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A Quick Overview of The Fundamental Leadership Approaches and Theories

A Quick Overview of The Fundamental Leadership Approaches and Theories

May 4, 2014 5:47 pm0 comments

Hi Everyone,

For part of my MBA, I had to write up a quick overview of the basic leadership approaches and theories. There are many more than this, but most of them are just extensions of these.

Trait Approach is defined as integrated patterns of personal characteristics that reflect a range of individual differences and foster consistent leader effectiveness across a variety of group and organizational situations (Zaccaro, Kemp, & Bader, 2004)

Understanding the importance of these core personality traits that predict leader effectiveness can help organizations with their leader selection, training, and development practices (Derue et al., 2011).

-Leadership centered perspective

-Innate and largely fixed

-Personality characteristics focus

Skills Approach is focused on skills and abilities that can be learned and developed

-Leader’s capabilities

Style Approach emphasizes the behavior of the leader

-What leaders do and how they act.

-First to include actions of leaders toward subordinates in various contexts

Situational Approach focuses on leadership in situations

-Different situations demand different kinds of leadership

-Leaders need to be adaptable

-Wide recognized

Contingency Theory (leader-match theory) tries to match leaders to appropriate situations.

-Suggests that a leader’s effectiveness depends (or is contingent) on how well the leader’s style fits the context

-You have to intentionally go out and match leadership styles with situations

-Concern with styles and situations. Tries to match these together.

Path-Goal Theory is about how leaders motivate subordinates to accomplish designed goals.

-Draws heavily on what motivates people

-The goal is to enhance employee performance and employee satisfaction by focusing on employee motivation

-Emphasizes the relationship between the leader’s style and the characteristics of the subordinates and the work setting.

-Assumes subordinates will be motivated if they think they are capable of performing their work, if they believe their efforts will result in a certain outcome, and if they believe that the payoffs for doing their work are worthwhile.

Leader-Member Exchange Theory makes the teaching relationship between leaders and followers the focal point of the leadership process

-Centered on the interactions between leaders and followers

-Leaders treat followers in a collective way, as a group, using an average leadership style.

-Directs attention toward the difference that might exist between the leader and each of the leader’s followers.

-Focuses on the two-way relationship (dyadic relationships) between supervisors and subordinates. The theory assumes that leaders develop an exchange with each of their subordinates, and that the quality of these leader-member exchange (LMX) relationships influences subordinates’ responsibility, decision influence, access to resources and performance.

Perspective Breakdown of the approaches/theories:

Point of view of the leader: Trait, skills, & style

Follower and the context: Situational, contingency, and path-goal

Interactions between leader and follower: Leader-member exchange


This post is not meant to be a complete explanation of the approaches. It is meant to be more of just a quick overview.


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