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    Great Man Theory of Leadership

    Trait Theory

    Behavioural Theories

    Situational or Contingency Theories

    Recent or Contemporary Approaches to Leadership

    Leadership Studies In India

    Indian Approach to Leadership


  • In The past seventy years, more than 3,000 leadership studies have

    been conducted and dozens of leadership models and theories have been

    proposed. The earliest literature on leadership was concerned almost entirely

    with theoretical issues. The theory of a concept and research together combine

    to yield into a problem. Therefore, the theoretical literature can not be


    To glve an account of what has happened till date on a concept like

    leadersh~p 1s not an easy task. Hundreds of studies have been made on

    leadership in varlous parts of the world each year. Still an attempt has been

    made here to revlew all areas which are relevant for the present study under the

    following major heads

    1. Great Man theories

    2. Trait theories

    3. Behavioral theories

    4. Situational or Contingency theories

    5. Recent approaches to Leadership

    6. Leadersh~p Studies in India, and

    7. Indian Approach to Leadership.


    At first, leaders were thought to be born and not made. This so-called

    "great person" theory of leadership implies that some individuals are born with

    certain traits that allow them to emerge out of any situation or period of history

    to become leaders. This theory focuses attention on the man or woman on the

    job and not on the job itself. In other words, great person theory studies

    tndividual leaders - "leaderships" rather than 'leadership".

  • Carlyle'as a writer on the subject, promoted the notion of 'great man

    theory" in h~s wr~tings. In his essay on heroes, he tended to reinforce the

    concept of the leader as a person endowed with unique qualities that capture

    the imagination of the masses.

    The first person who conducted an authentic study of this approach was

    ~alton*. Several early theorists influenced by Galton's study of the hereditary

    background of great men attempted to explain leadership on the basis of


    woods3 studled fourteen nations over periods of five to ten centuries.

    The condit~ons of each reign were found to approximate the ruler's capabilities.

    The brothers of K~ngs (as a result of natural endowment, of course) also tended

    to become men of power and influence. Woods concluded that man makes the

    natlon and shapes it in accordance with his abilities.

    wiggam4, ~n his work on the theory, advanced the proposition that the

    survival of the fittest and intermarriage among them produces an aristocratic

    class differing b~ologically from the lower classes. Thus, an adequate supply of

    superior leaders depends upon a proportionately high birth rate among the abler


    ~rucker~. supporting this notion says that leadership is of utmost

    ~mportance. Indeed there is no substitute for it. But leadership cannot be

    created or promoted. It cannot be taught or learned.

  • In the final stages, Great man theory evolved into what is known as 'trait

    theory" of leadersh~p


    Most of the studies in this area have been conducted during the first half

    of the twentieth century. The theory is simple. if the leader is endowed with

    superior qualities that differentiate him from his followers, or differentiate an

    effective leader from an ineffective one, it should be possible to identify these

    qualities. This assumption gave rise to trait theories of leadership. According to

    this approach, leadership is a conglomeration of set of personality traits.

    Trait theorists early in this century contended that there was a finite set of

    personal characteristics, inner traits, which distinguished effective from

    ~neffective leaders Trait theory research began about 1904 and systematically

    expanded for almost fifty years into a giant body of findings, information and

    theory. Hundreds of research models and methods were devised over these

    years to find the sought-after set of leadership traits. Some of the prominent

    studies are mentioned here.

    Perhaps one of the first trait theories came about in ancient Greece at

    the time of the famous physician named ~alen.' Galen thought that our

    personality was a reflection of the four hormones (fluids) that make up our

    bodies. Yellow B~le - bad temper, irratibility (choleric) Black bile--gloomy

    pessimistic (Melancholic) Phlegm--sluggish, non-excitable (phlegmatic)

  • Blood-cheerful, passionate (sanguine). If one of these fluids dominated, the

    personality assoc~ated with that fluid would be observed.

    According to ~ l l p o r t , ~ a trait is '...... a generalised and focalised neuro-

    psychic system (peculiar to the individual), with the capacity to render many

    stimuli functionally equivalent, and to initiate and guide consistent (equivalent)

    forms of adaptive and expressive behaviour." He distinguished traits and types

    and said that 'unlike traits-types always have a bio-social reference. A man

    can be said to have a trait but he cannot be said to have a type. Types exist not

    In people or in nature, but rather in the eye of the observer. Traits, on the

    contrary, are cons~dered wholly within the compass of the individual. He broadly

    divides the traits lnto Cardinal. Central and Secondary traits.

    According to ~ . ~ . ~ h i s e l l i ' the search for leader traits was not a total

    failure and several traits do appear to be modestly associated with leadership.

    Chief among these traits is intelligence. He says that the people who hold

    leadership positions tend to be somewhat more intelligent. In his study, he

    emphasised significant correlations between leadership and traits of

    ~ntelligence, supervisory ability, initiative, self-assurance and individuality in

    doing a work but suggested that extremely higher or lower intelligence reduces

    the leadership qualities.

    ~iedler' supported the view of Ghiselli but he had a slightly different

    argument. He sad that 'although intelligence has been shown to correlate only

  • modestly with leadership leader intelligence and other cognitive attributes can

    be highly correlated with effectiveness under special circumstances.

    In the words of Ralph.~.Stogdill'~, there are some other traits which have

    also been linked to successful leaders. According to him the leaders can be

    characterised by task persistence, Self-confidence, tolerance of interpersonal

    stress, and the abllity to influence other people's behaviour.

    Henry ~ayol" in his trait approach identified three qualities: physical

    qualities such as health, vigour; mental qualities such as ability to understand

    and learn, judgement, mental vigour and adaptability; moral qualities such as

    energy, firmness, willingness to accept responsibility, initiative, loyalty, tact and


    ~ r a n k l i n . ~ . ~ o l e ' ~ rates the traits of "judgement leadership, intelligence,

    rationality, and technical competence" high as vital qualities for a leader. He

    warns that less than broad integrity, rashness and unwillingness to accept

    responsibility are the key list to watch for.

    The ten des~rable qualities mentioned by F.w.T~~Io~' ' are brains.

    education, energy, grlt, special or technical knowledge, honesty, manual

    dexterity or strength, judgement or common sense, tact and good health. He

    argued that to find out a person with three of these traiis was not too difficult.

    with five or SIX more difficult, but with seven or eight almost impossible. Bearing

  • In mind the difficulties involved in the identification of all or almost all of the traits

    In one person, Taylor developed the concept of functional foremanship.

    Charles ~ y r d ' ~ tested the proficiency of a large number of studies on

    leadership and drew up lists of the traits they described. He found only 51

    percent of the traits which were mentioned in more than four studies. They

    suggest that the essential characteristics of another leader, which is highly


    Raymond.% cattell"n his research isolated 171 traits for leaders to

    practise, but adm~tted that most of them elude description.

    ~ a n n . ' ~ In a survey of research on the relation of personality and small

    group performance found positive relationships in 71 percent of the studies for

    ~ntelligence, adjustment, extroversion, dominance, masculinity and sensitivity.

    In his study of the government administrators of Washington ~hurstone'~

    commented that a successful leader should have the qualities of fluency of

    speech, ability to evaluate situations and knowledge about work doing.

    According to Keith ~av is " the traits such as intelligence, social maturity

    and breadth, Inner motivation and drive and human relations attitudes are the

    key characteristics that are to be shared by most successful leaders.

    When Warren Bennis and Bert w anus'^ interviewed top executives and

    gifted entrepreneurs who make things happen in America, they identified four

  • main competencies common to all leaders: the management of attention,



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