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Leadership Theories/ Approaches sample essay

As individuals, all seek to improve their personal, social and professional roles. As organizations, they seek people able to guide others and maximize performance. One of the thoughts that come to people on this is to achieve Leadership but to be able to do it, it is imperative to understand its meaning, its strengths, its weaknesses and all concepts that may help individuals and organizations to approach it in their modern world. Thanks to these needs, many researchers have been looking for answers and ways to represent what is leadership significance. The purpose of this essay is to analyze and discuss two theories/approaches of leadership, in order to gain a better understanding. Every individual experiments the meaning of leadership (in family, school, playground, politics, professional work, among others). Some studies present leadership as a trait or behavior and some others from an information perspective or relational position and to be studied qualitative and quantitative methods have been applied in varied contexts (Northouse, 2009).

Behave as a leader determinates success in individual´s careers and outcome in organizations, in other words leadership behavior leads in effectiveness (Lussier and Achua, 2009). Theorist agreed that the perspective or how leadership is interpreted can be divided in two groups: Classical and contemporary theoretical approaches. To focus in modern views could mean to pass over the classical views such as the traits approach, behavior or style approach and the situational approach which are often condemned because according to some authors, it does not cover the whole reality (Winkler, 2009).To discuss this point one of the classics views of leadership as the situational approach is and one modern approach as transformational approach will be developed. Classical approaches undertake just one directional relation between leaders and followers where leaders have particular trait that differentiate them from those who follow them while most of the contemporaries approach consider it as an interaction process (Winkler, 2009).

Classical theories describe characteristics and behavior of leaders (Rost, 1991), opposite of modern approaches which seem it as a complex interaction (Yuki, 2006). Situational approach is one of the most known and diverse approaches of leadership, developed by Hersey and Blanchard (1969) based on Reddin´s (1967). This approach says that different kinds of leadership are required for each different situation which can be inferred as the ability of adaptability to different environments to be an effective leader.

Situational approach demands that there are a directive and supportive dimensions which compose it and they are highly important to be applied fittingly to the situation involved. In order to determinate what is required a leader, must understand the scenario and evaluate the employees to identify their skills to perform a task given and after the analysis to choose the level of being directive and supportive (Northouse, 2009). There are cases when one is more suitable than the other. Everything depends on the situation. In other words it means that a leader is called to match their style to the skills of their employees. The most effective leader is who match her or his own style to employees ‘needs.

Blanchard (1985) and Blanchard et al (1985) provided a model of situational approaches which was based on the previous model described by Hersey and Blanchard (1969.

Situational Leadership. Taken from Blanchard et all (1985). To better understanding the dynamics of situational approach can be divided into two: Leadership styles and Development level of subordinates (Northouse, 2009). The former makes reference to the behavior pattern of a person who seeks influencing others, including the directive or task oriented behavior and the supportive or relationship oriented behavior. According to the graphic below the leadership styles can be discriminated in 4 categories: supportive, coaching, directive and delegating style which is described under each one depending on the levels of directive or supportive behavior assumed. Development levels calls the level of commitment from the employees. It goes from low to high level depending on the interest and confidence on the employees in their work. To mention some of the strengths of the situational approach it is convenient to mention that it give emphasis to the leader flexibility (Graeff, 1983).

Leaders need to know their subordinate´s aims and accommodate to them. Employees do not act or react in the same way for all tasks provided, they distinguish between each one and their behavior is different in each situation, so leaders (Northouse, 2009). Least but not less, situational leadership reminds leaders to treat each subordinate different, according to the task (Fernandez and Vecchio, 1997). On the other hand, there is not enough evidence of research in this field to maintain the theoretical basis (Fernandez and Vecchio, 1997). When looking at Blanchard’s model there is kind of ambiguity because there is not clear relation or combination between commitment and competence in subordinates (Graeff, 1997).

To determinate the validity of the relationship established by Hersey and Blanchard´s model, Vecchio (1987) carried out a test with more of 300 hundred schools and found that teacher new hired whit high structured styles leadership were performing better while experienced teachers were indifferent to the leadership style of the principal (Northouse, 2009). Even when criticized this approach has still some application areas such as consulting because of its easy conceptualization and application. Situational leadership for instance can be applied in the first stage of a project when the conception of the idea is important (Northouse, 2009). To help the reader to understand more about situational approach there are two situations described Situation 1

Budget restrictions were set in the department and a project must be consolidated. The manager thinks to pass this responsibility to an employee who is highly capable and with so much experience. This employee is well known and respected by most if the rest of the staff (Adapted from Northouse (2009)). In this particular situation which actually is faced frequently by organizations, the style of the manager or leader which was assumed is the “delegating style” when through delegating the accomplishment of the task to the employee is performing a low directive level and low supportive level when is asking the employee to be in charge and because of the capabilities of the employee is allowing them to decide how to do it.

Situation 2

Someone was recently named head of a department in a new regional office. When knowing the staff, noticed that one of the experienced employees do not follow the tasks assigned who is new and very enthusiastic and wants to get ahead in the organization (Adapted from Northouse (2009)). .

This case describes a very often situation where organizations find some enthusiastic employees who fail following tasks. Because of the lack of experience of the employee but the high motivations to succeed, the most suitable leadership style would be “Directing”. The employee requires to be told about the specifications of each task of the job and also the performance needs to be monitored.

A more contemporary approach is the transformational leadership which stands for creation of a valuable change positive to followers. A transformational leader focuses on transforming others, helping each other to motivate people and maximize the performance of individuals. In particular this leadership approach was created to provide a framework that stop leaders of adopting the last leader style of the day found in any book store. In the nature of transformational leadership consciousness is inherent and also the ability to raise consciousness in others (Hacker and Roberts, 2003). The skills aimed are managerial and leadership and certainness of when call one style on a particular situation (Hacker and Roberts, 2003). Transformational leaders motivate their followers to do more than what they think is possible to do achieving better performances (Bass, 1998). Leaders applied one or more of the four components of the transformational leadership.

According to Bass and Avolio (1990) leaders who achieved high performance results, employ the four components: charismatics or idealized influence, Inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation and Individualized consideration. The former is when followers identify the leader as an example and make it a model. Those leaders obtain the best of the followers because they gain their trust and respect. The inspirational leader, encourage their followers in a positive way and show them security when present their future plans, stimulating people to achieve high performance levels (Bass, 1985). When they stimulate the intellect of their followers, they enhance their creativity and persuade them to re think the ideas to solve a problem.

The later, individualized consideration is applied when leaders diagnostic the needs and characteristics of their followers and care about each individual. Into a changing environment, the best leaders are those who are able to create consciousness in their followers about what they do (Bass, 1987). This kind of leadership happens when leaders get their followers highly compromised with their objective into an organization, make then ware of their needs of personal growth, development and achievement of goals, and when motivate them to work well for the general benefit of the organization and not just the personal benefit. An organization having conscious relationships with purpose and direction builds a strong environment to insert radical change (Hacker and Roberts, 2003).

Relational transformation and consciousness. Taken from Hacker and Roberts (2003)

To illustrate transformational results into an organization the example of leadership in St. Charles medical system, Bend, Oregon (Adapted from Hacker and Roberts, 2003) will be used.

Mr. Jim Lussier
Leadership position: CEO
Organization: St. Charles medical system, Bend, Oregon

Transformational results: In 1989, Jim Lussier projected to transform St. Charles Medical Center (SCMC) Jim´s vision charmed people over the world, resulting in varied questioning about existing hypotheses. The innovative results of reduced costs, reduced lengths of stay, greater patient satisfaction, award-winning service and a long waiting list of nurses seeking being employed, reveal the skills of leader transformation and structuring an organization of meaning. SCMC proved that real caring can coming back to the medical system which for many patients is currently a non-existing service. And for many doctors, nurses and other caregivers they system where they practice is not alive. SCMC under Jim´s leadership has evidenced something unique that other medical services do not have. To construct his successful approach, Jim employed over 250 task forces to analyze which changes must be done.

Through a process of five years Jim and his team redefined the healthcare delivered service, pointing that the spirit of love and compassion must be enhanced to technology and intellect in curing the body. Every process and procedure was reengineered and the healthcare givers were trained in patient-relationship basis, the staff was encouraged to innovate and be creative. When Jim Lussier was asked: How did you build your vision and involve others in? He commented that he created his vision in a personal level and with his mind clear and with the perception of their job as creation of continuum services in order to improve health. He was positive convinced that what they needed were people with a mission in their lives to work with them. Jim´s statement evidences what the transformational leadership seeks in a leader, it is to get people clear in their minds about his projections and through that get followers that want to take part and improve themselves offering their best.

After considering both approaches the author of this essay establishes that even when both were attempted in different times, both are the answers that at their moments were given by the researchers that were interested in improve the performance of organizations. The classical approach discussed which was the situational leadership by its moment found that the style of leaders which Blanchard et al (1985) characterized in four styles (Supporting, Directing, Coaching and delegating) according to the levels of direction and support were related to the commitment and knowledge of subordinates. How the leader behaves influences their subordinates and generates the outcomes into an organization.

In a more contemporary scenario where it is recognized that changes happen all the time the requirements of any organizations are based on leaders able to respond to them maximizing the outputs and following the recognition of humans as essential element. So that, leaders were call to establish closer relationships with their teams, to study them, identify their needs and inspire them to perform a greater levels. A leader in the current scenario of business needs to be highly motivator and creative to get others involved in his/her visions. In the author´s view the characteristics, skill, behavior, among others of a leader are closely related to the business environment where leadership has place.

The must be adjusted to the needs and vision of the organization where they exercise it and always procuring to elevates the performance of individuals, gaining their respect, trust, and common commitment. What the author understands as leadership is that it is how individuals obtain enhance employees with organization´s vision behaving as every particular situation requires, doing it efficiently (do things right) and effectively (doing the right thing). Every individual desiring to be a leader must understand their environment and establish consolidated strategies in order to performance as one. Everyone conscious of themselves, capable of identify their weaknesses and strengths can behave as a leader.


Aaker, D.A., Joachimsthaler, E., 2005. Liderazgo de Marca. Deusto Bass, Bernard M. (1981); “Stogdill’s Handbook of Leadership: A Survey of Theory and Research”. New York: Free Press Bass, B.M., 1998. Transformational Leadership: Industrial, Military, and Educational Impact. Routledge.

Bass, B.M., Avolio, B.J., 1994. Improving Organizational Effectiveness through Transformational Leadership. SAGE

Hacker, S. & Roberts, T., 2003. Transformational Leadership: Creating Organizations of Meaning. ASQ Quality Press.

Hersey, P., & Blanchard, K. H (1988). Management of organizational behavior: Utilizing human resources (6th. Ed.) Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall

Lussier, R.N., Achua, C.F., 2009. Leadership: Theory, Application, & Skill Development. Cengage Learning.

Northouse, P.G., 2009. Leadership: Theory and Practice. SAGE.

Reddin, W. J. (1967, April). The 3-D management style theory. Training and development Journal, pp 8 -17

Vecchio, R.P (1987). Situational leadership theory: An examination of a prescriptive theory. Journal of Applied Psychology, 72(3), 444-451

Winkler, I., 2009. Contemporary Leadership Theories: Enhancing the Understanding of the Complexity, Subjectivity and Dynamic of Leadership. Springer.

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