History of Leadership Theory

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 22 September 2016

History of Leadership Theory

The history of leadership theory can assist managers in understanding where the schools of leadership thought have been, and where leadership will be going. The key objective of this paper is to critically compare and contrast the historical leadership model and theories across history. Across the history of leadership, there are similar and divergent strategies that have matched the influence of the market and people operating within the market (or industry). The essay examines the roles and strategy of historical leadership models as they converge or diverge with one another.

Roles are the expectations of leadership behaviour; this is the ideals in which the organization and employees hold to be important in a leader. Strategy can be defined, for the purposes of this paper, as the manner in which the leader assesses and organizes the tasks and requirements of the tasks and behaviours throughout the interactions and roles of the leader or manager. Theories of Leadership The following section explores the historical theories and implications of leadership as pre-classical, classical, modern and post-modern leadership models. Pre-Classical

The most prominent pre-classical models of leadership were in the early Greek history, where early scholars set the value-based ideals for centuries of leadership and management (Martinze and Bitici p 7 2006). Socrates established that “[the] management of private concerns differs from that of public concerns only inmagnitude … neither can be carried on without men … and those who understand how to employ [others] are successful directors of private and public concerns, and those who do not understand, will err in the management of both” (Wren p 18 2006).

This shows the early role of management was to understand the functional variances and magnitude of public concern, thus business was also a political landscape. In later Greek history, Aristotle added to the strategy spectrum of the manager as relating to the specialization of labor, functional roles of departments, choices between centralization and decentralization, the whole of the organization is superior to the part; and, “On leadership: ‘He who has never learned to obey cannot be a good commander’” (Wren p 18-192006).

Thus the roles of pre-classical era management are relative to the ability to navigate through a highly political economy and direct the organization to answering public and private concerns (Martinze and Bitici p 7 2006). The strategy of the pre-classical era was to recognize the steps involved in the entire scope of the organization based on functionality. This was an effective method of management in the pre-classical era, and can be considered in line with the ideal service industries of the time, such as bath houses, shoe and boot makers, weapons makers, and others.

Classical Adam Smith showed that the leadership strategy “treated the return or the surplus created as a return to capital” (Wren p 42 2006). After Smith, Jean Baptiste Say (1767–1832) stated that leadership strategy requires knowledge and judgement in “… the probable amount of the demand, and the means of its production: at one time he must employ a great number of hands; at another, buy or order the raw material, collect laborers, find consumers, and give at all times a rigid attention to order and economy; in a word, he must possess the art of superintendence and administration” (Wren p 42-43 2006).

Thus the leadership role in the classical era is defined as one that is highly dependent on the decision making process, and that the strategy incorporates demand, production, and consumption through the entire market-industry domain. During this era, human history was entering the industrial phase, where industry was overpopulating the market rather than the traditional farmer markets (Martinze and Bitici p 7 2006).

The classical model recognized the effectiveness of a leader as one who must focus on value-based decision makings when information is not whole, when the industry and foundation of the economy is changing, and be able to administrate in a changing economy (Martinze and Bitici p 7 2006) Modern Modern era leadership evolved through the industrial phase, prompted by technology and the early globalizing aspect of the value chain that existed during the post-WW2 era (Martinez and Bitici p 7 2006).

The role formulation of leadership in the modern era can be attributed to Jennings (196) who showed the modern era of management should encompass the situation, behaviour, and incorporate situation-based theory models. Jenning’s leader was emphatically described as a hero who “acts as though possessed by a destiny that requires his being the center of attention, and having arrived there, he never willingly retires from the center until he feels no longer needed” where the strategy “requires great stamina, self-reliance, and confidence” (Jennings p 96, 122, 1960).

Max Weber initialized the modern strategy of leadership as being: • A continuous organisation or functions bounded by rules (Enock p 6 2002) • That individuals functioned within the limits of the specialisation of the work (Enock p 6 2002) • The degree of authority allocated and the rules governing the exercise of Authority (Enock p 6 2002) • A hierarchical structure of offices appointment to offices made on the grounds of technical competence only (Enock p 6 2002) • The separation of officials from the ownership of the organisation (Enock p 6 2002) The authority was vested in the official positions and not in the personalities that held these posts (Enock p 6 2002) • Rules, decisions and actions were formulated and recorded in writing (Enock p 6 2002) The modern era leader’s role was to serve the organization, and the strategy employed was hierarchical, top-down management. This was adequate for its time, however, the bureaucratic model of organizational leadership did little to promote a value and knowledge based leadership era seen in other theories.

Post Modern The post-modern era of leadership is the current theories in place. Entrepreneurial leadership is a formal process that incorporates informal ideas. The leadership qualities are often determined by a number of forces, such as “The size of the organization, its predominant management styles, the complexity of its environment, its production process, its problems, and the purpose of its planning system all play a part in determining the appropriate degree of formality” (Pearce and Robinson p 13 2004).

The effective post-modern leadership strategy focuses on four key points, as outlined by Kouzes and Posner (2002): seize the initiative; make challenges meaningful; innovate and create; look outward for fresh ideas. A post-modern leader values entrepreneur ideals and seizes the initiative through enthusiasm, determination and desire (Kouzes and Posner p 170 2002). The leader wants to exhibit innovation by seeking new ways and new opportunities through invention and motivation. The concept of innovation requires that the leader be ready to focus on opportunities for ways to do what has never been done (Kouzes and Posner p 175 2002).

Conclusion The pre-classical era focused on the implementation of public and private beuaracracy into the leadership domain, where the ideals of the ‘whole’ and the ability to command were held in the higher regard as traditional utility. The value of the leader was therefore based on the ability to command and conquer. In later classical theories, the value of leadership changed to incorporate decision-making strategy and value distribution over commanding, but the similarity to pre-classical is the ability to conquer through administration.

The modern eras changed the role of a leader from the earlier theories by incorporating behaviour theory over command and conquer ideals. Weber’s leadership model parallels Aristotle’s, in that individual specialization and decision based decentralization better served the organization. The post-modern era of leadership incorporates elements from all the historical theories of leadership, but marks the importance of continuous improvement and constant appraisal, communication, and informalities.


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  • University/College: University of California

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 22 September 2016

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