Thinking Like a Leader
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Assignment 1: Discussion
In this assignment, you will review the Thinking Like a Leader video, then develop a written description of a leader whom you feel represents exemplary leadership. The video will introduce the concept of how an effective leader thinks in the organizational environment. Upon completion of the video, select a leader you admire, either someone famous or someone you have observed in a prior work environment. Be sure to consider the leadership thinking that is discussed in the video to aid you in selecting the best leader for this assignment.
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Please review the video titled, Thinking Like a Leader before you begin this assignment.
Based on the video and your research, in a minimum of 400 words, respond to the following points:
- What is meant by “thinking like a leader”? How do leaders think?
- Identify and evaluate a leader who displays exemplary leadership skills. How does this leader think? Why did you choose this leader?
- In your opinion, what makes this leader successful? Provide examples of his or her success.
By the due date assigned, post your response to the appropriate Discussion Area. Through the end of the module, review and comment on at least two peers’ responses.
Write your initial response in 300–500 words. Your response should be thorough and address all components of the discussion question in detail,
Module 4 Overview
This module explores the Contingency and the Path-Goal theories of leadership. It will help you choose the most effective and applicable leadership theory for your work situations.
According to the Contingency Theory of leadership, leadership effectiveness depends on the compatibility between the leaders’ style and environment. According to the Path-Goal Theory of leadership, leaders show their followers available rewards or goals and a path to attain those rewards or goals. The Path-Goal Theory argues that leaders work by clarifying their followers’ goals for them. This enhances the followers’ psychological state, increasing their efforts to perform and consequently increasing their job satisfaction upon accomplishment of goals.
The Contingency Theory of leadership emphasizes the need to place individuals in the situations to which they are best suited. According to this theory, leadership is a social exchange between a leader and followers. For the exchange to be fair, the leader should provide followers with a sense of direction, values, and recognition, and in return receive esteem and responsiveness. The effectiveness of task-oriented and relations-oriented leaders is contingent on the demands of the situation.
In 1958, Joan Woodward, a noted researcher in the field of organization and management studies, suggested that organizational characteristics (control, centralization of authority, and creation of rules and procedures) were contingent upon the environmental factor of technology. Earlier theories such as Weber’s Bureaucracy Theory and Taylor’s Scientific Management Theory had failed to consider the influence of environment on management style and organizational structure. Joan Woodward’s research was the basis of the Contingency Theory, which was created in the late 1960s, to produce broad generalities about structures and technologies and to address the failure of earlier leadership theories. In 1967, Fred Fielder, a researcher who studied leaders’ traits and personal characteristics, leadership styles, and behaviors, developed a model of the Contingency Theory that built on Woodward’s work and focused on industrial and organizational psychology. Although in the 1970s, researchers such as Paul Lawrence, Jay Lorsch, and James Thompson developed other models of the Contingency Theory and showed the impact of contingency factors on organizational structure, leaders continue to use Fielder’s model of the Contingency Theory even today.
Contingency Theory—Task versus Relations
Fred Fiedler noted that the effectiveness of task-oriented and relations-oriented leaders depends on the demands of a situation. However, a task-oriented leader will be effective in any given situation, whereas the relations-oriented leader may not be able to do so. According to Fielder, to be successful, a leader needs to be placed in a favorable situation that is in alignment with his or her skills. A situation is favorable if the team respects the leader, if the leader has authority and power over the team, and if the task to be accomplished is structured, clear, simple, and easy to solve.
The Contingency Theory can be used to create leadership-training programs as it is predictive and provides information about the leadership style that will best suit a situation. Organizations can identify the typical situations they are likely to face, and create leadership training to tackle those situations. You can use it to identify a leader’s leadership style, analyze and classify favorable leadership situations, or even suggest a change in style or situation to match a leader.
Most other person-situation theories differ from the Contingency Theory in that they focus on developing a person and adapting to the needs of a relationship-situation. The advantage of the Contingency Theory is that it identifies key determinants of leader effectiveness. Ideally, the Contingency Theory can create opportunities to appraise situations by taking into consideration the factors on which the situation is contingent. This helps leaders make better decisions by altering situations to match their strengths.
Opponents of the Contingency Theory argue that it is inflexible and does not offer solutions to leadership issues other than by replacing a leader. Additionally, opponents say the Contingency Theory fails to identify how leaders can most effectively use their intellectual resources, skills, and knowledge. Finally, the theory counterintuitively does not support the notion that smarter, more experienced leaders perform better.
The Path-Goal Theory historically draws from political science and sociology. Originally developed by Robert House (1971), the Path-Goal Theory argues that a leader is responsible for setting goals or rewards for a group and for fulfilling subordinates’ needs by clearing the path to attain group goals. Unlike the Contingency models, the Path-Goal Theory emphasizes the importance of environmental variables and their impact on a leader’s behavior. Evans and House developed the Path-Goal Theory to show that leadership styles need to be flexible, and that leaders can adapt to their situational demands.
According to the Path-Goal Theory, individual situations determine the type of behavior required to achieve path-goals. A leader must keep in mind that path-goals may be contingent upon task or environmental variables, and individual differences, preferences, expectations, and personalities.
The Path-Goal Theory suggests that a leader can affect the performance, satisfaction, and motivation of a group by offering rewards for achieving performance goals, clarifying paths toward those goals, and removing obstacles to performance. However, whether leadership behavior can do these things effectively also depends on situational factors. House defines the following four leadership styles for different situations:
- Directive Leadership: In this leadership style, the leader gives specific performance guidance to subordinates.
- Supportive Leadership: In this leadership style, the leader is friendly and shows concern for subordinates.
- Participative Leadership: In this leadership style, the leader consults with subordinates and considers their suggestions.
- Achievement-Oriented Leadership: In this leadership style, the leader sets high goals and expects subordinates to have high-level performance.
Path-Goal Theory—Situational Factors
Subordinate personality and environmental characteristics are the two situational factors that determine the applicability of Robert House’s four leadership styles that you examined earlier. Participative leadership is suitable for subordinates with internal locus of control, whereas directive leadership is suitable for subordinates with external locus of control. In a directive leadership style, the leader organizes and defines the task environment and provides a high degree of direction to worker activities.
Subordinates who perceive themselves as having high ability do not respond to directive leadership. Leaders should also be aware that when working on a task that has a high structure, directive leadership is redundant and less effective. Similarly, in a highly formal authority system, directive leadership can reduce workers’ satisfaction. Leaders need to be very careful when using the achievement-oriented leadership style, as it may become too demanding on the subordinates and they may lose their motivation to work if goals seem unattainable.
A supportive leadership style allows leaders to create an environment of psychological support, trust, respect, and camaraderie. When subordinates are already in a team environment that offers great social support, the supportive leadership style becomes less necessary. Leaders with the supportive leadership style consider other participants’ needs, recognize others’ accomplishments, concern themselves with the welfare of others, share common interests, and cultivate a team climate. The supportive and directive leadership styles both show how the Path-Goal Theory focuses on incentives and directives.
The advantage of the Path-Goal Theory is that it allows the leader to adopt a leadership style based on the situational demands. In this theory, the manager or leader is viewed as a coach or guide for subordinates. It identifies directive, participative, supportive, and achievement-oriented leadership styles that are applicable in situations where the follower has an ambiguous job, uses improper procedures, makes poor decisions, or lacks confidence.
Contingency versus Path Goal Theory
While both the Contingency and Path-Goal theories take into consideration organizational environment, the Path-Goal Theory goes a step ahead and establishes additional incentives and directions to achieving a goal.
According to the Contingency Theory, an organization needs to deal with different situations in different ways. Therefore, each situation demands a different management style that may not work in another situation. Effective leadership depends on the relationship between an organization’s internal functions and environmental demands. The Contingency Theory incorporates a firm understanding that since environments change regularly, a leader needs to study the external environment in order to determine proper leadership strategies.
Fred Fiedler introduced stress as a conditional variable, showing that stress did have a correlation to leadership. He showed that leaders make decisions based on experience when stress levels are high and make decisions based on intelligence when stress levels are low. In organizations where there is frequent reengineering and a lot of pressure, stress levels will increase and leadership will require greater experience. However, in accordance with the Contingency Theory, research has produced little literature that shows a relationship between intelligence and leadership, or even experience and leadership. As a result, the theory suggests that new environments require leaders to have little experience to have effective decision-making abilities.
The recent model of the Path-Goal Theory focuses on cross-cultural management that is developed from having international contingencies. This model suggests that leadership style depends upon divergent cultural settings. Regardless, the focus of the Path-Goal Theory is that certain tasks need to be performed if organizationally desirable results are to be attained. Notably, there has been little affirmative opposition to the Path-Goal Theory, which leaves liberal freedom to additional research and exploration.
Module 4 Summary
In this module, you examined and compared the key aspects of the Contingency and Path-Goal theories of leadership. This provided you with an opportunity to think strategically and comprehensively about leadership. It also helped you analyze how leadership skills impact vision, organizational effectiveness, and strategy.
Here are the key points you covered in this module:
- The Contingency Theory emphasizes the need to place individuals in situations where they are well suited and views leadership as a social exchange between the leader and the followers. Fielder’s model of the Contingency Theory postulates that to be successful, a leader needs to be placed in a favorable situation that is in alignment with the leader’s skills.
- The advantage of the Contingency Theory is that it creates opportunities for leaders to take into consideration the factors on which a situation is contingent and make better decisions by altering leadership situations to match their strengths. The drawback of this theory is that it is not flexible and requires a leader to be replaced if there is a mismatch between the leader and the situation.
- Path-goal Theory argues that a leader is responsible for setting goals for the group and clearing the path toward group goals by fulfilling the needs of subordinates. It identifies four leadership styles that leaders can use: directive, supportive, participative, and achievement-oriented.
- The advantage of the Path-Goal Theory is that it is flexible, and allows leaders to adapt to their situational demands. There has been little opposition to this theory and no specific drawbacks have been identified.