The following paper outlines the comparison and contrast of four leadership models and theories. The purpose of this paper is to acquaint readers with the basic concepts underlying each model and theory. A review of the scholarly studies on leadership shows that there is a wide variety of different theoretical approaches to explain the complexities of the leadership process (e.g., Bass, 1990; Bryman, 1992; Gardner, 1990; Hickman 1998; Rost, 1991). Some researchers conceptualize as a trait, or as behavior, while others view leadership from a political perspective, or from a humanistic viewpoint.
The paper begins with a description of leadership trait theory, a theory that concerns itself solely with leader characteristics. Following this, two theories are reviewed. They are: transactional leadership and contingency approach to leadership. The paper concludes with a look at transformational leadership. Although these leadership theories or models could be considered contingency models, they are addressed separately because of the emphasis that they place on morality and follower development.
Trait TheoryIn the early 1900s, leadership traits were studied to determine what made certain people great leaders. The theories that were developed were called, "great man" theories because they focused on identifying the innate qualities and characteristics possessed by great social, political, and military leaders (e.g. Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Mohandas Gandhi). It was believed that people were born with these traits and only "great" people possessed them. During this time research concentrated on determining the specific traits that clearly differentiated leaders from followers (Bass, 1990; Jago, 1982). Although different researchers identified a variety of leadership traits and characteristics, it is generally thought that there are five major leadership traits: intelligence, self-confidence, determination, integrity, and sociability.
In the mid-1900s, the trait approach was challenged by research that questioned the universality of leadership traits. In a major review...