Leadership: A Constested Consruct – Keith Grint Essay

The first division concerns attributed to the individual or to the situation or context that the individual id in. Some leadership theories seem to centre solely on the characteristic of leaders regardless of the situation, whereas others do the opposite. Other theories involve an interaction between these two domains. The second of the divisions lies in the traditional split between objective and subjective assumptions about knowledge and data. Grint believes in inappropriate to view the literature in four separate and distinct quadrants: trait, situational, contingent, constitutive. Trait leadership theory.

This approach focuses on the individual leader and assumes that is possible to indentify and understand the various characteristics that leaders need. It can be defined as the leader’s distinguishing characteristics. These include intelligence, values, confidence, charisma and appearance. This approach has the benefit of surfacing the sorts of characteristics that leaders tend to possess, but, as Grint discovered, this list can quickly become unmanageable. Consequently, the trait approach offers little help to people wishing to improve their leadership qualities: you have either got it, or you have not.

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However, in 1986 LORD, De Vader and Alliger discovered 6 traits, which distinguished leaders from others: intelligence, extroversion-introversion, masculinity-femininity, interpersonal sensitively, dominance, and conservatism. Their conclusion was that leaders tend to be more intelligence, extrovert and ‘masculine’ than non-leaders. In 1991, an alternative review by Kirkpatrick and Locke suggested that six traits distinguished leaders from non-leaders: drive (achievement, ambition, energy, and tenacity, initiative), motivation to be a leader, honesty and integrity, self-confident (including emotional tability), cognitive ability and knowledge of the business. Shackelton (1995) concludes thus ‘the trait approach has undergone revival. Recent research suggests that traits do matter. However Bryman (1992) offers a critique of trait and style approaches to leadership. His first criticism relates to the problem of causality. This criticism is the difficulty that researches have connecting leadership behaviors to outcomes. He also considers the problem leadership style theories have explained informal leadership. It is refers to the everyday influencing that goes on in organizations.

Leadership is not just about ‘Great Man’ in positions of power; it is much subtler and occurs everywhere. Theories of leadership traits and styles focus on the designated leader of a group (Shackelton, 1995), that is formal leader. And finally, there is the criticism of Grant (1997). This group leadership theories largely ignore contextual issues (a behavior suited to one environment may not be suitable in another environment) and they assume that it is possible to be knowledgeable about the leader, which is not necessarily the case.

Situational leadership theory. This theory containts 2 dimensions (relationship behaviors and task behaviors). Relationship behaviors are those behaviors associated with support, recognition, and encouragement given by leaders to followers. Task behavior is concerned with the amount of direction provides by leader. These dimensions produce a two by two grid containing four styles: structuring (telling), coaching (selling), encouraging (participating), and delegating. Different versions of the theory use different labels for three of the styles.

One way in which this theory differs to style approaches is that it does not assume that there is one best style of leadership. Instead, it suggests that leaders should change their styles to suit the demands of the situation. The appropriateness of the style depends on the readiness of followers. When followers are ready (they are motivated to do the work and have the necessarily knowledge, skills, and abilities), encouraging and delegating styles are appropriate. When followers are less ready, structuring and couching are more suitable. Situational leadership remains a popular approach to leadership.

Shackleton (1995) suggests that its prescriptive and intuitive appeal strikes a chord with the audience as it appears to echo what managers have learnt from experience. Another reason, why this approach might be well received by practitioners is that it accords with the human tendency to assign causality to situational factors. Nevertheless, the situational approach to leadership is largely ignored domain, with much focused going instead to contingency approaches. Contingent leadership theory. One of the earliest theory and it was developed by Fiedler (1967). This theory suggests that leadership style depends on the needs of the situation.

Fiedler says that this has two components: relationship-oriented and task-oriented. The cornerstone of Fiedler’s theory is a questionnaire (containing sixteen bipolar adjectives) that describes the leader’s ‘least preferred coworker’ (LPC). The LPC is a person the leader least liked of all the people he or she has worked with. LPC can be scored high of low, that is, a positive or negative description of the person. A high (positive feeling towards the) LPC indicates that the leader is people-oriented, whereas a low (negative feeling towards that) LPC indicates that the leader is task-oriented.

Fiedler developed his theory to include three elements of the situation: group atmosphere, task structure, position power. In summary, task-oriented leaders are predicted to perform better in situations with a good ground atmosphere and structure tasks or when there is a poor group atmosphere and unstructured tasks. People-oriented perform better in the reverse of these situations. In other words, a people-oriented style of leadership is more effective in moderately favorable situations, whereas a task oriented style of leadership is more effective in extreme situation.

A contingency theory of leadership that argues that leaders can change their style of leadership to suit the situation is known as ‘Path-Goal’ theory. It includes expectancy theory, which based on the idea that peoples’ actions are determined by their calculation of the expectancy (the perception that effort will result in performance), instrumentally (the perception that performance will be rewarded), and valence ( the value of the outcome) in the situation.

Central to the path-goal theory of leadership is the idea that leaders can manipulate workers’ perceptions of these dimensions. Leaders can adopt 4 types of behavior to achieve this manipulation: instrumental (or directive), supportive, participative, and achieve-oriented. Constitutive leadership theory. This approach uses social constructivism and linguistic interpretation to provide insight about leadership. Grint rejected the idea that it is possible to form an objective account of either people or situations.

Instead, he argues, as there are as many ‘truth’ about a person or a situation as there are observes; truth emerged from a competition between various accounts and interpretations. These interpretations do not have equal weight. Some are more dominant than others. In terms of leadership development, the approach suggested that the ancient study or the rhetoric provides one significant element of leadership training since it may be persuasive powers that hold the key to leadership success. Political networking, interpersonal skills, material wealth, and negotiating skills are the hallmark of this approach.