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Critically Analyse Management and Leadership Theories Over the Last Century

When people work together, they can accomplish more than when they work separately. However, some groups are more successful at achieving their goals than other groups. The field of management explains why some organizations succeed while some others fail. In the broadest terms, management could be defined as “the process of planning, organizing, and controlling the performance of organisational members and of using all other organisational resources to achieve established organisational goals.” First of all, management is a process or an ongoing interaction. If a snapshot of an organisation is taken, it just tells you where the organisation was at that time. However, by the time the photograph has been developed, the character of the organisation and what its managers are doing has already changed. Second, managers use all the resources of the organisation such as human, financial etc. People seem to be the most basic resource of any organisation, but managers should be using the other available organisational resources as well as human resources. For example, a manager who wants to increase production volume has to purchase modernised machinery as well as motivating the workforce, thus has to use both human and financial resources to attain the goal. Finally, the definition put an emphasis on achieving the organisation’s established goals. Managers of any organisation try to attain specific ends. What makes an organisation different from another is its own unique set of goals. Having given a broad definition for management, it would be beneficial to underline the term of ‘manager’ and answer the questions of ‘Who is a manager?’ and ‘What does a manager do?’ to the extend of ‘What are the characteristics of highly effective management?’.

Different authors have used different approaches or models for categorizing what managers do and the skills they need to be good managers. Generally speaking, managers are organisational planners, organisers and controllers. Actually, every manager takes on a much wider range of roles to move the organisation toward its stated objectives. However in all views, there are similar characteristics of managers.

First of all, managers work with and through other people . They act as channels of communication within the organization. They also interact with individuals outside the organisation such as customers, suppliers, the press. As a result, good interpersonal and negotiating skills are essential for good management. Moreover, managers are responsible for seeing that specific tasks are done successfully. All members of an organisation are accountable for their particular tasks. What makes managers different is that they are held accountable not only for their work, but also for the work of the others. Thirdly , managers balance competing goals and set priorities. Every manager faces a number of competing demands for time and resources. Because these are always limited, each manager must set proprieties. Beyond those, managers must think both analytically and conceptually. While analytic thinking requires managers to break a problem down into its constituent parts, analyse those components and come up with a solution, conceptual thinking requires managers to think about a problem in relation to its larger implications to see the whole pattern. Also, managers must be good motivators, mediators and politicians. Because, in order to work with and through people, managers develop networks of relationships and build alliances and coalitions.

In spite of a long history of well-organized groups reaching objectives, management as a body of theory and principles is mainly a twentieth century phenomenon. The industrial revolution of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries gave a rise to a need for systematic management. Different approaches have been taken to the management styles. Two main management theories are F.Taylor’s Scientific Management, Henri Fayol’s Classical Organisation Theory and E. Mayo’s approaches named as The Human Relations Movement.

Frederick Taylor (1856-1915) built the body of principles which now constitutes the essence of scientific management. He and others sought to determine scientifically the best methods for performing any task and for selecting, training and motivating workers. He based his managerial system on production-line investigations where he studied and timed the movements of the best workers performance and trained the rest of the workers to emulate them. The contributions of Scientific management to increased worker productivity were significant. Many of the methods of Scientific Management continue to be used. However, The approach has a limitation that it is based on the assumption that workers are purely rational and interested only in higher wages. However, as managers have discovered, workers have social needs as well as economic needs, and they do not always behave rationally. Each individual needs to be considered in different ways.

Classical Organization Theory (Administrative Theory) was an attempt to identify principles of effective management that would apply universally to all complex organizations. The technical efficiency of the organization was the focus of this approach. Henri Fayol (1841-1925), a French mining engineer, believed that management could be taught when its underlying principles were defined and a general theory of management was formulated. He defined management in terms of five functions: planning, organizing, commanding, coordinating and controlling. He identified fourteen principles of organizational and administrative effectiveness. (A list of those principles are available in additions part of the essay – A1) He avoided the word “rules” because he did not want to encourage any idea of rigidity, indicating that in organizational administration, everything is a matter of position held. In addition to Henri Fayol’s works on Classical Management Theory, more researches has been carried out by Max Weber (1864-1920), Mary Parker Follet (1868-1933) and Chester Barnard (1886-1961).

When business organisations functioned in a relatively stable and predictable environment, the classical principles seemed more valid. Today’s organizations must function in a turbulent environment, and flexibility is frequently more important than general principles. Employees today are better educated, so clearly defined rules, regulations and authority relationships cause unintended consequences. For example, since rules establish minimum level of performance expected of employees, a minimum level is achieved. Classical theories are purely mechanistic. The organisation is seen as a machine and employees are simply parts to be fitted into the machine to make it run most efficiently.

Classical Organization Theory was based on a model which viewed humans as only driven by economic needs and completely rational in their behaviour. The Human Relations Movement had a model which viewed humans as driven by both economic and social needs. Elton Mayo (1880-1949) has been the most significant contributor of the idea. Mayo has carried out several experiments which show that employees would work harder if they believed management was concerned about their welfare and supervisors paid special attention to them. The work of Mayo and his colleagues brought attention to the importance of a manager’s style and to the power of informal group processes. However, this concept also failed to explain completely individuals in the workplace. The entire matter of productivity and worker satisfaction turned out to be more complex than it was originally thought.

After finding out all about management, managers and management theories, there is a single and meaningful term in today’s world of change called “leadership”. There are a multitude of ways to finish the sentence “Leadership is….” And nearly every scholar who has researched leadership has defined it slightly differently. Bass (1990) suggests that there are almost as many definitions of leadership as there are persons who have attempted to define the concept. But in a simple way, “leadership” could be defined as ‘What to do?’ while management deals with ‘How to do?’. Despite the multitude of ways that leadership has been conceptualised, several components can be identified to the phenomenon of leadership : leadership is a process, leadership involves influence, leadership occurs within a group context and leadership involves goal attainment. To get a clear definition of leadership, it could simply be said that leadership is a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal. Some people were thought to have or possess leadership while others were regarded as lacking in this characteristic. About how to become a leader Bennis W. (1989) says

“Billions of dollars are spent annually by and on would be leaders. Many major corporations offer leadership development courses. I would argue that more leaders have been made by accident, circumstance, sheer grit, or will than have been made by all the leadership courses put together. Leadership courses can only teach skills. They can not teach character or vision and indeed they do not even try. Developing character and vision is the way leaders invent themselves.”

Of interest to scholars throughout the 20th century especially after second world war, several studies were carried out by researchers. Some of significant leadership theories are Trait Approach, Style Approach and Situational Approach. In the second part of the essay, these theories are mentioned and analysed.

The trait approach was one of the first systematic attempts to study leadership. Leadership traits have been studied to find out what made certain people great leaders (e.g., Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Mohandas Gandhi). So it began with an emphasis on identifying the qualities of great persons. Although the research on traits spanned the entire 20th century, a good overview of this approach is found in two surveys completed by Stodgill (1948, 1974). In his first survey, he identified a groups of important leadership traits that are related to how individuals in various groups became leaders. His results showed that the average individual in the leadership role is different from an average group member in the following ways: intelligence, alertness, insight, responsibility, initiative, persistence, self-confidence and sociability. Similar to first survey,. Stodgill’s second survey also identified traits that were positively associated with leadership. The list included 10 characteristics: (a) drive for responsibility and task completion, (b) vigor and persistence in pursuit goals, (c) venturesomeness and originality in problem solving, (d) drive to exercise initiative in social situations, (e) self-confidence and sense of personal identity, (f) willingness to accept consequences of decision and action, (g) readiness to absorb interpersonal stress, (h) willingness to tolerate frustration and delay, (i) ability to influence other people’s behaviour and (j) capacity to structure social interaction systems to the purpose at hand. After Studgill’s studies on leadership traits, several works were conducted by Mann (1959), Lord-DeVader-Alliger (1986) and Kirkpatrick and Locke (1991). (A brief list of outcomes in terms of leadership traits can be found in additions section of the essay – A2) In summary, by synthesising different studies and their results, major leadership traits could be said to be intelligence, self-confidence, determination, integrity and sociability.

The trait approach has several identifiable strengths. First of all, it has a century of research to back it up and it clearly fits with the idea of leaders are the individuals who are “out front” and “leading the way” in our society. But most important, the trait approach gives us some benchmarks for what we need to look for if we want to be leaders.

In addition to its strengths, the trait approach also has several weaknesses. First and foremost is that Trait approach can’t give a definitive list of leadership traits. Although an enormous number of studies have been conducted over the past 100 years, the findings from these studies have been ambiguous and unclear some times. Another point is that the approach has failed to take special situations into account. This fact is obvious that people who possess certain traits that make them leaders in one situation may not be leaders in another situation. Researches on traits can also be criticized for failing to look at traits in relationship to leadership outcomes. It has emphasised the identification of traits, but it has not addressed how leadership affect groups members and their work. And the last, maybe most important failing is about training of these traits. The trait approach is not a useful approach for training and development for leadership. Even if definitive traits could be identified, teaching new traits is not an easy process because traits are not easily changed. For example, it would not be reasonable to send managers to a training program to raise their IQ. The point is that traits are relatively fixed and inside feelings, and this limits the value of teaching and leadership training.

The style approach is very different from the trait approach, whereas the trait approach emphasises the personality characteristics of the leader, the style approach emphasises the behaviour of the leader. Many studies have been conducted to investigate the style. Although many research studies could be categorised under the heading of the style approach, the Ohio State studies, the Michigan studies and the studies by Blake and Mouton (1964, 1978, 1985) are strongly representative of the ideas in this approach.

Because the results of studying leadership as a personality trait appeared fruitless, a groups of researchers at Ohio State began to analyse how individuals acted when they were leading a group or organisation. Researchers found that subordinates’s responses in the questionnaire carried out clustered around two general types of leader behaviours: initiating structure and consideration. Initiating structure behaviours were mainly task behaviours, giving structure to the work cintext, defining role responsibilities, and scheduling work activities. Consideration behaviours were essentially relationship behaviours and included building respect and trust between leaders and followers.

While researches at Ohio State were developing the core of the style approach, researches at the University of Michigan identified two types of leadership behaviours called employee orientation and production orientations. While employee orientation describes the behaviour of the leaders who approach subordinates with a strong human relation emphasis. Production orientation refers to leadership behaviours that stress the technical and production aspects of a job.

With these to researches , the most well-known model of managerial behaviour is “the Managerial Grid”, which first appeared in the early 1960s and since that time has been refined and revised several times (Blake&McCanse, 1991; Blake & Mouton, 1964, 1978, 1985).The Managerial Grid (The Leadership Grid) was designed to explain how leaders help organisations to reach their purposes through two factors : concern for production and concern for people. Concern for production refers to how a leader is concerned with achieving organizational tasks and concern for people refers to how a leader attends to then people within the organisation who are trying to achieve its goals. The Leaderhip Grid joins concern for production and concern for people in a model that has two intersection axec (Additions Section – A3). The horizontal axis represents the leader’s concern for production, and the vertical axis represents the leader’s concern for people.

The style approach makes several positive contributions to our understanding of the leadership process. First, the style approach marked a major shift in the general focus of leadership research. No longer was the focus of leadership on the personal characteristics of leaders, it was expanded to include what leaders did and how they acted. Moreover the style approach provides a broad conceptual map that is worthwhile to use in our attempts to understand and complexities of leadership.

Along with its strengths, the style approach also has several weaknesses. First, the research on styles has not adequately shown how leaders’s styles are associated with performance outcomes. Another criticism is that this approach has failed to find a universal style of leadership that could be effective in almost every situation. And a final criticism of the style approach is that it implies that the most effective leadership style is the high-high style. Even though some researchers (e.g., Blake & MacCanse, 1991; Misumi, 1985) have suggested that high-high managers are most effective, but that may not be the case in all situations. At this point in the development of research on the style approach, it remains unclear whether the high-high style is the most preferred style of leadership.

One of the more widely recognised approaches to leadership is the situational approach, which was developed by Hersey and Blanchard (1969). As the name of approach implies, situational leadership focuses on leadership in situations. The basic idea of the theory is that different situations demand different kinds of leadership. The situational approach to leadership has several strengths, particularly for practitioners. Situational leadership is well known and frequently used for training leaders within organisations. Also, situational leadership is easy to understand, intuitively sensible, and easily applied in a variety of situations. Finally, situational leadership underlines the point that each subordinate must be treated differently based on the task at hand and to seek opportunities to help subordinates learn new skills and become more confident in their work. Despite its strengths, Situational leadership has sime limitations. There have been only a few research studies conducted to justify the assumptions and propositions set forth by the approach. Secondly authors of situational leadership do not explain the theoretical basis for these changes in the composition of each of the development levels. A final critisism of this approach is that the authors of the model do not make clear how “commitment” is combined with “competence” to form four distinct levels of development. (Level 1 : unwilling and unable, level 2 : willing and unable, level 3 : unwilling and able, level 4 : willing an able).


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