optimistic about their potential. They resist the temptation to tell their people what to do and how to do it. Managers assign tasks and provide guidance on how to accomplish them.

  1. Leaders create fans, managers have employees.

Leaders have people who go beyond following them; their followers become their raving fans and fervent promoters – helping them build their brand and achieve their goals. Their fans help them increase their visibility and credibility. Managers have staff who follow directions and seek to please the boss.


Leadership theories

Trait approach: Throughout the history, strong leader have been described by their traits. This trait theory has set out to identify the differences between leaders from non-leaders. Trait theories focus on personal qualities and characteristics.

The literature says that, extraversion is found to be most predictive trait of leadership. However, it is not predicted to result in leadership effectiveness. Conscientiousness and openness to experience may seem to predict leadership, especially leadership effectiveness. Achievement striving and dependability were found to be related to effective leadership.

Regarding the dark triad, it seems to be good for leadership provided these traits are kept at moderate level. A study in Europe and the United States found that normative (mid-range) scores on the dark side personality traits were optimal, while low and high scores are associated with ineffective leadership.

EI is also found to be related to effective leadership since major concept of EI is empathy and empathy makes leader sense other’s needs.

Traits can predict leadership and what it predicts is emergence of leadership than differentiating effective from ineffective leaders. Also another drawback of trait theory is that, there is no common set of traits among all leaders hence, it seemed to come up with a set of few leadership traits. Further, it was criticized for the regressive approach of saying that leadership is a predisposition and not to be developed.

Behavioral theories: These theories propose that behaviors differentiate leaders from non-leaders. Since behavior can be trained, leadership can be trained. Studies from Ohio state identified that two behaviors which are relevant for leadership. They are initiating structure and consideration.

Initiating structure is the extent to which a leader defines and structures his or her role and those of the subordinates to facilitate goal attainment. Consideration is the extent to which a leader has job relationships that are characterized by mutual trust, respect for subordinates’ ideas and regard for their feelings.

The results of this behavioral theory studies have been positive. For example, one review found the followers of leaders high in consideration were more satisfied with their jobs, were more motivated and had more respect to their leaders. Both the behaviors, however, were found to be moderately related to leader and group performance along with ratings of leader effectiveness. Also, there is a cultural influence for these results.

Leadership studies undertaken at the University of Michigan came up with two dimensions of leadership behavior; employee-oriented and production-oriented. Employee oriented leaders emphasize interpersonal relations; taking a personal interest in the needs of employees and accepting individual differences among members. Production oriented leader is who emphasize technical or task aspects of job.

The conclusions arrived at Michigan researchers strongly favored the leaders who were employee oriented. They were associated with higher group productivity and lower job satisfaction.

The managerial grid: Developed by Robert R Blake and Jane Mouton (1964), managerial grid (now called leadership grid) is a graphic portrayal of two dimensional leadership styles. This grid is made based on two leadership style; “concern for people” and “concern for production”, which essentially represent the Ohio state dimensions and Michigan state dimensions.

The grid has nine possible positions along each axis creating 81 different positions in which the leader’s style may fall. The grid doesn’t show results produced but rather, the dominating factors in a leader’s thinking in regard to getting results.

Based on the findings of Blake and Mouton, managers were found to perform best under a 9,9 style as contrasted to any other options. However, this grid lacks research evidence to support the claim.

Behavioral theories are successful in finding the link between leadership behavior and group performance. However, situational elements are missing which can possibly influence the effectiveness of the group.

Contingency theories: A leadership that works in tough times will not work when things are easy.

  1. Fiedler’s model: According to Fred Fiedler, it appears that under certain conditions a certain leadership style would be appropriate. Now let us look at the conditions;

Identifying the leadership style

Fred Fiedler developed the first comprehensive contingency model for leadership. The theory proposes that group performance depends on the proper match between the leader style and the degree to which the situation gives the leader control. According to the model, the individual’s leadership style is assumed to be stable or permanent. Fred Fiedler begins his work by finding out what that basic style is. The least preferred coworker (LPC) questionnaireidentifies whether a person is task oriented or relationship oriented by asking respondents to think all the co-workers. The LPC questionnaire contains sets of 16 contrasting adjectives (such as pleasant-unpleasant, efficient-inefficient). It asks respondents to think of all the coworkers they have ever had and to describe the one person they least enjoyed working with by rating him/her on a scale of 1-8 for each of the 16 adjectives.

Fiedler believes by the response to LPC scale, we will be able to find the leadership style of the person. If the LPC score (a score given to the least preferred coworker) in relatively positive terms, then the respondents is primarily interested in good personal relations with his co-worker. Then Fiedler will label that person as relationship oriented. Otherwise, the person will be labeled as task oriented.

Defining the situation

After an individual’s basic leadership style has been assessed through the LPC, it is necessary to match the leader with the situation. Fiedler has identified three contingency dimensions that define the situational factors;

  1. Leader-member relations: The degree to which members have confidence, trust and respect in their leader
  2. Task structure: the degree to which job assignments are procedurized (structured or unstructured)
  3. Position power: the degree of influence a leader has over power variables such as hiring, firing, discipline, promotions and salary increases.

The next step is to evaluate the situation in terms of three contingency variables. Leader-member relations are either good or bad, task structure is either high or low and position power is either strong or weak. Fiedler states that the better the leader-member relations, the more highly structured the job and the stronger the position power, the more control the leader has.

Matching the leader with situations

Fiedler concluded that task oriented leader tend to perform better in situations that were very favorable to them and in situations that were very unfavorable. Relationship oriented leader would be better for moderately favorable situation.

Overall, this model has positive results. There is good amount of research evidence to prove substantial parts of the model. The major criticism is on LPC and logic behind LPC. It is also found, the leadership style is not stable as Fiedler mentioned.

  1. Robert House’s Path-Goal Theory

The path-goal theory is a little easier to comprehend than Fiedler’s model. House’s theory is based on the idea that a follower’s motivations are based on three assumptions:

  • If effort is given, the goal can be achieved (expectancy)
  • If the goal is achieved, there will be a reward (instrumentality)
  • The reward is considered valuable (valance)1

Leaders must be able to provide their followers assurance for their expectations. Differences in the characteristics of followers, the type of situation, and the leader’s style will all play in a role in the effectiveness of the group to achieve their goals.

Four Styles of Leadership

The Path-Goal Theory identifies four styles of leadership:

  • Directive- This leader provides direct and authoritative communication to his/her followers. This is ideal for followers who may have less knowledge or experience.
  • Achievement-Oriented- This leader sets high expectations for followers. He/she will challenge their subordinates and show confidence in their ability to achieve good results.
  • Participative- This leader works with his/her followers, considering their ideas and listening to them.
  • Supportive- This leader come alongside his/her followers showing care and concern for the their needs and well being.

Each of these styles can be effective or ineffective depending on the situation and on the abilities and needs of followers. According to House, leaders do have the ability to change styles and leaders should attempt to change to best serve their followers.

3. The Situational Leadership Model

This last model places followers into four different groups based on their maturity and assigns a particular leadership style to each group. The two different variables for determining followers’ maturity are:

  • Task skills
  • Motivation

Task skills represent the work ability and knowledge of followers. Do they have advanced work skills; are they mature in the workplace? Or do they have limited knowledge in regards to their work?

Motivation, on the other hand, measures the desire of followers to accomplish a task and looks at their psychological maturity.

Together, the various levels of follower’s task skills and motivation form four levels of readiness (also known as levels of maturity). See the table below for breakdown of readiness levels and the corresponding leadership responses.

Readiness Levels and Effective Leadership Styles

A grid visual of readiness levels.

Leadership Style Descriptions

Telling (S1)

Leaders give commands and specific instructions to followers.

Selling (S2)

Leaders provide direction and guidance, but there is more interaction between leaders and followers.

Participating (S3)

Leaders complete tasks by working with followers as a team and place high value on relationships.

Delegating (S4)

Leaders have confidence in the abilities of their followers. They empower followers by delegating tasks and giving them more responsibility.

 Leadership styles

Transformational Leadership

One type of effective leadership style is transformational leadership. Transformational leaders work with the goal of transforming their teams and organizations so that they’re constantly improving. They create a vision of the future that they share with their teams so that everyone can work together toward that shared goal and vision. Transformational leaders are also often seen as authentic, self-aware and empathetic. In addition, they handle conflict among team members well and hold both themselves and their team members accountable.

Democratic Leadership

Democratic leaders include their team members in their decision-making process. While they are ultimately responsible for making final decisions, they often ask team members what they think and try to take their thoughts and opinions into account. This can help increase engagement among team members, but it may not always be the best style for leaders who need to make quick decisions.

Autocratic Leadership

On the other end of the effective leadership styles spectrum, autocratic leaders make all decisions on their own without consulting with team members. This can be a good system for making quick decisions. However, it can make team members feel out of touch or dissatisfied with their working environment if they don’t feel like their opinions or ideas are ever considered in those important decisions.

Laissez-Faire Leadership

Leaders who practice this style are known for giving their team members a lot of freedom. They provide support and resources for team members when it’s necessary, but they don’t constantly micromanage employees. This can be an effective leadership style if you have a lot of trust among your team members and you know that they do good work and manage their time well on their own. However, if you’re working with newer team members or those who need more guidance or time-management help, it may not be as effective.

There isn’t one style that works perfectly in every situation. But if you come up with a style that’s suited to your business and your team, you could be well on your way to leading a successful team.

Bureaucratic Leadership

Bureaucratic leaders are all about rules. They may set strict procedures that they follow precisely, and they expect their team to do the same. This usually isn’t the best leadership style for businesses or teams that rely on innovation or creative problem solving. In those instances, you may want people to have a little more freedom to think outside the box and not follow the exact same procedures from day to day. But for more routine-oriented jobs, this leadership style could be a good fit. In those situations, many workers could appreciate having a very cut and dry set of rules and procedures to follow so that they aren’t left guessing about what you expect from them.

Servant Leadership

Servant leaders work hard to meet the needs of their team. They’re often seen as charismatic and generous. This often leads to high worker satisfaction rates since team members feel heard and cared for in their work. It can also be beneficial in a working environment where you want everyone to see themselves as equals who are working together or collaborating on an even playing ground, rather than focusing on who is in charge of whom. However, it may not be a great model for someone who needs to make quick or difficult decisions, since servant leaders might try too hard to make workers happy rather than focusing on what’s actually best for the organization or team as a whole.

Transactional Leadership

Transactional leadership focuses on the idea that accepting a job is a sort of transaction. By agreeing to take a job, workers have accepted that they have to complete the outlined task and follow their leader’s instructions. This style can work in situations where you need to clearly outline a difficult job or task before choosing someone to take on the role. It may also help ensure that everyone is very clear about what is expected of them. However, it can seem cold or inflexible, which may lead to low job satisfaction.

Media Attributions

  • 1.jpg.png.jpg.png
  • 1.jpg.png.jpg.png
  • 1.jpg.png.jpg.png
  • Capture
  • 1.jpg.png.jpg.png


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Organizational Behavior by Icfai Business School is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.