Leadership. Analysis of Trait, Behaviour, and Contingency Theories

Term Paper, 2016

18 Pages, Grade: 2.1 (A)


Table of Contents


What is Leadership?

Leadership theories:
Trait theory
Behaviour Theory:
Contingency or situational Theory:

The Contingency or Situational Theory
Rationale of choice:
Path-Goal model:
Path-goal model approach:
Application of Path-goal model:




There is no doubt of leaders’ existence and profound contribution in developing human civilization. History is littered with stories of many great leaders. Some are recognized for their dexterity in the battlefields, some perhaps for their business acumen or for inspiration for their employees. Whatever the reasons for fame, humans have recognized that the capability of an individual to make others take action and achieve the goals, make them stand out in the society. However, the question still remains what makes them different.

Hence the purpose of this theoretical paper is to provide a review of the definition of leadership and three main theories and critically analyse one particular leadership model, chosen by the author of this paper.

What is Leadership?

The history of leadership and study of it goes back to the beginning of civilization. For almost the last two centuries, many theories of leadership have evolved but the definition of leadership is still a mystery. So what is leadership? Leadership is although similar to but very different from management. According to Peter Drucker, leadership is about doing the right things and management is about doing things right (Cohen,2010). Leadership definition changes from the leader to the leader perception as different leaders have different characteristics. A leader who is responsible for directing or guiding a group of people toward the greater good or achieving pre-determined goal (Afsaneh,2015) through a process (Northouse,2013) or behavior or creating a culture which is referred as leadership. A leader who possesses a soft[1] characteristic- cooperation, motivation or emotion are the key aspects of leadership but hard[2] characteristic leader uses influence or threat for their leadership style to achieve a goal (Rao,2013, 2016).

Although there is numerous definition of leadership but all has enough similarities that leadership is an effort of influence and the authority to induce the compliance (Wren, 1995). Some defined that leadership is an integral part of group process (Crutchfield and Krech, 1948; Graen, 2006), some believe that leadership is an influencing process and instrument of goal achievement (Stogdill, 1950; Homans, 1950; Bass, 1960; Cartwright, 1965; Katz and Kahn, 1966). In the 21st century, leadership is considered as an influence of relationship among the leaders and followers who intend the real change that emulates their mutual purpose (Rost,1991)

According to Bennis leadership is the ability to translate vision into reality. Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, mentions empowerment is the part and parcel of the leadership (Kruse, 2013). The CEO of the container store, leadership and communication is the same thing (Afsaneh,2015). Similarly, Bryant(2010) said communication is leadership.

Despite having numerous leadership definition, all leadership reflects four common characteristics: (Afsaneh, 2015)

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

In combination, leadership is where a leader influences individual or group of people within the organization or certain circumstance, guide or help them toward the pre-determined goal so they can be effective achieving their goal (Afsaneh, 2015).

To summarise, researcher believes leadership is not a position or title, it is an individual behaviour to motivate or attract a group of people through communication or respectful personality toward a common goal or vision and followers take or accomplish the action not because they (group) are asked to do but because they wanted to do (Eisenhower,2013).

Leadership theories:

Leadership is perhaps one of the most observed phenomena but yet mystery on the earth (Burns, in Abbasialiya 2010). Over the decade, although scholars proposed more than 66 kinds of leadership theories (Fleishman et al.,1992), however, there are mainly three theories exist and all others evolve from these prime three theories (Afsaneh,2015)

Trait theory from the late 1800s to mid-1940s

Behaviour theory from the mid-1940s to early 1970s and

Contingency theory from the early 1970s to present.

Trait theory

Back in 18th century, the dominating belief was that leaders are born not made (Galton, 1869, James, 1880, Afsaneh,2015). Consequently, people believed that the leader possesses certain virtue and characteristic to influence others to become their follower (Afsaneh,2015) which is referred to ‘Great man and Trait’ theory. Trait theory assumes that the characteristic of leadership is inherent, innate by certain social, political or military leaders such as Napoleon Bonaparte, Mohandas Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, Indira Gandhi, John of Arc, Catherine the Great etc (Northouse,2013). The traits theory was developed based on an approach of personalities, social, political and intellectual aspect which are indisputable, it could not be developed or nurtured (Cowley,1931).

The trait theory became more popular among the researchers for the interesting side of how traits influence the leadership (Bryman,1992). For example, one research found that personality traits were strongly related to one’s perception of leadership (Lord, DeVender, and Alliger,1986). Similarly, Locke and Kirkpatrick (1991) claimed that effective leaders are the one who actually distinct types of people in several key respect.

In the current era, traits theory shades new interesting light by the many researchers who emphasized to visionary and charismatic leadership traits (Zaleznik, 1977; Bennis & Nanus, 1985; Nadler & Tushman, 1989; Bass, 1990; Zaccaro, 2007). A study found that charismatic leader (such as Steve Jobs, Barack Obama etc) consistently catapulted traits of motivation to attain self-actualisation, motivation to attain social power, self- monitoring and engagement in impression monitoring (Jung and Sosik, 2006). In a nutshell, the traits theory still alive and sound in the modern era. It starts with identifying the qualities of a great person, showing the implication in regards to leadership and re-emphasise the important of traits in effective leadership.

However, despite the importance of traits theory, Stogdill (1948,1971) pointed out that individual can not be a leader solely because S/he possess certain traits, it has to be related to the certain situation. More recently, some scholars identified the ‘dark side’ of trait leadership (Furnham, 2010; Hogan et al., 1994; Lipman-Blumen, 2004), they claimed that same personalities trait that makes some leaders effective, attractive, charismatic, visionary, inspiration, courage, and resilience, could become caustic to those around them (leader) and their organisation in its extreme form.

Behaviour Theory:

After almost one and half century later, researchers identified that traits approach is not providing the expected result thus researchers turned into study behavior theory in urgent need of world war II, rather that traits, as the source of effective leaders (Afsaneh, 2015). The behavior theory assumes opposite of traits theory that great leaders are made, not born. The behavior theory belief that an individual can be trained to be a leader, does not have to have inherent characteristic (Russell et al, 2002).


[1] Soft leadership- is leading by soft skills and people skills such as communication, motivation, inspiration, charismatic. (Rao,2013,2016)

[2] Hard leadership-is opposite of soft leadership which uses power, pressure, fear. (Rao,2013,2016)

Excerpt out of 18 pages


Leadership. Analysis of Trait, Behaviour, and Contingency Theories
University of West Scotland  (Business School)
Doctorate of Business Administration
2.1 (A)
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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986 KB
There is an evidence of critical evaluation of the relevant leadership based literature and the author has used the literature very well to support the arguments and points made in the paper. The author has provided reasonable robust treatment of the 'contingency' leadership school of thought. The author of this paper is not a native English speaker. We kindly ask for your understanding concerning any errors and inconsistencies in grammar or expression.
leadership, analysis, trait, behaviour, contingency, theories
Quote paper
Md Mahabubur Rahman (Author), 2016, Leadership. Analysis of Trait, Behaviour, and Contingency Theories, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/345075


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