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Evolution of Leadership Models and Approaches

Evolution of Leadership Models and Approaches

The Qualities Approach

Traditional frameworks for viewing leadership were largely male and military in their orientation. These role models for leadership tended to be described in terms of attacking, defending, marshalling, deploying resources, strategy and tactics, achieving objectives and have been part of the traditional language of leadership. A logical extension of this thinking was that a focus on leadership would centre upon the qualities of an individual. Some have “it” whilst others do not have “it”. As it is almost impossible to create a definitive list of leadership qualities (though such things as courage, integrity etc may be common to all good leaders) this approach is very limiting in its scope. Qualities if possessed by an individual invariably require supplementary qualities and of course the nature of each organisation or team may demand qualities in different measure and style.

Development of Leadership thought through 20th / 21st century John Potter.

The Situational Approach

The traditional qualities approach inspired the idea of a situational approach. This is based upon the hypothesis that the best leader to take charge in any given situation would defined by the situation itself and the qualities possessed by that particular leader in relation to the situation. In other words, the traditionally designated leader may not in fact be the best to take the lead in all situations and individuals strongest in skills defined by the situation would and should come forward. This poses the problem however in that a good leader is in fact often expected to be able to handle a variety of situations which may not be predictable and is arguably driven by values rather than by just qualities or situations. Transition to current theoretical models and “task – relationship’ ideas. The military commissioned a great deal of research into leadership after frustration with the simplistic qualities and situational models. Most reduced down to a mixture of both task and relationship based behaviours. These ultimately were boiled down to two major leadership factors… Concern for task.Concern for people. This task and relationship perspective on leadership behaviour helped bring about Functional Leadership John Adair of the Royal Military College Sandurst created an innovative approach based upon analyzing the needs of followers rather than just leaders and suggested that leaders need to focus upon three major areas of need. Firstly the needs of the task, secondly the needs of the team and finally the needs of the individuals within the team and the feeling that they do actually belong to a team. His “three circles” approach represents all three areas of need with areas of overlap. This makes the point that all three areas are mutually dependent and that failure to address one are will ultimately weaken the others.

Adair. J (1983) Effective Leadership. London. Pan

Leadership as a process

With teams and organizations working globally rather than just locally now it is becoming more common to view leadership as a process whereby attention is taken away from purely the characteristics of an individual and placed more upon the process that they create. The qualities approach would suggest that an individual creates the process and the situational approach that the process is linked to the qualities relevant to the situation. Task and relationship based models must also try to take into account the impact of leadership behaviour and not just the behaviour itself. Fiedler in the US developed a psychological test known as the Least Preferred Co-Worker (LPC) that measured a deep down preference of a leader for either task focus or relationship focus. Some would prefer to work with someone based upon the relationship issues whilst others would have a natural emphasis upon a co-workers ability to perform efficiently over and above relationship issues. Whilst many may sit in the middle of this spectrum this model suggests that varying stress levels will be more appropriate for some leaders and not others. For example someone with high emphasis on “Task” will be useful in high stress situations (as they are probably less inclined to be distracted by team members feelings). Someone with high emphasis on “Relationship” will perform best in medium stress situations over high stress situations for this reason. Fiedler argues that a leader should work to modify the stress level to suit their preferred LPC style by adjusting the relationship between leader and follower.

Fiedler. FE, Chemers M, Mahar L, (1976) Improving Leadership Effectiveness. New York. Wiley

The Mouton Blake Grid

Five different leadership styles are suggested in the Mouton Blake Grid (two US researchers) that are a mixture of both task and relationship based approaches. The 9.1 style is heavily task focused with little concern for follower feelings or thoughts. The 1.9 style is quite the opposite with high focus on relationship which is valued above achievement of the task itself. The 9.9 style is the “over the top” high task, direction and encouragement typical of new / immature leaders who feel they need to be seen as leader all the time irrespective of the situation at hand. The 1.1 style is very “hands off” and there are times when this is appropriate. The 5.5 style as a blend of both demonstrates the flexibility of a leader to vary their approach to suit the situation and its scope.

Blake RR, Mouton JS (1964) The Managerial Grid, Houston, Gulf Publishing

The Hersey Blanchard Life Cycle Approach

This approach suggests different styles of leadership based on the mix of task and relationship behaviours needed for a group / team depending upon their ability to function cohesively. If they have not previously worked together closely then a highly directive task focused style may be appropriate. Conversely for a highly developed or mature team a more ‘hands off’ style may be appropriate. Heresy and Blanchard suggest that leaders need to diagnose the maturity of the team and apply the most appropriate form of leadership from one of the four quadrants. A leader may need to journey up and down through these quadrants as the team improves or deteriorates in performance / maturity.

Hersey P, Blanchard KH (1969) Management of Organization and Behavior, Engelwood Cliffs NJ, Prentice

The Composite Approach

The composite approach put forward by Hooper and Potter advocates strongly that no single model or experience can effectively define the phenomona of leadership and so every model with merit needs to be considered in balance with observation or role models, evaluation, introspection and personal experience. They present a model for the process of leadership based upon the idea that leaders through a combination of actions and competencies create a process that serves to transform followers. In so doing followers perform better than they would otherwise.

Hooper A, Potter J (1997) The Business of Leadership, Aldershot UK, Ashgate

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