Competitive Exams: Leadership

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The success or failure of managers depends on their leadership qualities. They can be successful leaders by helping subordinates to find solutions to their problems. Managers are involved with bringing together resources, developing strategies, organizing and controlling activities in order to achieve objectives. At the same time managers, as leaders, have to select the goals and objectives of an organization, decide what is to be done and motivate people to do it. Thus, leadership is that function of management which is largely involved with establishing goals and motivating people to help achieve them. Leaders set goals and help subordinates find the right path to achieve these goals.

A person may be an effective manager-a good planner, and an organized administrator-but lack the motivational skills of a leader. Another may be an effective leader-skilled at inspiring enthusiasm and devotion-but lack the managerial skills to channel the energy he/she arouses in others. Given the challenges of dynamic engagement in today՚s business world, most organizations today are putting a premium on managers who also possess leadership skills.

Definition and Meaning of Leadership

Leadership is the use of non-coercive influence to shape the group or organization՚s goals, and motivate behavior towards the achievement of those goals.

It is a process in which one individual exerts influence over others.

Leadership involves other people-employees or followers-who by the degree of their willingness to accept direction, help to define the leader՚s status.

It involves authority and responsibility, in terms of deciding the way ahead and being held responsible for the success or failure in achieving the agreed objectives.

Leadership involves an unequal distribution of power between leaders and group members. Group members are not powerless; they can and do shape group activities in a number of ways. Still, the leader will usually have more power.

Key Elements of Leadership

It has been observed that every group that attains its goals or performs efficiently has a skilled leader. A leader՚s skill comprises of four major elements: (1) the ability to use power effectively and in a responsible manner (2) , the ability to understand the fact that people are motivated by different forces at different times and in different situations (3) , the ability to inspire and (4) the ability to behave in a manner that will develop a harmonious work culture.

Leadership Theories

Trait Theory of Leadership

According to this theory, leaders are born, not made. Many researchers have tried to identify the physical, mental, and personality traits of various leaders. Leaders do not possess all the traits mentioned in these theories, whereas many non-leaders possess many of them. Moreover, the trait approach does not give one an estimate of how much of any given trait a person should possess. Different studies do not agree about which traits are leadership traits, or how they are related to leadership behavior. Most of these traits are really patterns of behavior.

Behavioral Theories

When it became evident that effective leaders did not seem to have a particular set of distinguishing traits, researchers tried to study the behavioral aspects of effective leaders. In other words, rather than try to figure out who effective leaders are, researchers tried to determine what effective leaders do-how they delegate tasks, how they communicate with and try to motivate their followers or employees, how they carry out their tasks, and so on:

Situational or Contingency Theories

The use of the trait and behavioral approaches to leadership showed that effective leadership depended on many variables, such as organizational culture and the nature of tasks. No one trait was common to all effective leaders. No one style was effective in all situations. Researchers, therefore, began trying to identify those factors in each situation that influenced the effectiveness of a particular leadership style. They started looking at and studying different situations in the belief that leaders are the products of given situations. A large number of studies have been made on the premise that leadership is strongly affected by the situations in which the leader emerges, and in which he or she operates. Taken together, the theories resulting from this type of study constitute the contingency approach to leadership.

Situational or contingency approaches obviously are of great relevance to managerial theory and practice. They are important for practicing managers, who must consider the situation when they design an environment for performance. There are four popular situational theories of leadership: (1) Fiedler՚s contingency approach to leadership (2) The path-goal theory (3) , The Vroom-Yetton model and (4) Hersey and Blanchard՚s situational leadership model.

The contingency theories focus on the following factors.

  1. Task requirements
  2. Peers ′ expectations and behavior
  3. Organizational culture and policies

Path-Goal Theory

This theory was developed largely by Robert J. House and Terence R. Mitchell. The path-goal theory of leadership attempts to explain how a leader can help his subordinates to accomplish the goals of the organization by indicating the best path and removing obstacles to the goals.

The path-goal theory indicates that effective leadership is dependent on, firstly, clearly defining, for subordinates, the paths to goal attainment; and, secondly, the degree to which the leader is able to improve the chances that the subordinates will achieve their goals. In other words, the path-goal theory suggests that the leaders should set clear and specific goals for subordinates. They should help the subordinates find the best way of doing things and remove the impediments that hinder them from realizing the set goals.