There appears to be distinct personality differences between leaders and followers, a fact recognized by various studies that have been carried out between the 1900s to date

There appears to be distinct personality differences between leaders and followers, a fact recognized by various studies that have been carried out between the 1900s to date. However, despite no end of research, it still hasn’t been possible to establish exactly what that elusive ‘something’ is that makes an effective leader. One of the models used when investigating this difference between leaders and followers was the paradigm of the contingency model. This enabled researchers to investigate leaders’ different characteristic traits, as well as take into account such variables as situation and social position. Once again, the conclusions revealed that good leaders were essential to the operation of a good organization. Stogdill [1948: 64] reflected that:

“A person does not become a leader by virtue of the possession of some combination of traits”.

Nevertheless, they were still unable to shed any light on what actually made a good leader and why some people simply make adequate followers.

Research then moved on from personality traits to situational variables. Studies were undertaken to establish whether there was anything that stood out when they looked at the places the leader was raised and where that person gained most of their experiences from. According to Hencley [1973: 38]:

“…the situation approach maintains that leadership is determined not so much by the characters of the individuals as by the requirements of social situation”.

In other words, circumstances shaped the potential leader or follower. Later research concurred. According to Hoy and Miskel [1987: 273] the following also plays a part:

“…structural properties of the organization, organizational climate, role characteristics, and subordinate characteristics”

Interesting such theories may be but they still could not ascertain which leadership skills would come to the fore at any given time and in what situation. Next to be studied were termed ‘effectiveness and efficiency’ by some researchers. Basically, these criteria related to concern for organizational tasks and concern for interpersonal relationships, as well as that for the individual. When it came to the initiating tasks, these were revealed in planning, organizing and defining the jobs and how it was allocated to the appropriate workers. In other words, how an organization operates and how the job actually gets done within that organization.

Within these contexts can be found individuals’ emotional requirements, including work satisfaction, how they are recognized for their work, and workers’ self-esteem when incorporated with their job performance. Such concepts were first raised by Barnard in 1938 and added to later, in 1960 by Cartwright and Zander, these latter including group maintenance and the achievement of goals within the equation. Further contributions were made in 1961 by Etzioni and by Stogdill in 1963. These included the needs of the individual, followed two years’ later by behaviors orientated around either the person or the system, this latter concept being Stogdill’s contribution.

These various expressions of a potential leader’s character may attribute towards leadership qualities, but no conclusion had been reached as to which dimension should show greater importance. In other words, which of the potential leaders’ skills would reveal which was more efficient and effective in any given situation? In 1966 Halpin came up with the Leader Behavior Description Questionnaire, or LBDQ as it became known. This questionnaire revealed that:

“…effective leadership behavior tends most often to be associated with high performance on both dimensions” [Halpin, 1966:97].

So far, the result of all this thinking about what produces the best kinds of leaders seemed to lead researchers towards the conclusion that the best kinds of leaders can balance the requirements of both the tasks needed within the organization with the human needs and requirements to achieve a fulfilled workforce and get all the tasks done adequately and within an appropriate time-frame.

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