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What is leadership?

The first thing that we must do is to differentiate between the role of leadership and the functions of leadership.  The role of leadership refers to a position of authority in some organizational hierarchy, while the function of leadership refers to the activities and processes that move a group or organization towards the accomplishment of its goals. Many people think of leadership has something that the formal leader does.  However, leadership can be viewed is any act by any group member that advances the effectiveness of the group.  For groups to be effective, it is generally believed that four functions must be performed, that is, four things must happen:

In some cases, the former leader performs all these functions.  However, in most organizations these functions are performed by a variety of people, structural mechanisms, and cultural mechanisms.  The role of leadership becomes more important in determining the effectiveness of the group when other mechanisms fail to fulfill these functional imperatives.


Goal Attainment





Task Leadership Behaviors

Establishing Vision, Mission, or Strategy
Change Leadership

Team building
Problem solving facilitation
Conflict Management Behaviors

Relationship building Behaviors


Reward System
Control System:   Rules, Goals
Strong Culture
Member goal internalization
Task Feedback System (KOR)

Process (e.g., TQM)
High member creativity

Self Directed Work Team
High member co-dependency

Jobs with FLOW
Cohesive Work Group

What is Leadership Effectiveness and How is it Assessed?

Returning to the above discussion of leadership as the acts of the formal authority figure or leadership as the mechanism to perform certain functions, we must distinguish between the effectiveness of "leadership" and the effectiveness of an individual would referred to as the leader.  There is the conceptual question of what is leadership effectiveness and the practical question of how do we evaluate individuals in leadership roles.  The application question is: Is Joe Torres an effective coach?  Is Jack Welch an effective CEO?  From the practical perspective, the issues get very blurred depending upon who is doing the evaluation and the purpose of the evaluation. 

  1. A fundamental question is: If the group/organization is continuing meeting its goals, but the formal leader does very little (because of the utilization of substitutes for leadership), is the formal leader effective?
  2. Attribution theory can be used as a way to begin to answer this question.  As a practical matter, individuals seek to understand the causes for a group success or failure.  When and why do they attribute this success or failure to the formal leader?  When they attribute success to leader, individuals then attempt to emulate the behaviors of this leader (after Desert Storm, many people believe that using a flip chart, has opposed to PowerPoint, was a means to achieve effectiveness because General Schwarzkopff did it).  Leaders (politicians) generally attempt to convince others (guide their attribution process) that they are the true cause of any success achieved by their group/state.

Ways in which leader effectiveness is evaluated

Leaders are constantly been evaluated by organizational members, superiors, and the public.  There are four basic ways in which these groups evaluate the effectiveness of a leader.  Sometimes a particular group will use different approaches at different times.  There is no one best way or most appropriate way to evaluate a leader.  The appropriate approach depends upon the purpose to which the evaluation is to be used.  Among the many reasons to evaluate a leader are to determine whether leader should remain in the position, to help the leader develop his or her leadership skills, and to improve the performance of a group.  Listed below are the four fundamental approaches used to evaluate leaders:

Three variants of the normative process or mental model approach uses characteristics of the leader as a metric of leader effectiveness.  These characteristics can be viewed as predictors of leadership success.  The stronger the mental model supporting the relationship between these characteristics and success, the more likely they will be used as metrics of effectiveness. 

What is Leadership Style?

Leadership style is a form of cross situational behavioral consistency.  It refers to the manner in which a leader interacts with his or her subordinates.  More specifically, dimensions of leadership style depict the way in which a leader (a) attempts to influence the behavior of subordinates (Goal Attainment Function); (b) makes decisions regarding the direction of the group (Adaptation Function); and (c) his or her balance between the goal attainment function and the maintenance function of the group.  Listed below are three different ways in leadership style has been defined.

Transaction versus Transformational Leadership

This dimension of leadership reference to the leaders approach to influence. Two borad categories of influence styles have been identified

Transactional Leaders- Transactional leaders views the leader-follower relationship as a process of exchange. They tend to gain compliance by offering rewards performance and compliance or threatening punishment for non performance and non compliance. The transactional leader tends to use compliance approaches 1-5 listed below, in that they attempt to tap the intrinsic process and instrumental sources of motivation.

Transformational Leaders- Transformational leaders, in contrast, are more visionary and inspirational in approach. They tend to communicate a clear and acceptable vision and goals, with which employees can identify and tend to engender intense emotion in their followers. Transformational leaders use compliance approaches 6-10 below in that they attempt to tap the self concept and goal identification sources of motivation. Rather than exchanging rewards for performance, transformational leaders attempt to build ownership on the part of group members, by involving the group in the decision process.  When transformational leaders are success, they are able to move followers from external to internal control, that is, the desired behaviors or behavioral patterns become internalized rather than being driven through extrinsic exchange.  When the behavior becomes internalized, the leader need to monitor employee behavior is greatly reduced.  Transformational leaders facilitate this transition from external to internal control by:

Autocratic versus Participative Leaders

This second dimension decribes the leader's approach to decision making and problem solving. The seven basic levels of participation are listed and described below. While leaders may use a number of these approaches to problem solving, they tend to have a dominate approach which they use most often.  Derived from the Vroom-Yetton-Jago Decision Tree Approach.

AI: Autocratic or directive style of problem solving. The leader defines problem, diagnoses problem, generates, evaluates and choose among alternative solutions.
AII: Autocratic with group information input.
The leader defines the problem. Although the leader diagnoses the cause of the problem, the leader may use the group as an information source in obtaining data to determine cause. Using his or her list of potential solutions, the leader may once again obtain data from the group in evaluation of these alternatives and make a choice among them.
AIII: Autocratic with group's review and feedback.
The leader defines the problem, diagnoses its causes, and selects a solution. The leader then presents his or her plan to the group for understanding, review, and feedback
CI: Individual Consultative Style.
The leader defines the problem and shares this definition with individual members of the work group. The leader solicits ideas regarding problem causes and potential solutions. The leader may also use these individuals expertise in evaluation of alternative solutions. Once this information is obtained, the leader makes the choice of which alternative solution to implement.
CII: Group Consultative Style.
Same as CI, except the leader shares his or her definition of the problem with the group as a whole.
GI: Group Decision Style.
Leader shares his or her definition of the problem with the work group. The group then proceeds to diagnose the causes of the problem. Following the diagnosis, the group generates, evaluates, and chooses among solutions.
GII: Participative Style.
The group as a whole proceeds through the entire decision making process. The group defines the problem and performs all other functions as a group. The role of the leader is that of process facilitator.

Socio-Emotional versus Task Leadership

The leader's balance between the influence and maintenance functionsis described by this style dimension. These two styles of leadership represent extreme forms. Most leaders tend to exhibit behaviors from both styles. Some leaders are actually high on both Task leadership and Socio-emotional leadership (combination style). However, most leaders favor one of these types.

Task Leaders- Task leaders are generally concerned with completion of tasks, accomplishment of goals, and the general effectiveness of the work group. Leaders utilizing this particular leadership style are often referred to as directive leaders.  They use conditional reinforcement as a management tool. This means they tend to base rewards on performance of tasks, they differentiate among workers based on their relative contribution to the group. They also tend to show more support for given employees when these employees or group members achieve goals. Task leaders also emphasize deadlines, structure tasks, set and maintain definite standards for performance, enforce standardized procedures and generally ensure that subordinates work up to capacity.  Employee motivation to perform and behavioral change, rather than employee satisfaction is emphasized by the task leader.  Task or directive leaders tend to specify not only desired outcomes, but desired means (behaviors) to achieve these outcomes or goals as well.   Behaviors and perceptions of task leader include:

Socio-Emotional Leaders (Relationship Building)- Socio-emotional leaders are generally more supportive and accepting of subordinates. They tend to look out for show concern for the welfare of their subordinates. They use unconditional reinforcement, by acceptance of employees and recognition of their worth independent of task performance and goal attainment. They work to build up and affirm the self concept of their subordinates.  Employee satisfaction and the building of relationships is the dominate concern of the task leader.  The socio-emotional leader's primary objective is the maintenance of a high quality relationship with group members.  

Combination (Task & Socio-Emotional)-  This style is difficult in that it involves the use a high level of interpersonal or emotional intelligence skills.  The combination leader works to accomplish group goals by making you effective and recognizing your value.  To improve the group's performance, she or he is likely to involve you in the improvement process and involve you in self-diagnosis of your own contribution.  You are likely to feel secure in your job and valued.  Many times the difference is subtle and determined by the leader's skill in communicating lower than desired performance.  Most task leaders make you believe that all they care about is the job that you do.  Those who are characterized more as combination leaders also create the perception that they are concerned that you do the job well (company goals), but they are also concerned with you and your development. The combination style is very difficult, but by keeping the focus on group success and using the skills and abilities of followers to solve problems (rather than simply telling them what they did wrong) to make follows feel a part of and proud of that success, leaders approach this style.

What determines a Leader's Style?

Leadership Style is most often viewed as a dependent variable where the focus is on how does leadership style influences individual behavior, attitudes, and group/organizational performance.  The Determinants of Leadership Style approach asks what factors influence a given leader's dominant style and how is leadership style developed.  Below is a listing of the various cognitive, behavioral, and dispositional approaches suggested in the literature.  In other words, why does a leader use a particular style?  Like all behavioral patterns, the style that a leader uses is based on a complex developmental process involving many variables.  The variables influencing a leader's style are discussed below.  These variables become very important when an organization designs a leadership development program that attempts to influence the style of leadership used by its managers and supervisors.

Cognitive Choice

The cognitive choice approach is based on the assumption that leaders purposefully choose a style of leadership that will maximize individual and group performance.  It is the most rational of the approaches.  It is argued that individuals assess situations (task, subordinates, environment) and decide which leadership would be the most effective in achieving group objectives.  Points to consider:


The premise following from the dispositional school is that leadership style is a function of the leader's inherent personality structure.  The style adopted by leaders is more an extension of their personalities than it is of the situation in which they operate.  From this perspective, changing a leader's style is very difficult.  Points to consider:

Self Concept & Sources of Motivation

This approach is has its roots in the Sources of Motivation model.  It is posited the leader's dominant source of motivation plays an important role in the assumption a leadership style.  Specific to this approach is the concept of Social Identity whereby the role of Leader is viewed as a role-specific social identity, complete with associated traits, competencies, and values (TCV's).   Ways in which this approach might be applied:

Role Expectations

Proponents of this approach argue that social systems set and communicate role expectations with respect to leadership roles.  Individual assuming leadership roles enact these cognitive schema or scripts.  Points to consider:

Reinforcement: Social Learning

Using this approach, we argue that the style used by a leader is a functional of the feedback and reinforcement received from three important elements of the leader's role set.  This approach is often combined with the Role Expectation approach in that positive reinforcement of the leader's behavior is conditioned on the extent to which he or she meets the role expectations of the reinforcer.  Reinforcement may come from:

Performance Pressures

The performance pressure approach argues that leaders respond to two fundamental pressures facing a work group.