Analysis of Leadership Theories

Lewin’s Styles of Leadership

Kurt Lewin identified that a major factor that determines a leader’s choice of leadership style is the need to make a decision. Lewin is considered as a main contributor to social psychology. Lewin prescribed three leader styles including autocratic, democratic, and laissez-faire.

In autocratic leadership style, leaders takes management decisions with not contribution from anybody. They have their clear expectations of what needs to be done, when and how it should be done. This form of leadership was found to cause the highest levels of dissatisfaction. Autocratic leadership style is best applied when the decision does not require the participation of others, meaning that the choice made would not change even when the contribution of other would be put in (Kavanagh, 2010). It also works best in the situation where the motivation of team to perform their duties as prescribed by the decisions made are not affected by the fact that they were not engaged in the process of decision making. If used in the wrong way, the autocratic style of leadership may turn to be controlling, bossy and dictatorial.

In democratic leadership style, the leader engages all the members of the group in the decision making process. This leadership style is the most effective and appreciated method of leadership by the group members. A democratic leader is one who does not dictate his ideas to the team group as is the case of an autocratic leader. Policy determination in a democratic leadership style is carried out by the group as a whole. The democratic leader is still expected to lead and has the responsibility of ensuring that decisions lead to the desired outcomes (Kavanagh, 2010).

In the last recommended leadership style prescribed by Lewin is the Laissez-faire leadership style. In this leadership style, there is minimized leaders involved in the decision –making process. This implies that the people are allowed to make their own decisions. This leadership style is best applied when people have the potential and motivation of taking on curse of action, and there is no need for micro-managing. This may best apply in a situation of sharing resources across a range of different people and groups.

Application of the theory

A democratic leader can influence others by being socially close to them and encouraging their participation. Democratic leadership style means that the leader is consultative, participative, relations concerned, distributes power, delegates and is consensual. This helps bring out the best out of every team member. In this style, the followers feel rewarded as their contribution is highly considered and they feel part of the group. The democratic leadership style helps build interpersonal skills are the follower collaborate on discussion issues and coming up with solutions.

Autocratic leadership style helps solve a problem that may arise from the democratic style where during the discussion factions may arise due to the member not agreeing. In the autocratic type of leadership, members have no chance of bruising their interpersonal relationships as all determination of the policy is carried out by the leader. The leader in an autocratic leadership style can use their power over the group to reward any an individual they feel is contributing to the team. This is thereby effective is assisting the team members to be motivated by their efforts may be rewarded.

Cognitive Resource Theory

This theory was developed by Fred Fiedler, Vecchio, and Joe Garcia, as a remodeling of the Fiedler Contingency Model of Leadership. The theory proposes that stress is used as a means to prevent a leader who has high intelligence quality from effective management. This theory points out there exists no ideal leader. Managers are considered to either be focused on their tasks all those individuals who put first the human relationships (Judge, Colbert, & Ilies, 2004). People in positions of leadership are required to tackle different situations and varying stress levels. 

The theory is based on a few assumptions such as intelligence and experience, as well as other cognitive resources are important factors that affect the success of leadership. Cognitive potential may be effective but are not sufficient to predict leadership achievements. It also has an assumption of stress impacts on the potential to affect decisions (Judge, Colbert, & Ilies, 2004).

The Cognitive Resource Theory predicts that: the cognitive ability of a manager helps contribute to the conduct of the team if only the leader takes a directive approach. The good planning and decision-making abilities among leaders can best be implemented if the leader can tell people what to do rather than wait with anticipations that they would agree with them. They may take a non-directive approach to facilitate an open discussion where the team airs their idea from which the best approach is identified for implementation

The theory also predicts that stress influence the interaction between intelligence and decision quality. At low-stress levels, intelligence functionality is optimal and makes a better contribution. In situations of high stress, in-born intelligence has a negative effect. In this situation, an intelligent person seeks to find rational solutions, forcing them to take unfamiliar approach (Judge, Colbert, & Ilies, 2004).

With experience, leaders are better placed to take decisions quality under high stress. As indicated, a situation with high stress and when intelligence has been impaired, prior experience helps a leader react appropriately. Experience under a decision-making under stressful situation contribute to a better decision as oppose to making attempts to struggle with brain intelligence alone(Judge, Colbert, & Ilies, 2004).

Where simple tasks are required, a leader’s intelligence and experience is termed as irrelevant. In this case, subordinates perform tasks that not need direction or support, and the subordinates can take action without further support.

Application of the Theory

By following this theory, leaders can understand the role of intellectual abilities and organizational performance is tackling tasks and issues within an organization. A leader with high intellectual capabilities will be able to help other others in the organization when operating under low levels of stress as, during this time, they offer rational solutions that are innovative. This theory provides that a team leader needs the support of his team members thereby helps every team member feel like part of the team. A leader is guided by this theory to allow individuals perform less complicated tasks on their own thereby giving them an opportunity to grow and develop.

Bass’ transformational leadership theory.

Transformational leadership is a leadership style that intend to bring changes to the followers. When applied as it should be, it offers an instrumental change in the followers and aims to help the followers become leaders. Bass in his theory provided that the impact of a transformational leader is first determined by the effects on the followers. Followers of these leaders then feel trust, admiration, loyalty, and respect for their leader. The leader can transform and motivate his followers using idealized influence, intellectual stimulation, and individual consideration (Kotlyar & Karakowsky, 2007). Another key aspect of a transformational leader is that they provide encouragement to their followers and pushes them to develop innovative ways of challenging the status quo that can change the environment to help them be successful (Kotlyar & Karakowsky, 2007).

The transformation leadership theory according to Bass includes the following elements:

Individualized consideration; this considers the level that the leader attends to the needs to every follower, performs the role of a mentor and takes time to listen to and understand the concerns and needs of each follower. To achieve this, the leader needs to portray empathy, support, and maintain open channels of communication.

Intellectual stimulation: this considers the level of degree that the leader uses to challenge assumptions, take risks and influence followers’ ideas.

Inspirational motivation refers to the level to which leader brings out their vision in a manner that is convincing and motivates to the followers. 

The element of idealized influence considers to what extent the leader acts a role model to influence high ethical behavior in a manner that helps instill pride, gain respect and trust (Kotlyar&Karakowsky, 2007).

Application of the theory

A leader can apply this theory to develop a team the needs of every member are looked into. In such a team, the leader needs to ensure that every individual is respected and that their contribution to the team is appreciated. This helps in the personal development and increase the intrinsic motivation among the individuals. The leaders should offer an opportunity to enhance creativity among their followers. This means that they should not try to micro-manage their followers. By articulating their vision well, the leader can offer meaning and purpose that offers energy to drive the team forward.


Judge, T., Colbert, A., & Ilies, R. (2004). Intelligence and Leadership: A Quantitative Review and Test of Theoretical Propositions. Journal of Applied Psychology, 542-552.

Kavanagh, E. (2010). Leadership Models: Kurt Lewin, Hershey and Blanchard, and Edwin Friedman. Organizational Behavior, Sociology, Psychology.

Kotlyar, I., & Karakowsky, L. (2007). Falling Ourselves to Follow the Leader. Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies, 38-49.

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