Theorists have formulated several leadership theories in the past. Leadership styles and theories which were used several years ago are not the same as the ones used today. Hernsey and Blenchard’s theory of situational leadership allows leaders to adopt various leadership styles that match with development levels of their followers.
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Leaders adopt leadership styles which are dependent on readiness and willingness of their followers to perform required tasks. When followers are not mature, their competence and motivation of is low, but it increases as they mature (Hernsey and Blenchard, 1976).
According to McGregory (1960), theory X and theory Y assumptions encompasses style, behavior, situation, and adaptation to the situation. These theories resulted in development of other situational theories. Fried Fielder’s (1967) contingency theory argues that there is no one best way of leading. It identifies situations when task-oriented approach is more effective, and when a relationship style would be more productive.
Fielder concluded that task-oriented leaders are effective when conditions are either “very favorable for the leader or which are very unfavorable for the leader” (Fiedler, 1967, p.13). When situation is favorable, members are ready and willing to work because their leaders support job performance.
When conditions are unfavorable, group members will need to remain goal-oriented for them to achieve any success. In stressful situations, a leader’s structure and control can remove undesirable ambiguity and the anxiety that goes with it (Fielder, 1967).
In Hersey/Blanchard theory of situational leadership model, there is no best way to lead. Leaders must be able to adapt to situations and modify their leadership style to be more effective. The level of maturity of a group will determine the most effective leadership style (Hersey and Blanchard, 1976).
A leader assesses maturity of a group to come up with the amount of guidance needed. Immature group requires direction and goal-oriented behavior from their leader. At this stage, task-oriented leadership is required since followers are eager to accept guidance when they feel uncertain about a task. As a group matures, it builds a relationship with its leader.
Task-related behavior decrease as relationship behavior takes charge. A two-way communication develops and members are involved by their leader in decision making. As maturity increases, the leader delegates responsibility to the next step in the process (Hersey and Blanchard, 1976).
In contingency theory, leadership style is determined by situations and can only be changed based on the relationship between members and their leaders. A leader can adopt a leadership style and use it as situation may demand. On the other hand, Hersey/Blanchard theory of situational leadership model depends on maturity of group members for a leadership style.
Immature group requires close guidance and one-way communication where the members are told what to do, when and how they do it. Leadership style changes to a relationship when a group is mature enough. The style later changes to a two-way communication where members are involved in decision making and responsibilities delegated.
Role of Leaders in Organizational Ethics
Leaders play an important role in developing ethical business organizations. If a manager does not portray a positive behavior, other employees are likely to follow suit and business organization become unethical. Leaders should use idealistic visions and persuasive communication styles to motivate their followers.
Ethical behaviors have a role in credibility, and the ability of leaders to have a positive influence on their followers (Piccolo et al. 2010). Ethical leadership captures employees’ perceptions of ethical behavior inferred from leader’s conduct.
When leaders demonstrate a normative appropriate conduct through personal actions and interpersonal relationships, and promote such conduct to their followers through communication, reinforcement and decision making, the result is ethical organization.
Trustworthy leaders are proactive and are expected to increase cooperation among employees to promote organizational identification. This will have a positive improvement in performance and ethics in a business organization. Ethical leadership increases organizational identification.
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Organizations which have leaders with poor ethics rank poorly in public and this may have a negative effect on business (Walumbwa et al. 2010). Exchange of positive behaviors between ethical leaders and members through trust, open communication, information sharing and liking of followers, contribute to ethical behavior in an organization.
According to Bandura (1977), leaders influence their followers by way of modeling process. This is one of the most powerful ways of transmitting values, attitudes and behaviors. Employees learn how to do something by observing their leaders.
Leaders can be good models by virtue of their assigned roles, their status, success in the organization and the power to affect the behavior and outcomes of their followers in an organization (Bandura, 1977). Leaders act as role models to their junior employees. Even when other employees do not envy their leader, portraying ethical behavior will ensure that all employees emulate deeds of their leaders.
Leaders who are not honest or trustworthy are likely to encourage dishonesty and lack of trust among their followers. Leaders gain trust of their followers when they act in a generally acceptable and consistent manner regarding how leaders should behave in a workplace.
Bandura, A. (1977). Social Learning Theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Fiedler, F.E. (1967). A Theory of Leadership Effectiveness. New York: Mcgraw-Hill.
Hersey, P., & Blanchard, K. (1972). Management of Organizational Behavior: Utilizing Human Resources (2nd ed.) New Jersey: Prentice Hall.
Mcgregor, D. (1960). The Human Side of Enterprise. New York: Mcgraw-Hill.
Piccolo, R. F., Greenbaum, R., Hartog, D.N., & Folger, R. (2010). The Relationship between Ethical Leadership and Core Job Characteristics. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 31, 259–278.
Walumbwa, F.O., Mayer, D.M., Wang, P., Wang, H., Workman, K., & Christensen, A.L. (2010). Linking Ethical Leadership to Employee Performance: The Roles of Leader–Member Exchange, Self-Efficacy, and Organizational Identification. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 115, 204–213.