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Pros And Cons Of Leadership Theories

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After the Japanese "miracle" had come to be recognized within America and Total Quality Management (TQM) had begun making fledgling appearances in American manufacturing, W. Edwards Deming, the so-called "father of TQM" gave us his famous 14 Points for the purpose of enabling the manufacturer to operate under the principles of TQM and the participatory management style that it requires. Several of Deming's (1986) 14 Points conclude with the statement, "substitute leadership" (p. 26).

Even now, 20 years later, there is still confusion over the differences between management and leadership. There are several leadership theories, most of which are applicable to differing environments and situations. The purpose of this paper is to examine and practically apply four of those theories of leadership: Situational Leadership, Contingency Theory, Path-Goal Theory and Leader Member Exchange

Situational Leadership

Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard's Situational Leadership Model (SLM) is a variation of contingency theory and as described by Monoky (1998), does "not prescribe a single leadership style, but identifies the three essential elements of task behavior, relationship behavior and Ð'... Ð''level of maturity'" (p.142) to result in four possible styles of communication and task accomplishment. This model provides variation in task complexity and the relationships between workers and managers in each. An example of a high task Ð'- low relationship variation is that which generally can be seen between low- or semi-skilled workers and production managers.

The other end of the spectrum is the low task Ð'- high relationship variation in which results are measured not in units produced per hour but take such forms as computer programs written for specific purposes; cost savings achieved through process improvement; or marketing innovation emerging from a "brainstorming" session.

Example Application of Situational Leadership

The bottom line of situational theory is that leadership and management take different forms according to the needs of the situation. The factory worker may or may not need more personal direction than does the marketer, but the factory worker has less ability to be creative in approaching the tasks associated with their job.

Examine a hypothetical situation faced by the leader of an assembly line producing circuit boards. This leader is facing the problem of lack of cohesive effort among the dozen workers on the line, all of whom are women holding 4-year college degrees and working far below their abilities on a repetitive, monotonous assembly line. Situational leadership indicates that the leader's role should be "low relationship" because of the "high task" nature of the work. This would be true in most cases involving repetitive factory work, but it would not really be conducive to solving the problems of boredom on this particular assembly line. As is the case with most theories, this one describes several scenarios well but still cannot address all situations. There are many exceptions, as Cairns, Hollenback, Preziosi and Snow (1998) found in a study of blanket applicability of situational leadership theory.

Contingency Theory

Fiedler's Contingency model makes some of those allowances that situational theory does not, and also incorporates the nature of the situation in determining which direction leadership takes within contingency theory. In this model, leadership style is described in terms of task and relationship motivation as well, and situational favorableness is determined by three factors:

1. "Leader-member relations - Degree to which a leader is accepted and supported by the group members.

2. "Task structure - Extent to which the task is structured and defined, with clear goals and procedures.

3. "Position power - The ability of a leader to control subordinates through reward and punishment" (Contingency Models, 2006).

Situational favorableness is determined by the relative positions of these three factors on a continuum. High levels of all three factors yield the most favorable situation while low levels of the three collectively return the least favorable situation. The point of Fiedler's contingency theory is that it may be easier for managers to alter circumstances than it is for them to change their leadership style.

Example Application of Contingency Theory

A new grounds supervisor has been hired temporarily by a boarding school to rejuvenate the grounds. The workers consist of a single middle-aged man with a year-round position and several high school boys who work only during the summer. The boys are no problem at all for the new supervisor, but the man who has worked at the school for 20 years is resentful that he has to report to a new person. The new supervisor's best option is to place the long-term employee in an intermediate position between the boys and his/herself, charge him with ensuring completion of all routine maintenance while the supervisor focuses on landscape design and implementation.

So long as the boys give the man the respect dictated by his age, his subsequent elevation of esteem should contribute to a greater acceptance of the new supervisor. Then after realizing that the new supervisor is there only to set grounds maintenance on a new path and that he will be left to keep it on course, his entire attitude will most like change to one of cheerful helpfulness and creativity of thought.

Path-Goal Theory

Originated by Robert J. House in 1971, the path-goal theory has received a great deal of attention and has been operational in many contexts without realization of its existence. It constitutes a common sense approach to leadership, though it contains a detriment that subordinates cannot easily contribute unless the leader makes specific requests for worker contribution.

The basic idea is that there are certain steps required to reach any goal, "that in order to get desired organizational results, certain tasks must be performed. The results are the goal; the tasks are the path. When appropriate tasks are performed, the goals are achieved. When the goals are achieved, appropriate rewards for the individual should follow" (Price, 1991; p. 339). The leader's job is to ensure that workers clearly understand what the goal is; facilitate workers'



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