Leadership in Organizations

The trait approach in leadership considers leadership in the context of any salient or differentiating characteristics that contribute to either the effective or ineffectual management outcomes. The trait approach looks at biological, sociological and cultural aspects. For instance, the biological model considers issues like the influence gender on intelligence and personality on leadership performance (Derue et al. 2011). Other aspects the trait model considers includes technical and interpersonal skills, effectiveness in discharging duties, motivation, decisiveness and so forth.  

The behavior of leaders have a strong bearing on how effective leaders are in discharging their mandates (Derue et al., 2011). Specifically, the behavior approach posits that leaders, through their overt behavior, can influence the direction of others in connection with meeting certain objectives. Underpinning the behavior approach is that a leader’s observable conduct acts as a series of cues that the followers pick on and pursue until they realize certain premediated objectives, such as meeting agreed upon sales targets (Castelli, 2016). The cues entail a variety of stimuli such as a projected sales report or a video conference with an underperforming branch. 

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The old leadership paradigms heavily relied on the command and control approach, where the top management was responsible for all the decisions in the organization (Castelli, 2016). Equally, it was the top management that dispensed both reward and punitive actions when the rank and file employees succeeded or failed to meet expectations respectively. The more modern explications of leadership embrace the rationale of seamless management, with the leader severing more as an influencer than the singular source of all the actions in an organization (Castelli, 2016). The modern understanding of leadership also acknowledges the contribution of the followers towards the effectiveness of the leader. 

The descriptive theory aims to explain the rationality that goes into the decision making process in an organization in the leader and follower continuum through data on specific decisions made, their content and importantly, their impact (Megheirkouni, 2016). The descriptive theory therefore suggests that decisions in organizations flow from the lower level employees to the top (Millar, Chen, & Waller, 2017). A major advantage of the descriptive theory is that it encourages the participation of employees in the lower rungs. As a result, innovation and problem solving in the organization’s overall strategy are a constant as the lower ranked employees contribute to the organization’s strategy according to the descriptive theory. 

The prescriptive theory is demonstrable in instances where the leader directly stipulates the specifics of managing a particular organizational undertaking. In practice, while all management is prescriptive, prescriptive leadership is evident where there is use of the same mythologies for different scenarios (Larsson & Vinberg, 2010). Prescriptive leadership is important in dealing with situations that require high specialization, the special police response units and the performance of a delicate surgery being good examples. In both examples, the team leaders require the followers to operate in a specific manner to mitigate liabilities. On the other hand, the prescriptive approach to leadership can repress innovative solutions and on a larger scale, make organizations less able to adapt to emerging developments.

The universal theory of leadership espouses the position that no one leadership style is sufficient to address the complexities that come with the role (Larsson & Vinberg, 2010). Organizations are complex as are the situations that confront leaders. According to the universal theory, only leaders that can adapt how they direct matters vis-à-vis the situations they confront can be effective. The universal theory in particular became useful in recent decades as productivity and effectiveness became a priority (Megheirkouni, 2016). The need to lower production costs as well as increase market reach are now standard benchmarks that compelled a rethink from the previously heavily perspective leadership formats (Megheirkouni, 2016). The universal theory’s embrasure of multiple leadership theories is demonstrative of not only the protean business environment and market place, but also the necessity of organization agility and personal adaptability. Leaders that cannot adapt to the situations that confront them find it challenging to fulfill their role, as “organizational leadership and change go hand in hand” (Burnes, Hughes, & By, 2018, p. 142) 

The contingency theory stipulates that the situation a leader faces determines the management style the leader elects to use to realize the organization’s objectives. The contingency theory therefore puts the onus of effective leadership outcomes on not only the leader being able to assess the situations correctly, but also on internal reflection. According to the contingency theory, a leader cannot be effective unless they are able to reflect on and understand their leadership style and be able to tap into the same to manage the situations they confront. A major setback with the contingency theory is the leader has to identify situations that their style is compatible with and work with the same. A leader utilizing the contingency theory, or matching their style with specific situations, restricts the leadership opportunities available to them. 

Case Study

The Acme Manufacturing Company case study highlighted several flaws in Steve Arnold’s management style both personally and interpersonally. Firstly, Steve appeared to have a laisses faire approach to management. Steve did not appear to be keen on following up on the various commitments he had accumulated overtime and only responded to the same when said commitments had come due. For instance, Steve did not keep a schedule of activities, and did not follow up on pending commitments. Consequently, he did not prepare reports on time, arrive at meeting prepared or even submitted quality reports, the rush report he had to do for his superior, Frank. 

Steve also had poor time management and skills. Even after arriving for work late, Steve stopped to talk trivialities with a work colleague for some 20 minutes, only to later realize he had urgent business to address. The fact that Steve lost track of the activities that he had to perform over the course of the week points to procrastination, as evidenced by his last-minute rush to get things done. The accumulation of important work and the last minute effort to get it done meant that Steve could not contribute productively to the work effort.

In order to improve, Steve has to improve the manner in which he manages his time. Additionally, Steve should invest in keeping a personal activity log. A personal activity log is useful in organizing multiple activities, particularly in a fluid environment where it is easy for one to get distracted. Finally, Steve should improve is management approach by taking a more active role in following up on tasks he has delegated to his colleagues. 


Burnes, B., Hughes, M., & By, R. T. (2018). Reimagining organizational change leadership. Leadership, 14(2), 141-158.

Castelli, P. A. (2016). Reflective leadership review: a framework for improving organisational performance. Journal of Management Development, 35(2), 217-236.

Derue, D. S., Ross, S. M., Nahrgang, J. D., Wellman, N., & Humphrey, S. ETrait and behavioral theories of leadership: An integration and Meta-analytic test of their relative validity. Personnel psychology 64, 7–52

Larsson & Vinberg, S. (2010) Leadership behaviour in successful organisations: Universal or situation-dependent? Total Quality Management & Business Excellence, 21(3), 317-334.

Megheirkouni, M. (2016). Factors influencing leadership development in an uncertain environment. Journal of Management Development, 35(10), 1232-1254.

Millar, C. C., Chen, S., & Waller, L. (2017). Leadership, knowledge and people in knowledge-intensive organisations: implications for HRM theory and practice. The International Journal of Human Resource Management 28(2), 261-275.

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