Situations and styles of leadership | Free essay | Management essays


Leadership has been the topic of discussion and research in the Organizational Behavior literature. A great collection of different theoretical framework has been developed to make out elements of leadership. Incessant self assessment, learning, guidance, experience and never ending process of self-study develops good leaders in a society. Many companies are facing high turnover, absenteeism, low morale among employees and many other such issues related to the job environment. For all these problems companies need proper effective leadership. The purpose of this paper is to have an in-depth insight on the major research findings of an effective leadership styles and situations and their role in organizational performance by reviewing the research literature.

In this review paper organizational performance is being judged by the motivational level of the employees and job satisfaction factor. So this review paper gives a clear insight concerning (the theories of leadership) factors that boost leadership among employees which is then linked with organizational performance. This review paper will help managers to look at the major concerns which lead to great leadership and how to handle challenges and unexpected situations occurring in an organization. Effective leadership can be expressed where leaders influence group members, followers or subordinates in a way that this will help them to achieve common goals.

Leadership and its Meaning:

As this world is changing so is the definition of leadership. Over the years leadership has been described according to the circumstances. Effective leader is the one who is able to match his level of skills to the maturity of the subordinates. The word has been defined in so many terms that giving a single definition will not be justified. In order to understand the true meaning of leadership one has to study the topic itself thoroughly. Today’s world is so complex and fast changing that we cannot just stick to one definition of the leadership. As the competition from the other firms comes in the organization so the ideas, so they broaden the meaning of what leadership is. As described by Thomas B. Allen (1988); “the word leadership refers to a process of social influence, in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task”. A more apt and inclusive definition with regard to followers comes from Robert J. House (1996) who states that “leadership is ultimately about creating a way for people to contribute to making something extraordinary happen”. Another definition comes from literature which states that effective leadership is the ability to successfully integrate and maximize available resources within the internal and external environment for the attainment of organizational or societal goals. Kirkpatrick & Locke (1991) suggested through their study that effective leader “is an individual with the capacity to consistently succeed in a given condition and be recognized as meeting the expectations of an organization or society”. The analysis suggests that effective leadership can have positive impact on overall performance.

Effective leadership can be described as giving a vision to the team-members and developing the path for the followers to achieve the maximum output. In order to gain high level of organizational performance leaders’ have to adopt new, innovative and challenging techniques to guide, motivate and manage the subordinates. Leadership is all about performance of the subordinates, groups, and organizations; good leadership promotes valuable group performance which in turn leads to high growth and expansion of a firm.

A leader’s background, life experiences, and daily communications define his or her leadership style. The difference between a good leader and a great leader is his or her ability to adapt to change. In an organization usually leaders and subordinates work together to understand the behavior of each other and try to manage their behavior to produce more beneficial results, Davis RV Tim & Luthans. F (1979). According to Avery, G.C. & Jing F.F. (2008) due to the complexity of leadership it is broken into five different perspectives: competency, behavioral, contingency, transformational, and implicit. Leadership is a method by which an individual persuades other people in a group to achieve an objective and leads the organization in a way that makes the team members interconnected and coherent. Bass (1989 & 1990) explains three types of theories of leadership. According to him there is a trait theory which states that in some people have in born traits which lead them to become a leader. Second theory is great event theory which is related to the crisis or important event. It states that sometimes some major events or crisis leave their marks on an individual personality which may bring out leadership qualities in an ordinary person, making him an extraordinary leader. Third is Transformational leadership theory which is most widely accepted theory of recent years. In it people by choice prefer the path of becoming leaders through learning and proper education. Leadership has certain set attributes like values, ethics, belief, knowledge and skill etc., which if followed properly can make an individual a good leader.

Robert D. Rossel (1970) in his paper argued that there are two kinds of orientations, instrumental and expressive, attached to the effective leadership in an organization. According to him, leadership orientation depends on the nature of organization. Different organizations require different kind of leadership orientation among supervisors and managers. He further stated, if we take an example of organizations like mental hospitals, prisons etc where the environment is more segregated and isolated, the most successful leadership will be informal and expressive. Whereas formal and instrumental leadership will be required in organizations dealing in production and service side. Author explained the instrumental orientation to leadership as one which is more task oriented, the main focus of such type of leadership in an organization is to motivate team members, to maintain product quality. While, expressive orientation to leadership is all about getting along with the group members and the conduct of perverseness, and inattentiveness in leadership may interfere with the goals of organization. Author stated that the orientation to leadership also vary depending upon the labor commitment required for any particular organization. According to the findings of this paper, this can be affirmed that organizations where there is a high labor commitment demonstrate a very definite instrumental orientation in top management (F-Ratio 2.39, Mean 1.25) and an expressive orientation in lower supervisors (Mean -0.17).

In terms of superior performance, effective leadership leads to people who find fulfillment in their jobs, work with enthusiasm passion, and perform quality work, with innovation and creativity. Effective leaders need to be able to endorse ideas and concepts as well as promote ideologies. Another quality seen in efficient leaders is how they can shift their group’s attention towards the goals and objectives at hand by providing strategies regarding how to achieve the desired goals. They not only provide the physical resources required for the job such as tools and administrative or technical assistance, but also the psychological ones such as motivation, education and understanding. The most efficient leaders can also adapt to different environments according to the need of the hour and provide their workers with all the support and attention they require in order to successfully fulfill the task at hand.

Hogan & Kaiser (2005) defined leadership as a process of team building in which every member work well according to the set rules defined by the leader to outperform the competition. They further elaborated regarding the conventional definition of leadership over time, which defined leadership as the person who has the ability to influence others can be a leader but according to the author group performance should be the measure of leadership. They stated that in order to judge and assess the leadership one should look at the team performance. Three implications of this view should be noted. First, leadership involves influencing individuals willingly to contribute to the good of the group. Second, leadership requires coordinating and the guiding group (by adopting the most appropriate way) to achieve its goals. Finally, goals vary by organization and their life cycles. Leadership is the most essential item required for creating a team out of a group of individuals. One of the most imperative qualities of a good leader is that they can make individuals on team a single unit leading to synergy. Effective leaders can convince their team members to concentrate on their role within the team rather than their individual goals. An indicator regarding the success of a leader is the success of his or her followers. The key difference in explaining the long term performances of the firms is mostly attributed to an exceptional leadership. Superior performance is achieved when an organization is generating the maximum level of profitability possible with the help of three key determinants; efficiency, adaptations, and human resources. A business environment is more likely to succeed when it has people with high levels of skills, commitment and mutual trusts. Many times leader’s performance is constrained with respect to the nature and size of an organization. Each leader performs within the set limits of an organization, which actually hinder the real outcomes. In other words, the structure and size of a firm basically depicts the extent of leader’s performance.

Organizational Performance

In order to understand the meaning of organizational performance first we have to look at the definition of organization. Aldrich (1979) in his book “organizations and environment” explained organization in three ways a) goal oriented; b) boundary maintaining, and c) activity system. By goal directed he means that the end objective of all organizations is to earn profit and to maximize the wealth of shares holders. Members of an organization behaves as if they have some defined goal, all of them work to achieve some specified purpose. This means members of an organization are task-oriented do not merely work for social interaction. Goal-directed behavior and deliberate design of activity systems distinguish organizations from other groups, such as families, friendship circles, audiences and mass publics. By boundary maintain he meant that organizations have defined clearly among the members of an organizations and non-members. And all members of an organization work collectively under the supervision of some authority to obtain defined goals. Activity system can be described as a system in an organization where all members are assigned some activities to achieve some predefined goals within boundary of an organization.

The major component of effective organization is having a talent management team, which will be headed by a leader. Organizational performance need to be studied in relation to the status of employee satisfaction to assess how good the firm is doing in the market. In order to evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of an Organization one has to look at the performance of the workers. Employees perform best when they are highly motivated resulting in increased number of customers and high growth rate.

Thomas. B. Alan. (1988) entailed through his study that organizational performance is highly variable term. He further argued that organizational performance depends on various kinds of factors such as leaders’ styles and behavior, leader-subordinate relation, firm size etc. which definitely has a great impact on the performance of a firm. One of the main reason behind this is that assets like leadership behaviors, organization culture, skill and know-how, and motivation are seen as the most important factors of strength in those firms which involve group, procedures and organizational performance, Avery, G.C. & Jing F.F. (2008). Therefore, leaders and their leadership style influence both their subordinates and organizational outcomes.

Organizational performance increases if the employees are highly motivated and satisfied with team leader and their work. As per Ohio State University research successful leadership has two behavioral dimensions which play very important role, a. Consideration: in this kind of behavior leader of a group is concerned about the team members. This aspect of leadership is linked with leadership traits of kindliness, discussion with subordinates, appreciation and respect of team members and supportiveness, b. Initiating Structure: this type of leader’s behavior is more towards work done. They are more concerned about work and task. Leaders who fall into this category of style are much planned, coordinated, and clear about their goals, criticize poor work, and always pressurize subordinates to work more effectively.

Leadership Styles

Effective leadership involves the study of different styles of leaders. The literature suggests that some types of leadership styles are preferred over others. This is especially true under different working conditions as well as the subordinate’s relation with the leader. Rotemberg. J.J & Saloner. G. (1993) concluded through their study that leadership style of a firm is selected by the stakeholders to maximize the ex ante profits. According to their study the leader of the group (team Manager) exercises his power in different ways. They considered leadership styles as; a) Locus of control, internal locus of control in which leader feels whatever happens is because of their own strategies and actions, external locus of control in which they feel environment is responsible for whatever happening in their lives, b) Flexibility, few leaders are flexible and they are open to new ideas and thoughts, whereas some leaders have been identified as rigid. CEOs whose style is more rigid tend to lead firms with fewer innovations and do not delegate easily. Leadership style includes not only motivating and providing direction to the people but also implementing the plans. The needs of the employees play an important role in identifying the approach that a leader uses. An often overlooked quality within leaders is helpfulness. They not only need to encourage teamwork but also provide all sorts of support required to their team members. Studies also suggest that there is evidence that states considerate leaders tend to perform better. Leaders need to use multiple approaches while dealing with their subordinates, some of which include relationship development, training and professionalism of subordinates and time allotments. The three well known styles of leaderships are authoritative, participative and delegating, James D. Boulgarides & William A. Cohen (2001).


This is a style where the leader is in complete control and orders his subordinates regarding their duties without any consultation from them. This style is not very popular with the subordinates and is only effective if the leader has complete knowledge regarding the subject as well as definitive plans regarding how to execute the project. This style is looked down upon and should only be practiced on the rarest of occasions when time is of the essence. It can be used within certain limits if the subordinate is unfamiliar with the job in order to guide them more effectively.


This is the suggested style of leadership within organizations as it makes sure all the involved parties are taken into account while making decisions. It is used when the leader knows about the final goal but wants to discuss the different options regarding procedures required to complete the goals. In this style the subordinates are informed of the goal by the leader and then an interactive discussion is carried out regarding how to achieve the stated goals. Even though all the subordinates are taken into consideration the leader remains in firm control and is the one who determines the plan of action based on the input provided by the subordinates. This style is mutually beneficial and ensures an environment of teamwork which leads to better performance.


This is when the leader leaves the decision up to the subordinates. This style is usually used when the employees are more informed regarding the subject than the leader and can analyze the situation better and come up with a better plan regarding what needs to be done. Even though the employee is the one taking the decision, it is still the leader’s responsibility. The leader still has to delegate tasks in this style. This style is only suggested when the leader has complete confidence in the ability of his subordinates.

Davis. R.V.Tim & Luthans. F. (1979) envisioned a model consisting of four basic styles called the decision style model. These styles included Directive, Analytic, Behavioral and Conceptual.


This is an autocratic style which is usually adopted when the leader has a need for power. Such kind of leadership style is more effective in situations where subordinates are ill informed or ill equipped for the task at hand. The model focuses on technical decisions and leaders do not consult and take very less advice from the subordinates. The leaders who practice this style are very performance oriented and therefore they operate with a lot of control. They tend to be aggressive and tend to achieve their desired results by hook or by crook. They also tend to have very dominating personalities.


This type of leader is a lot less authoritative than the directive type of leader and has more tolerance for ambiguity. They also tend to have more approachable attitude as they tend to want input from everywhere before reaching a decision. This style is best suited for the ability to cope with new situations which is why this system is an efficient problem solver. These leaders are usually not too hasty with decisions and take their time in evaluating all their options.


This style uses data from various sources and analyzes all possible solutions with great details and looks at each and every alternative. It is quite similar to the behavioral style. The relationship between the leader and his team is one of openness and trust. The leaders are usually idealists therefore ethics and values play a key role. They have a long range focus and have high amounts of organizational commitment. They are usually understanding towards their team and adapt well according to different situations. They tend to like to have less control and tend to encourage a team effort and participation on an equal level. They want to see their team develop as a whole and even though they are achievement oriented they value independence as well.


The managers who practice this style of leadership are highly concerned with their workers well being and tend to be a great source of support for their employees’ as they are highly people oriented. They are very open and easy to communicate with. They are also willing to compromise more and can be persuaded and welcome suggestions. All these qualities show that they tend to have lost control. They aim to be accepted and liked and avoid conflicts. They have a low data input.

Hunt. J. G. (1971) discovered through his study that an ineffective leader leads to conflicts on multiple levels as well as a highly uninviting work environment both of which lead to organizational inefficiency. The overall environment becomes negative as employees do not take their managers seriously and through study it can be concluded that leadership requirement at different levels of management may vary markedly. It seems likely that when a leader has enough knowledge of two different types of management level then they perform better as compare to managers who have knowledge of only one management level, but definite kind of knowledge is likely to be dependent on various kinds of situations. Many managers use penalties which instill fear of mistakes within the employees. Authoritative leaders may cut days off, yell and demean their workers and abuse their power. They feel that intimidating their employees and increasing their authority will lead to more productivity however what happens is that there is more tension, employees become scared, morale falls and the organizational performance is affected. The autocratic style of leadership is greatly discouraged within organizations and should only be used when dealing with new employees who are unfamiliar with the organizational culture as it does not work well with the more experienced employees as suggested by research. A separate style of leadership is a laissez-fare style in which the leader does not manage his employees and only guides them. This happens only when the employees themselves select an informal leader for guidance.

All these different styles of leaderships are suited to different environments. A behavioral style might be very successful in a certain environment yet might fail abysmally in another so a good leader adapts to these different environments with different styles. Therefore not all leaders are successful in all environments which is why certain leaders are chosen for certain situations. Spillane. J.P., Halverson R & Diamond. B. J (2004) proposed this approach is not a viable option in the current day scenario as there is constant change. He suggests that leaders should now be chosen for their ability to deal with a wide range of tactics and that leaders should become more efficient in applying tactics rather than approaching different styles of leaderships. He also states that extremes of flexibility and rigidity are the least efficient styles. According to Fielder (1967) almost anything is easier to change than a manager’s style which is why a leader should not pretend to be something they are not. Leaders who act as facilitators are most liked among the followers and are most easy to understand. Flexible leaders also tend to adapt more easily to new situations compared to rigid ones. Efficient Flexibility doesn’t mean a change in personality, all it is, is a change in tactics.

Situational Leadership

The objective of this review paper is to explain effective leadership in different situations and its role in a firm. It is essential to elaborate few theories which have substantial importance in Organizational Behavior literature. Situational leaders are those who can coordinate, guide, handle and direct his team members in all kinds of known and unknown situations (situational factors). There are few aspects which lead to situational decisions such as motivation and capability of followers. This, in turn, is affected by factors within the particular situation. Another factor which may affect leader’s behavior is the relationship shared between followers and leader.

According to the situational theory purposed by Hersey and Blanchard (1969) leader should be able to motivate his followers in order to make them perform their task efficiently and effectively. Leaders should work in a way that they will motivate their followers and increase their development level. On the basis of these lines they have come up with four leadership styles that are consistent with the four development levels for followers. 1) S1: Telling / directing: when in a team followers are unable to understand the task and afraid to perform their duties then the leader will guide and coordinate them properly. Leaders in this situation identify the real problem occurring to the follower and try to solve it. Leaders uphold the position of boss so that all assignments will be done properly within time. 2) S2: Selling / coaching: when the follower is able to understand his task to some extent and he looks confident in this, then “telling” him will be equal to discouraging them. So in this type of situations leaders have to guide his team members very carefully and instead of telling, the leaders have to “sell” the techniques of working, explaining and clarifying decisions. First two styles are more leader oriented. 3) S3: Participating / supporting: when followers can perform and they don’t show the results then leaders have to be very patient and deal this situation with expertise. Leaders should find out different ways to motivate the followers and if reasons of not showing performance would have been found then leaders should tackle them properly. 4) S4: Delegating / Observing: in this type of situations followers know their jobs and they don’t need any guidance but still it’s important for leaders to keep a check on the performance of the followers in order to ensure that everything moving according to the set plan.

Bruno Leo F.C. (2006) explained the profile of leadership styles of Brazilian supervisors or CEO based on the situational leadership styles purposed by Hersey et al (1969). In his paper he elucidated that results showed that most of the executives are seen accepting the styles S2 (48.29% frequency distribution) and S3 (28.60% frequency distribution). So this shows that they have capabilities of working with followers of average level of willingness. Though they sometimes face problems regarding discipline and work with groups.

Management theorists of the past tried to discover the “best” form of leadership for all situations however modern day researchers have realized that different environments lead to a significant impact on the effectiveness of a leader. Fielder (1967) carried out extensive research regarding how different situations affect leadership effectiveness. According to his research the relations motivated manager is most effective where the leader doesn’t need much power whereas the task related manager performs well when his relations with his employees are good and when he has a strong control. In an unfavorable condition neither of the leaders would be effective so an alternative solution would be to replace the leader.

In order to provide a solution for the style-situation issue Vroom & Jago, Arthur. G (2007) found an approach that dealt with the interaction between the leader and his subordinates. The model suggested that situation played a great role for a style to be effective. It also concluded that subordinate motivation and technical effectiveness play a key role in sharing of leader power and if neither of these are important than the leader himself takes the decision. If motivation is low but technical difficulties are still important then the leader tries to gain more information and if technical difficulty is not important and motivation is high then delegation might be the answer. Lastly if the problem level is high and a need for acceptance is present then the decision is shared within the group. This shows that there is a consistency in the behavior in different situations. Sometimes interpersonal behavioral patterns are also transferred when work performances change in order to meet new requirements. Different task demands also lead to changes in leaders. Another point of view regarding styles of leaders is one of Fiedler (1974).

Fenwick F Jing, Avery, G.C. (2008) found out trough their research that it is very difficult to define the relationship of leadership-performance. After doing concentrated research they accepted the four leadership paradigms as a tool of measuring the concept of leadership, (visionary, transactional, classical and organic paradigms).Avery (2001) identified 13 indices to measure these above mentioned leadership paradigms out of which 9 were used in the research of Fenwick F Jing, Avery, G.C. (2008). Many researchers who are constantly working on defining the leadership concept in groups have been able to link it with functional approach. In functional approach the main target of a leader is to get the job done and increase the level of performance. Thus, in such kind of approach leader ensures that every task should be completed in time. All team members actively participate in order to accomplish the task. The main objective of a leader behind this approach is to complete the functions, while leadership can be categorized as a way of problem solving achieved by common responses to social problems. In order to understand the functions four broad types of functions have been identified: 1) well informed and structured team, 2) proper use of information in hand to solve the problems, 3) managing and control human resources, and 4) proper usage of resources. Burke, C. S., Stagl, K. C., Klein, C., Goodwin, G. F., Salas, E., & Halpin, S. M. (2006).

Several studies show that the leader faces few obstacles regarding the organizational life cycle. There are five different stages of an organization and the changes which include, changes in management focus, organizational structure, top management style, control system and reward emphasis. Things that added to these changes and made the decision process harder included the size and age of the organization, its stage of evolution and the growth rate of the industry.

Substantial numbers of management scholars have debated the effectiveness of leadership styles, behaviors and situations when selecting measurements of performance there is a correlation between financial performance and customer satisfaction. Several reasons indicate that there should be a relationship between leadership and performance. The first reason relates to practice. Today’s intensive, dynamic markets feature innovation-based competition, price/performance rivalry, decreasing returns, and the creative destruction of existing competencies therefore effective leadership behaviors can facilitate the improvement of performance when organizations face these new challenges. Lumijärvi.I. (2007). Understanding the effects of leadership on performance is also important because leadership is viewed as one of the key driving forces for improving a firm’s performance.

The Contingency Model of Leadership Effectiveness

In this section contingency theory has been described which was actually originated by Fiedler. Fiedler. E. Fred (1972). Contingency theory helps executives and leaders to motivate and guide their followers in order to get better results for an organization. This theory is all about how leaders lead their groups in different situations, which predict followers’ capabilities and behaviors. There are few similarities between Contingency theory and situational theory. Former deals with the ability of leaders and see how they handle their followers to achieve high organizational performance in all kinds of situations. Also there is an important difference between the two theories. Situational Theory is more focused towards the behavior of the leader, depending upon the situations (often about follower behavior); whereas contingency theory talks about the bigger picture and it embraces group aspects about leader competence and other variables within the situation.

This model was purposed by Fiedler in (1964) and (1974). According to this model they have explained two categories of motivational oriented leaders i.e. one is the task-motivated leaders and second category is relationship- motivated leaders. Author described that whenever some unexpected situation occurs in an organization both types of leaders react or respond to the situation differently. Many researchers have worked on this model and proves that leaders with task-motivated orientation mostly perform effectively in all types of situations, whereas leaders which fall into the second category (relationship-motivated) perform best in situations in which their control and influence is moderate. They further elaborated that leader’s performance is l

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