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FSHU LDRS 801

FALL 2014

Leadership:
A Reflection of Growth
James R. Myers

Upon review of the tremendous amount of material available from the required readings,
it became very difficult for me to settle down and synthesize the materials into a
practical paper that made sense. The more I reflected on all of the theories covered the
more I came to the realization that even though there were twenty-plus leadership
theories discussed, there were likely only ten theories that were relevant to my newly
formed perspective of leadership. One thing that can be said for certain and was
eloquently penned by Psychologist Kurt Lewin (1951) There is nothing so practical as a
good theory.

It can be said that leadership relies on four primary areas. First, leaders must have or
create a vision. This vision should be intended and designed for the organization in
which the leader serves. Once the vision is formed, it should be shared with the
organizations followers. Second, leadership will always consist of decision making,
however it is important to remember as a leader you can choose how those decisions
are made. Decision making relies on three primary styles, autocratic or authoritarian,
democratic or participative and laissez-faire or free-rein. Each decision making style has
both advantages and disadvantages. Likely the most well-known model for these
decision making styles is the Managerial Grid which postulates that a leader should
pick a style that does not compromise on performance and is follower-friendly. The
Managerial Grid is a good start however there is much more to being an effective
leader. Third, all leaders must manage conflict. This is done by preparing for conflict
resolution, recognizing both sides of an issue, considering alternative viewpoints and
being able to reflect on the outcome of the conflict. Last, leadership is based upon

individual style or theory. Considering these three areas, individual style or theory is the
most important and the focus of my leadership perspective is limited to the following ten
theories:
There is no better place to start than in the beginning. Once of the earliest leadership
theories was known as The Great Man Theory (GMT). This theory postulates that
great leaders are born, not made. Basically, someone either has it or they dont. Tied to
this theory is research that was intended to identify attributes that all of these born
leaders share or have in common (Judge et al., 2009). While later research showed that
leadership can be taught and individually learned, there is some validity to this theory as
certain individuals inherently possess more leadership ability than others.

Research related to the GMT led to the creation of the Trait Leadership Theory (TLT).
This theory postulates that certain individual characteristics should be pursued in order
to be a more effective leader (Judge et al., 2009). Simple in concept, the theory
basically states; people will follow you if you act or be like this. The downside of this
theory is that research has identified too many individual traits and empirical data has
shown that no single set of traits fits all circumstances. Furthermore, any attempt to
pursue all of the traits identified would be nearly impossible.

Similar in design and somewhat related to the TLT is the Skills Theory of Leadership
(STL). Like the TTL, the STL attempts to identify a set of common attributes related to
leadership effectiveness. In contrast to the general personal qualities researched in the
TTL, the STL is focused on the practical or technical skills of an individual (Mumford et

al., 2000). This theory ultimately comes down to leader credibility. If you want people to
follow you, you need to possess the necessary technical skills, be proficient in your field
and have the ability to think strategically.

Building on the above, leadership research took off and a number of now renowned
theories have emerged, each sharing some commonalities while maintaining their
individual identities (Hernandez et al., 2011).

The Situational Leadership Theory (SLT) postulates that there is no one best
leadership model. Instead, a leader must adapt to each situation using certain skills or a
certain style that is best suited to the situation (Graeff, 1997). An example of this might
be leading a group of men versus leading a group of women while trying to reach a
given objective using the same standards. In order to achieve a better result, it might
require the leader to be more authoritarian with the men and more relational with the
women.

A closely related theory is The Contingency Leadership Theory (CLT). This theory
however contrasts the SLT by design. While the SLT makes the assumption that the
situation is fixed and requires the leader to adapt to it, the CLT assumes that a leaders
individual style is static, so you have to pick the right leader for the situation. The bottom
line with the CLT is that in order for leadership to be effective, you must match the
leaders style to the environment (Fiedler, 1971). A good example of this would be

picking a police chief that matches the core values of a police department rather than
having the police chief adapt the department to meet his or her style.

Next up are two theories which some might consider as being together. First is
Transactional Leadership, which requires behavioral reciprocity between the leader
and their followers. This theory postulates that followers will follow based upon either
incentive, reward or punishment and it is the leaders responsibility to determine the
appropriate mix of the above, monitor it and adjust accordingly (Avolio, 1999). Second,
is the Transformational Leadership Theory. In contrast, this theory posits that a leader
receives commitment not as much from a quid pro quo approach, as they do by
inspiring followers toward a vision through encouraging and caring for them. A leader
should work on cultivating their followers rather than incentivizing, rewarding or
punishing them like is suggested by the transactional leadership theory (Burns, 1979).

The Leader-Member Exchange Theory (LMX) is similar to the transactional leadership


theory in that in relies on the fairness of exchanges between the leader and the follower.
The LMX expands upon this idea by hypothesizing that these exchanges create ingroups and out-groups with respect to the individual leader (Schriesheim et al., 1999).
This in turn, has a direct effect on a followers performance and their willingness to stay
within an organization. The downside of the LMX and the groups created is that leaders
must recognize and address any tendencies to alienate those in the out-group.

Last, but likely one of the most popular is the Servant Leadership Theory. This theory
is sort of a blend between transactional and transformational leadership. The central
tenant of the Servant Leadership Theory is that leaders should serve rather than be
served by their followers (Van Dierendonck, 2011). A key component of this theory
states that leaders should identify their followers needs and make a priority of meeting
those needs. By doing so, the leader creates an environment of cooperation and trust.
This leads to higher performance and reciprocity of service. While this theory has
become very popular in recent times, the premise behind it goes back much further
when thought of in terms of Christianity and the actions of Jesus Christ.

Ok, so there you have it. Ten major leadership theories which have undoubtedly
changed my perspective on leadership. I realize that there are many more theories
which I chose not to discuss and there are likely important truths contained in each one
of these theories as well.

Regardless, there is one final and equally important component of my map which I have
yet to fully discuss. This is the component of followership. Even if a leader is fortunate
enough to know who they are and practice sound leadership theory, they must have
followers. Keeping this premise in mind, those followers bear an equal responsibility in
achieving organizational goals. Leaders and followers must collaborate and work as a
team. Likewise, followers must have a shared purpose, define their roles and create
organizational priorities in order to achieve success.

As you can hopefully see by my revised leadership concept map, my perspective on


leadership has undoubtedly changed and I have grown both personally and
professionally as a result of this course. When I looked back on my pre-concept paper,
my perspective on leadership was focused on three criteria; leadership concepts (what
you know), leadership skills (what you do) and leadership growth (who you are). I now
realize that this focus was much too narrow and not inclusive of so many important
areas, such as leader vision, leader style, decision making and followership. What was
then a leadership tool belt has now become a leadership tool chest due to the
absorption of the material presented, the participatory module discussants and the
instructional guidance provided to me.

The goal now is to take what I have learned from this course and apply it to my future
endeavors and in particular my graduate studies. In order to do so, I must first recognize
my own personal capacities for leadership. While I feel that I possess many attributes of
a good leader, I also know that there are areas in which I could improve. Focusing on
my style, I believe that my leadership style still bears a close resemblance to that of
Situational Leadership, given that I approach each situation differently and adapt my
response accordingly. The strengths of which include being able to assess an
individuals level of maturity, directing, selling, supporting and delegating. My primary
weakness lies within leader-member exchanges, as I know that I often rely and choose
my A players too much, thus creating an out-group. While I do recognize those
individuals in the out-group I often further alienate them in the selfish interest of saving
time. There is really no other reason or excuse for it most of the time. The challenge

now is to develop a blend of situational and servant leadership while maintaining both
my credibility and professional identity.

As far as three goals I have for further developing my leadership capacities, I came up
with the following:
1) Take a comprehensive leadership assessment at the conclusion of this course to
determine if my leadership style has changed and/or learn more about my
leadership style.
2) Begin a volunteer leadership experience at a non-profit organization to practice
my leadership skills within the next four weeks.
3) By the end of 2015, I will have published an article in a professional law
enforcement journal explaining the changing role of law enforcement leadership
in current times. I will monitor progress towards this goal using by setting an
action plan that incorporates all the steps and time scales involved.
So there you have it. I tried to be as clear and concise as possible without being overly
academic. I will close with a final thought. A leader is best when people barely know he
exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves. Lao
Tzu. Good luck and Godspeed!!!

References:
Avolio, B.J. (1999). Full leadership development: Building the vital forces in
organizations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. (Chapter 3, pp. 33-62)
Burns, J.M. (1979). Leadership. New York: Perennial. (pp. 9-46)
Fiedler, F.E. (1971). Evaluation and extension of the contingency model of leadership
effectiveness: A review of empirical findings. Psychological Bulletin, 76, 128-148.
Graeff, C.L. (1997). Evolution of situational leadership theory: A critical review.
Leadership Quarterly, 8(2), 153-170.
Hernandez, M., Eberly, M.B., Avolio, B.J., & Johnson, M.D. (2011). The loci and
mechanisms of leadership: Exploring a more comprehensive view of leadership theory.
Leadership Quarterly, 22, 1165-1185.
Judge, T.A., Piccolo, R.F., & Kosalka, T. (2009). The bright and dark side of leader traits:
A review and theoretical extension of the leader trait paradigm. Leadership Quarterly,
20, 855-875.
Lewin, K. (1951). Field theory in social science: Selected theoretical papers (D.
Cartwright, Ed.). New York, NY: Harper & Row.
Mumford, M., Zaccaro, S., Harding, F., Jacobs, T., & Fleishman, E. (2000). Leadership
skills for a changing world. The Leadership Quarterly, 11(1), 11-35.
Schriesheim, C.A., Castro, S.L., & Cogliser, C.C. (1999). Leader-member exchange
(LMX) research: A comprehensive review of theory, measurement, and data-analytic
practices. Leadership Quarterly, 9, 63-113.

Van Dierendonck, D. (2011). Servant leadership: A review and synthesis. Journal of


Management, 37(4), 1228-1261.