Leadership Theory: History and Research


In the early Ohio State leadership study, we learn that effective leaders embodied a considerate character in their relations with their peers and subordinates; Always showed personal concern for their interpersonal relationships. The effective leader was also showing concern for the accomplishments of tasks and therefore came up with structures to be followed by subordinates as well as the leader and peers. The leader further coordinated activities among different subordinate. In the Michigan Leadership study, we learn that effective leaders demonstrated three particular traits lacking in other leaders.

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These are task-oriented behavior where the manager concentrated on tasks that ensure that subordinates are able to accomplish their tasks. These tasks include planning, technical assistance, or scheduling of equipment. Secondly, the effective leader displayed a relation-oriented behavior becoming more helpful to subordinates and showing appreciation as well as recognizing outstanding work by subordinates. Thirdly, the leaders showed a characteristic of participation such that supervision is undertaken as a group task, and the leader provides guidance for the group.

Leadership Theory

Questionnaires have been the most studied method used in research on effective leadership. Unfortunately, results from this method have provided two difficult problems of interpretation. The first is that behavior description questionnaires showed biases. They use ambiguous questions whose response is subject to the respondent’s interpretation of the question. Secondly, questionnaires are subjected to respondents who may show personal bias and respond in the same way on different questions so that answers reflect the wishes of the respondent instead of actual unbiased facts.

Apart from displaying bias errors, questionnaires suffered the interpreting causality when used in survey studies. This was caused by the difficulty in assigning the direction of causality when a significant correlation was found between leader behavior provided by subordinates and criterion measures.

Critical incident studies are research methods that use behavior response incidents collected using interviews or questionnaires to a large number of respondents. The approaches tell us that effective leaders show the behavior of planning, and coordination, supervising subordinates, creating and maintaining good relationships with their subordinates as well as superiors, peers, and outsiders. Lastly, they assume responsibility for decisions, following organization policies, and performing duties. The high-high theory of management states that effective leaders show a great concern for people as well as production.

However, an evaluation of research into the theory does not validate the theory. Instead, research finds out that effective leaders use a mix of the two without being great at both of them so that their behaviors simultaneously show concern for both people and tasks. The leader is able to reflect this by emphasizing how they behaved while interacting with subordinates rather than when they interacted.

Taxonomy behavior constructs provide a categorization of identified behavior that is relevant and meaningful to all leaders. This has allowed studies to produce the same sort of behavior categories, making it easy to integrate the studies’ results. Different taxonomies proposed by different theorists show a major difference because behavior categories are not tangible attributes of the real world, but they are abstractions. Secondly, the reason for the difference is that behavior construct can be created on different generalities. Such that same taxonomies contain a mix of constructs at different levels of abstraction, which results in further confusion.

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The method used in the development of the taxonomy is also responsible for the differences observed in taxonomies. When more than one method is used, the outstanding method becomes more important than the rest when selecting behavior categories. During the comparison of taxonomies, the difference becomes apparent as each uses a different number of behaviors, levels of abstraction, and range of behaviors.

Planning allows an effective manager to properly engage subordinates in accomplishing tasks. Clarifying roles and objectives forms the core of the initiating structure behavior of the manager, and monitoring operations and performance facilitates the effectiveness of other behaviors. Specific relations behaviors are important in demonstrating a concern for people. They are, namely, supporting, which results in less absenteeism as well as a reduction in other non-favorable behaviors of subordinates like alcoholism. Secondly, developing offers mutual cooperative relationships as it allows subordinates faster career advancement. Lastly, recognizing allows the manager to communicate using symbolism their values and priorities. Recognitions occur in the form of praise, awards, and recognition ceremonies.


To sum up, between the 1950s and mid-1980s, effective leadership research demonstrated a focus on two behaviors. In recent years, meta-categories have been embraced in research. Behavioral taxonomies have also served as descriptive aids for us to understand better complex events after analyzing them. To show consideration and concern for a person’s feelings, managers use supporting, developing, and recognition as relations-oriented behaviors.

On the other hand, to demonstrate task-oriented behavior, effective managers use planning, clarifying, and monitoring. Planning will involve decisions on objectives and their priorities while clarifying will include assigning tasks, and finally, monitoring will include getting feedback needed for evaluation. The findings of this chapter have been built on the description of a manager from the previous chapter and carry on to become specific on effective managers.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, April 18). Leadership Theory: History and Research. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/leadership-theory-history-and-research/

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"Leadership Theory: History and Research." StudyCorgi, 18 Apr. 2021, studycorgi.com/leadership-theory-history-and-research/.

1. StudyCorgi. "Leadership Theory: History and Research." April 18, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/leadership-theory-history-and-research/.


StudyCorgi. "Leadership Theory: History and Research." April 18, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/leadership-theory-history-and-research/.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "Leadership Theory: History and Research." April 18, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/leadership-theory-history-and-research/.


StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Leadership Theory: History and Research'. 18 April.

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