Sunday, January 8, 2012

Leadership Styles, Roles, Activities, Skills and Development - Research Perspective

This is probably the first post in this blog. Posted on 8 January 2012.
As on 4 March 2017, there are 212 posts in this blog.

The content is to be further enriched from research perspective. Presently it still reflects practice perspective.

Leadership Styles, Activities, Roles and Skills

Styles is a more popular concept. It can be said it started from the conception of theory X and theory Y. Theory X represents authoritarian style and theory Y represents an enlightened, humanistic style. Roles and activities are what leaders do and skills refer to things which make leaders effective.

Leadership Styles

Blake and Mouton’s classic managerial grid identifies leadership styles of practicing managers. The grid has two dimensions “concern for the people along the vertical axis and “concern for the task” along the horizontal axis. Each axis is divided into nine parts. The (1,1) manager has minimum concern for people and task. The opposite if the (9,9) manager. This individual has maximum concern for both people and task. A manager’s current position can be determined by a questionnaire developed by Blake and Moulton. Managers can be sensitized to the need for moving to (9,9) style.

(Robert Blake and Jane S. Mouton, “Should You Teach There’s only One Best Way to Manage?” Training HRD, April 1978, p. 24.)

Another approach to identifying leadership styles was formulated by Hersey and Blanchard. They also use two dimensions, task style and relationship style. They divide each axis into two parts, low and high and identify four styles.

1. Telling style: high task, low relationship
2. Selling style: high task, high relationship
3. Participation style: low task, high relationship
4. Delegating style: low task, low relationship

A situation variable maturity of the follower is brought into the model by Hersey and Blanchard. The level of maturity is defined three criteria:

1. Degree of achievement motivation of the follower.
2. Willingness to take on responsibility.
3. Amount of education and/or experience.

The maturity level is defined at four levels.

When maturity is very low, telling style is appropriate.
When maturity is low, selling style is to be used.
When maturity is high, participating style, is the preferred one.
When maturity is very high, delegation is the best style.

There is a questionnaire instrument that provides various situations depicting the maturity of the followers and managers asked to give their responses in terms of managerial actions. Then managers are made aware of their situation and style understanding.

Charismatic and transformational leadership theories also are included in leadership styles. House and Podsakoff identified the following activities as important for leaders and they have drawn these items from modern leadership theories like charismatic and transformational leadership.

1. Vision: Great leaders articulate an ideological vision (better future) congruent with deeply held values of followers so that they feel they have a moral right for the envisaged future.
2. Passion and self-sacrifice: Great leaders have passion for the vision and mission. They have a rational argument for the benefits, they show positive emotions in connection with mission and vision and they engage in outstanding or extraordinary behavior and make self-sacrifices in the interest of vision and mission.
3. Confidence, determination and persistence: Great leaders show high degree of faith in their vision and strategy. Determination and persistence are exhibited because of the confidence and moral conviction.
4. Image building: Great leaders realize that they must be perceived as competent, credible and trustworthy.
5. Role modeling: Leaders must be role models, meaning their behavior must be in line with expected behavior to achieve the vision. Great leaders demonstrate the role model leadership.
6. External representation: Outstanding leaders represent their organization to outsiders in a skillful way. It means the followers are very happy with the external communications of their leader.
7. Expectations of and confidence in followers: Great leaders have strong confidence in their followers' potential and ability to attain the high performance targets set in line with the vision.
8. Selective motive arousal: Great leaders have to identify the motives relevant to the accomplishment of the vision and mission and arouse those motives.
9. Frame alignment:  A set of followers' interests, values, and beliefs must have alignment with the activities proposed by the leader. This process is frame alignment and outstanding leaders do their homework in accomplishing this frame alignment.
10. Inspirational communication: Vivid stories, slogans, symbols, rituals and ceremonies are used in communication to inspire the followers to adhere to the mission and engage in activities to attain the vision.
( Reference for House and Podsakoff )

Roles of Leadership

Henry Mitzberg’s research on what leaders do resulted in a description of roles of managers.

The roles are described under three heads

Interpersonal Roles: Figurehead, Leader, Liaison
Informational Roles: Monitor, Disseminator, Spokesperson
Decisional Roles: Entrepreneur, Disturbance handler, Resource allocator, Negotiator

Activities of Leaders

The research studies of Fred Luthans along with his colleagues on what the managers are doing in their day-to-day work resulted in a listing of activities of leaders.

Fred Luthans and Lockwook came out with a list of activities that managers do: Planning/coordinating, staffing, training/developing, decision making/problem solving, processing paper work, exchanging routine information, monitoring/controlling performance, motivating/reinforcing, disciplining/punishing, interacting with outsiders, managing conflict, socializing/politicking.  All these are discussed in earlier management works also. They are grouped into the following four categories:

Routine Communication: Exchanging information, handling paper work
Traditional management: Planning, Decision making, Controlling
Networking: Interacting with outsiders, Socializing/Politicking
Human resource management: Motivating/Reinforcing, Disciplinary/Punishing, Managing conflict, Staffing, Training/Developing

Managerial Skills

Whetten and Cameron provided an empirical derivation of effective leadership skills. They are based on an interview study of 400 highly effective managers. 10 skills identified are:

1. Verbal communication (including listening)
2. Managing time and stress
3. Managing individual decisions
4. Recognizing, defining, and solving problems
5. Motivating and influencing others
6. Delegating
7. Setting goals and articulating a vision
8. Self awareness
9. Team building
10. Managing conflict

Whetton and Cameron highlighted three things in relation to these skills. The skills are behaviors and not traits. The skills sets have conflicting demands and all are not either soft or hard. Effective leaders are multiskilled people and limitations in skills do limit effectiveness.

This list can be compared with another list of five skills and we can see commonality among them:
1. Cultural flexibility 2. Communication skills 3. Creativity 4. HRD skills 5. Self-management of learning

Leadership Development by Organizations

Zand identified three areas to be developed for future leaders in an organization. They are knowledge required for the tasks, ability and behavior to develop trust in followers and acquisition and use of power.

A study of military cadets indicated that physical fitness, prior influence experiences, and great self-esteem were predictive of effectiveness in later leadership roles.

Luthans points out that the most recent mainstream approach to leadership development is centered on competencies. Bernardin, in his human resource management textbook also emphasized the importance given to competency modeling in job analysis and descriptions.

In leadership development, personal growth training that may involve a combination of psychological exercises and outdoor adventures is being used. Steven Covey talks of withstanding irritation more and more beyond the level of tolerance to develop the ability to withstand more nuisance. It is psychological exercise. The adventure exercises aim at developing in the participants a sense and ability to take responsibility for their own lives and thereby train them to take responsibility for their organizations.


Fred Luthans, Organizational Behavior, 9th Edition.