The purpose of this writing is to define and describe various leadership models and theories, this writing will also attempt to discover similarities and contrasting viewpoints. The particular concepts discussed will be: 1.) Theory X and Y, 2.) Situational Leadership, 3.) Transformational Leadership and 4.) Transactional Leadership. These concepts were chosen because they are considered to be the academic and scholarly traditional models of leadership. Each concept will also be briefly illustrated in a current leadership application or social phenomenon.
Theory X and Y
Douglas McGregor, a social psychologist developed this theory based on human behavior, he noted two distinct variations of motivation within the workplace. McGregor (1960) concluded two opposing perceptions exist about how people view human behavior at work and organizational life.
The assumption for this theory is that employees are not self-motivated and will avoid work if at all possible. As a result these types of employees require close supervision and strict governance controls. Without incentives, employees will exhibit little or no ambition. With that said, Theory X managers must rule by fear and consequences to obtain optimal productivity from the subordinates.
The workers are self-motivated, responsible, accept accountability and enjoy work just as much as their personal lives according to Theory Y. The managers have a true belief that under the right conditions most employees want to excel at work and that the satisfaction of a job well done is a reward all by itself. A Theory Y manager will consciously attempt to supply the employees with all the tools and motivation they need to maximize their potential and job satisfaction.
There appears to be a definite common denominator among X and Y, both reside on the opposite spectrums of employee behavior. From the outside looking in one can assume that Theory X plays the good cop and Theory Y is the bad cop. Both theories have applications where they can succeed. Theory X implementation is quite common in western correctional facilities; in fact some would argue it a requirement for law enforcement to maintain control. Theory Y is often exhibited in organizations that value creativity and individuality such as the Apple Computers Company CEO Steve Jobs.
This theory is a derivative of the Contingencies Model that states leadership styles should be determined by the situation and circumstances at hand. The most notable theory under this model is the Situational Leadership as described by Hershey and Blanchard (2006). The assumption of Situational Leadership is that leaders should adjust their management style according to the readiness of the followers to execute a particular task.
Hershey and Blanchard created a two dimensional grid using Task Orientation and People Orientation as the axes. There are four leadership styles labeled (S1-S4) and four development levels of the followers labeled (R1-R4). A sample of the Situational Leadership Grid can be viewed below.
|Leadership style in response to follower development level||
S1-Telling/Directing R1-Low Competence/Low Commitment
S2-Selling/Coaching R2-Some Competence/Variable Commitment
S3-Participating/Supporting R3-High Competence/Variable Commitment
S4-Delegating/Observing R4-High Competence/High Commitment
The grid above represents the recipe, whereas the leadership directives and follower competencies represent the ingredients. The Situational Leadership Model has been widely accepted because it serves as a “how-to” manual for management. The looming critique is that the model assumes managers have the ability to accurately assess the competencies of the followers. If the competencies are inaccurate and the manager implements the wrong the leadership style, the results will be less than optimal. A practical example of this model would be a manager motivating employees of the Baby-Boomer Generation versus Gen X/Y. The differing cultures and beliefs of the generations may or may not require different approaches based on the assessment of the followers by the manager. An accurate assessment will determine the efficiency and productivity of the followers.
Burns (1978) is founder of the theory and defined the concept as when one or more persons interact in a manner that both leaders and followers enhance motivation and moral. Bass et al (2006) described Transformational Leadership as the process of how leaders affect followers assuming they actually admire, respect and trust the leader.
Burns interpretation of transformational leadership was contemporary at the time of its introduction; however, it was criticized because he did not acknowledge “amoral” transformational leaders like Hitler and Jim Jones as real leaders. Charisma is one of the key variables in transformational theory, what Burns failed to recognize is that charisma can be demonstrated by persons whose causes and beliefs may be considered amoral by the majority. To limit the study of leadership to persons and beliefs that the majority consider just is doing the science an injustice and prevents the discovery of additional underlying motivating factors.
Bass build upon Burns interpretation by being proactive and forward-thinking. In fact, Bass made some bold predictions about leadership from 1967-2000 that ended up being very accurate. Most of the 1967-00 trends materialized much quicker than initially thought. Bass also went on to estimate 24 Leadership Trends that will occur from 2001-2034. The glaring omission from the forward thinking predictions of Bass is that the mention of women and minorities is nonexistent. A recent example of transformational leadership was the 2008 U.S. Presidential election, featuring a minority presidential candidate for the Democratic Party and a female vice-presidential candidate for the Republican Party. Both nominations were historic by nature and could represent a paradigm shift in politics away from white male domination.
The Transactional Leadership Theory states that followers are motivated by either reward or consequence. This leadership approach is very matter of fact, positive behavior is rewarded and negative behavior is punished. A clearly defined hierarchy is established within this theory, roles and responsibilities are created and demand adherence. Oftentimes in such a system, followers are held accountable for results even if they are not provided the necessary resources to complete a task at hand (Sarros and Santora, 2001). The relationships are often short in tenure because all parties are only interested in personal gains.
An example of transactional leadership is the relationship between a construction foreman and manual labor worker hired by a temp agency. The foreman delegates the tasks to be completed, the workers reward is wage compensation and the possibility of long-term employment, the potential consequence for inadequate work is an unfavorable report to the temp agency which can negatively impact future assignments.
The use and application of the Theory X and Y versus the Situational Leadership Model could not be more polarizing. Theory X/Y is proactive but based on preconceived notions of follower motivation and capacity, the Situational Model is reactive but it is based on assumptions related to the follower capacity. Both concepts rely on the perceived relationships between leaders and followers but neither accounts for a margin of error and its impact.
A transformational leader uses the relationship with the followers as the catalyst for change and foresight, whereas a transactional leader is indifferent to having a mutually beneficial relationship with the followers, goal and task completion rule the relations. Both concepts are dependent on followers but transformational leaders form a joint partnership with followers to carry out the vision while transactional leaders demand/expect followers to carry-out the vision as per instructions (Avolio and Yammarino, 2002).
In conclusion, after briefly summarizing the leadership theories and models discussed, there is one clear revelation that emerges like the Phoenix from the ashes, it is the definition of leadership. Leadership is the culmination of the relationship between leaders and followers. There are many different schools of thought, most of which have supporting evidence and an equal opposition, but as with the natural world and human behaviors, the only constant is change. Leadership will continue to evolve with the revision of accepted theories and the emergence of new ideologies.
Prof. DJ Ware, MBA
Avolio, B. J., and Yammarino, F. J. (2002). Transformational and charismatic leadership: Theroad ahead. New York: Elsevier.
Bass, B.M, and Avolio, B.J., and Atwater, L. (1996). The transformational and transactional leadership behavior of men and women. International Review of Applied Psychology, 45, 5-34.
Burns, J. M. (1978). Leadership. New York: Harper & Row. Clawson, J. G. (2006). Level three leadership: Getting below the surface (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River: Pearson.
Fiedler, F. E. and Garcia, J. E. (1987) New Approaches to Effective Leadership, New York: JohnWiley.
Hersey, P., and Blanchard, K.H. (1996). Management of organizational behavior: Utilizing human resources. (7th ed.). New Jersey: Prentice Hall.
McGregor, D. (1960). The Human Side of Enterprise. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Sarros, C. and Santora, J. (2001). The transformational-transactional leadership model in practice. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 22(7/8), 383-393.