The emergence of leaders. When discussing leadership, there are two main theories that can be adopted. Firstly, there is the situational approach, which is unsurprisingly concerned with the situation. There may, for example, be a person within a business environment whom is tasked with controlling and leading a group of colleagues. It is therefore when the leadership task is viewed as a conscience process i. e. “I have been tasked as leader, I must lead the group”.
Alternatively, the theory of the trait approach is where the individual does not assume the role as leader consciencely, or put another way, they are born as a natural leaders and will often assume the role of leader in an anonymous situation, already possessing the correct qualities for the position. The Trait approach studies. It was once attempted to try and determine what qualities were most common in someone thought to be a natural leader. In the test, a number of characteristics were proposed as being advantageous, these were height, weight, appearance and intelligence.
Further studies by Gibb in 1969 suggest that the typical leader is only slightly more intelligent than the average group leader. Gibb also concluded that leaders are neither predominantly authoritarian nor equalitarian, but an equilibrium between the two. It resulted that the findings were not conclusive and that leaders do not consistently possess the same particular types of characteristics as each other, furthermore, they do not always possess entirely different characteristics to those of the non-leaders i. e. the group members.
The difficulty to come to a precise conclusion was such that many psychologists gave up trying to find the answer. Research in more recent years in a business environment has found that leaders do differ from group members, or at least more conclusively than Gibb in 1969. In 1991, Kirkpatrick and Locke identified that flexibility was a key trait in the leader’s personality, this is probably because the leader must be able to balance the wishes of group members, and grant them concessions in order for them to complete their given role within the group.
Other significant traits which were found in leaders included knowledge of the relevant subject and a trust in their own abilities, these equate to one factor – CONFIDENCE. According then to Kirkpatrick and Locke, leaders are distinguished from others by having a mixture of personal attributes more biased to the qualities that make a leader, or as Kirkpatrick and Locke put it, ‘The right stuff’. A different approach was taken by Bales and Slater in 1955. They observed discussions of tasks between group members and leaders and identified two types of leaders.
The first was the task specialist leader, who was mainly concerned with the group achieving a common goal, this was summed up well in Yukl’s definition of leadership in 1989, “the process through which one member of a group (i. e. it’s leader) influences other group members towards the attainment of a common group goal”. Secondly, there was the socio-emotional specialist who was primarily concerned with the inter-group relationships. It was thought that these two different styles would compliment each other when applied at once.
It was eventually concluded that the success of a particular style would depend strongly on the nature of the group and the task that was being undertaken. An early study of leadership and it’s effectiveness was conducted by Lewin et al. (1939). In their study, they investigated the effect of three different styles of leadership on a group of ten year old boys attending an after school model making group. The first leader was briefed to take a democratic approach to his leadership style, he had to express an interest and discuss activities with the boys.
The results showed that the boys were more satisfied, organised and independent than the other two groups. The second group had an autocratic leader who was told to be task orientated, and told the boys what to make and with whom to work. The results showed that the boys were very submissive and started becoming aggressive towards each other when things went wrong, although the work was of a comparable quality. It was found that when the leader left the room, the boys stopped working and became argumentative, this could be due to resentment at being given certain tasks.
The third leader was told to adopt a laissez-faire attitude and left the boys to their own devices, only giving help when it was asked for. This group produced very little work whether the leader was present or not. By using this technique of switching leadership styles, Lewin et al. Were able to conclude specifically that it was the style of leadership which was causing the different outcomes, not the individual personalities of the leaders or the boys. From this evidence it is easy to conclude that the democratic style of leadership would be the optimum style in any situation, but this is not true.
Relating to the studies by Bales and Slater (1955), it was stated that the optimum style of leadership or approach is related closely to the situation, so therefore it would be nave to assume that the democratic style of leadership is optimum. The Situational approach. The theory of the situational approach originated in the 1950’s and was an attempt to rectify some of the limitations of the trait approach. For example, the situational approach acknowledges that leadership involves leaders and followers in various role relationships, and that there are certain pathways that lead to becoming a validated and accepted leader.
Within this approach there are two types of situational leaders, these are appointed and emergent. The first, appointed, would for example be someone in a business environment who was given the task of leading a group, this is a pure example of a made leader. The second type of situational leader is emergent. The emergent situational leader is very similar to the born leader, but must not be confused. To separate it must be thought of as a battle. There is a group of people who could all theoretically lead the group but only one can.
Each member must try to validate their skills and emerge as a leader, one member will but they can as easily be invalidated should they be shown to not have the right skills. Basically, they are consciencely taking charge. This type of leader may emerge by virtue of their personal qualities and social skills, and by being a prominent figure, this is a ‘made’ leader. Even in the process of appointing leaders, leadership is a complex social process, and for the leader to be successful in their role, they must have a positive attitude from the group i. e. be validated. Rice et al.
In 1980 took a group of military cadets and split them into two groups, liberally minded and traditionalists. Both groups were given a leader for the day, both leaders were female. The test was to see how they reacted to having a female leader. The traditionalists responded best to males and the liberals responded to both. While not ignoring the leader’s physical characteristics, the situational approach stresses their appropriateness to a group and it” situation i. e. The cadet experiment will always fail as an experiment as there is no need for a female to lead the male cadets, so invalidation will always arise among traditionalists.
The female leader is no less competent than a male but traditionalists will resent her and this will lead to poor results. A good leader can be separated from a bad leader by taking into account the importance of the situation and how vital it is to make the correct decisions within the group. If the situation is important and a good decision is made, then the leader is better as any flaw in the idea would have been easily spotted. The rating of a leader also depends on how important it is for the decision to be accepted because a good leader will make a decision which best befits all of the groups individual wants.
A situational leader will choose one of two paths to gain co-operation from the members. They will use the autocratic style when a quality decision is needed and a participative style when co-operation is needed. This all relates to a ‘made’ leader because all of the decisions are made consciencely as ‘a leader’. Conclusion I have now listed the relevant studies about leadership, from the trait and situational approach. Taking the essay in stages of analysis it would be easy to say that the personal characteristics of a person i. e. ight weight etc, can influence leadership ability, and therefore leaders would be born leaders due to genetic factors, but this would be a nave perspective to take as it is clearly much deeper than this.
Gibb’s study could not conclude whether a leader was one thing or another, and therefore ended up unconcluded. Studies by Kirkpatrick and Locke were more conclusive, and suggested that a fine and slightly unbalanced blend of personality traits were responsible for leadership qualities, if this is the case, then the major factor must surely be confidence, as this is the resulting attribute of many of the pinpointed personality traits.
Bales and Slater claimed that it was styles present in us as people which determined the type of person were are, but their theory too was personality based, as personality changes due to social groups and lifestyle.. Looking at the subject as a whole I can say that there is little possibility that personality determines whether you are a leader or not. Lewin et al proved that it was not personality but leadership style which determined us, basically he said that leaders are not always made.
Many of the studies are complimentary to each other and explore other parts of theories, we can use these to draw conclusions. In answer to the question which formed the basis for this essay, my personal feeling is that leaders are not simply born or made, but different types of leaders exist, some born, some made, and some both at different times. Furthermore, the success of a leader is and can only be judged by the reaction of the group, as unfair as it is, therefore the success of a leader can not be measured, as they will have different success rates for different situations.
In brief, there is no one leadership style which is best, but just a variety of styles which must be tailored to suit the individual situation. The factor, in my opinion, which separates a true ‘born’ leader from a ‘made’ leader, is that the born leader can apply the leadership style and role without consciencely thinking about it, whereas the ‘made’ leader has to use previous knowledge and reach an informed decision as to which style to use, this may be wrong at first and will need to be changed using trial and error.
There is a fine line between born and made leaders and on that fine line rests a small minority. I look at the leadership theory as two circles, one representing born leaders and one representing made leaders. In the ‘born’ leaders circles is the type of person who would take charge in an emergency first aid situation, or intervene in a fight. In the ‘made’ leaders circle is people in a business environment who are trained or accepted as leaders and are consciencely aware of being a figure of authority.
These two circles overlap very slightly and in the elliptical shape which is created lives a breed of leaders which are born or made. These people have to earn their right to be a leader in a group and emerge as a leader, but they can be taken from this role because they are surrounded by people of the same type. The reason these people are in the centre shape of the diagram is because they both emerge due to circumstances but also are conscience about the want to be a leader. From this essay I can conclude two main points.
Firstly, leaders are not either born or made but are one or the other, there is no measurement that says that anyone who is a leader was born to be one (I could explore the relativity of the fate theory but this would invalidate all the studies). Secondly, success of leadership styles whilst discussing this question can not be measured accurately as group reaction is the only viable measurement and groups can vary in the same way that leaders can – They are all individuals and entirely different from one another.