Research Theories of Management and Leadership

There are many different theories looking at management and leadership and how people in these roles work. Many of the early theories were based around the Trait theory or Great Man theories suggesting that people are born with a range of competencies or qualities that make them good managers. These traits would include such things as being confident, decisive, organized, trustworthy and having good people skills.

One of the early theories in the 1950s by Rensis Likert looked at 4 different styles based on the manner in which the person’s authority was exercised.

These were:

  1. Exploitative/ Authoritative
  2. Benevolent /Authoritative
  3. Consultative
  4. Participative

Likert suggested that the last two styles were more appropriate and effective, where the team was trusted and consulted with and punishment fear and disdain were not used as motivators. Likert also suggests that an ideal style of leadership is one where others views and opinions are taken into account. This leader would encourage team members to contribute and be involved in tasks and decisions and then the team will collaborate and not be competitive.

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I feel this idea doesn’t take into consideration any additional factors, such as external issues, the size of the group or the context in what tasks the group has to carry out or how the management was carried out. Also, even when views are considered and team members work collaboratively, they may still act in a competitive manner, wanting to be the one who completes the most work or being the first to complete a task.

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Reward and recognition can encourage positive competition to the benefit of the organization such as through employee of the month recognition or as my team through the introduction of “Star Charts” for any support that they go above and beyond with.

Another theory in the 1950s was that of the Tannebaum and Schmidt Continuum which looks at the relationship between the amount of autonomy or freedom that a manager gives to their team members and the level of authority that the manager themselves use. The theory was that the more freedom a team has the more the manager’s authority reduces. This could be positive for all involved as we all have responsibilities as managers to develop our team and the colleagues within it. I give my team the freedom to do this by delegating tasks and enabling members to make decisions for themselves. I always ensure that the colleague/s receive the praise or credit for those actions to make them feel valued and appreciated as this could have negative effects if I took this myself for their hard work. As the Manager, however, I am ultimately responsible so if it all goes wrong the blame should then fall on me and not the team in entirety. The negative effect that this theory can encounter is that the team may not be experienced or mature enough to cope with so much freedom or do not understand their roles and the tasks spiral out of control as the manager does not have a handle on the project.

John Adair approached management and leadership in a much simpler way and instead described what managers or leaders had to do and the actions they needed to take, more of a behavioral theory. He did this by creating three circles that were all intertwined with 3 core management responsibilities. These were: Task, Individual, and Team. He shared that the tasks need to be completed by groups as they are not always achievable by a single person, the team will be effective through development and retention of its members and the Individuals needs can be met through the salary, having a sense of purpose, receiving recognition and achievement. Adair’s ideas were seen as much more practical and had common sense than earlier theories and could be used for any manager, in any different environment. He introduced the idea that leadership can be learnt which differed to the previous ‘Great Man’ theories that we are born with leadership traits and these cannot be taught. Adair continued his works to include that leaders have eight main functions and these were:

  1. Defining the task
  2. Planning
  3. Briefing
  4. Controlling
  5. Evaluating
  6. Motivating
  7. Organising
  8. Setting an Example

Bruce Tuckman’s 1965 team development model basically looks at how teams develop from the start of a project to the end and he describes this as four stages, to which he added a fifth later down the line – Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing. This theory looks at the management or leadership style being able to change and develop as the team moves through each of the stages and not be a stagnant style that remains with the leader no matter what. The style would start off as being authoritative or giving the team clear direction as they are in the forming stage. This would be where the team are Forming and have lots of questions as they are unclear of their roles and objectives. The manager or leader then would progress to a more coaching approach as the team moves into the Storming phase, where they are unsure of making decisions and are vying for their position in the team. At this stage, cliques may be forming and although the clarity of the team’s purpose has increased there are power struggles between its members. The Manager then moves into the Participating stage as the team moves into the Norming phase. The team are making mutual decisions and agreements and responding well to the leader’s facilitation in this stage and their commitment is strong as they understand their roles and responsibilities. There will be general respect for the leader or manager at this point. (This is also similar to Situational Leadership as described by Hersey and Blanchard as the ‘participating’ mode).

Finally, as the team moves into the Performing stage, they know what they are doing, have a shared vision and work with a high degree of freedom. Disagreements may occur however they are dealt with between colleagues and they look after one another, possibly also going out together in more social environments. They may require delegated tasks at this stage but they will not require instruction or assistance so the manager can just oversee the tasks. (This is also similar to Situational Leadership as described in the ‘delegating’ mode).

In 1973 Tuckman added the fifth stage which was adjourning or otherwise known as Deforming and Mourning. It involves the break-up of the group when its purpose has been completed, with people moving on to do new things.

I agree with this theory as working in a less experienced team as a Manager I have taken on a more authoritative role to lead when there have been issues, yet as the team has become more experienced and clearer of the organization’s vision and their role within this vision, a participative role has worked well for me.

The Behavioural theory of management and leadership is based on beliefs that good leaders are made rather than born. It looks at how people can learn to become leaders and managers through teaching, learning, and observations. I believe that skills can be learned over time through continual development and experience. I believe this as I was a young manager who was very confident and had good people skills, however, I had no experience of dealing with difficult team members or families when they felt their loved ones had not been supported appropriately. I have had to adapt and change my skills with experience through time and each position I have held and learn from my mistakes through reflection. I have watched other managers and picked up skills and “tricks of the trade” and observed what doesn’t work and when things do. However, I have also been in the right place at the right time and been in positions where I have had the opportunity to learn from the right people. Had I have learned from some managers I may have developed some inappropriate skills and although I have leadership and management skills in the Health and Social Care sector, I have no experience or training to be a leader in other areas. Some of my skills will be transferable into other areas but not all of them.

With this in mind, I feel that Contingency theories such as suggested by Fiedler, are correct as they suggest that there is no one way of leadership and your team needs to be supported with many different styles and abilities within each situation.

James MacGregor Burns in 1978 wrote a book called “Leadership” where he described two theories on management and leadership, these being Transformational and Transactional leadership. He felt transforming leadership was where the manager inspired their employees and built on their confidence so everyone worked together for the same purposes. Bernard Bass in 1985 also believed this and in his book “Leadership and Performance beyond expectations” wrote about four underlying elements to this as being:

  1. Building trust
  2. Ability to inspire confidence and motivation
  3. Opportunity for stimulation and creativity
  4. Considering each team members needs

Burns’s theory on Transactional leadership was more than the manager solves an employee’s shorter-term needs to get a job done, so they give them something for something they want or don’t want to do. This may not necessarily be the moral way or linked to any clear vision or values e.g.: increase pay to get a task done, buy a cake to encourage people to work overtime or agree they don’t have to do a task they don’t want to if they help you with something else.

It is the case that both of these forms of leadership may be part of one leader and they can move between the two ways of working.

Goleman (1999) argues a main part of leadership is having emotional intelligence. He said it is “the capacity for recognizing our own feelings and those of others for motivating ourselves, for managing emotions well in ourselves as others”.

He identified 5 key areas as:

  1. Self-Awareness
  2. Self-Management
  3. Social Awareness
  4. Relationship Management
  5. Managing Conflict Motivation

Goleman also from his research discovered six leadership styles from these elements of emotional intelligence. These being:

  1. A Coercive Leader, who demands instant order within the team
  2. An Authoritative Leader, who pushes people towards their way of work and vision
  3. An Affiliative Leader who uses emotional attachments to create calm and harmony
  4. A Democratic leader who seeks agreement through participation and engagement
  5. A Pacesetting Leader who expects the best out of all colleagues and encourages independence
  6. A Coaching Leader who ensures colleagues are developing and enabled to deal with future issues

Later in 2006, Goleman developed an emotional model that linked with social intelligence also. He felt that being able to understand people and imagine how they may react in different situations, made it easier for leaders to manage people.

Henry Mintzberg (2009) disagrees with Goleman’s theories as he argues that it is not just a style of leader or manager but also the context of the situation that matters. He believed that those managers that are the most effective actually have a natural fit with the role they are in and the work that they are doing. He comments that particular styles may be influenced by both nature and nurture. From my experience, I would also believe this to be true as I have clearly been born with some traits that over time I have honed, through training and experience to enable me to be a good manager and leader. However, it is worth mentioning that although I have these skills, I would not feel able to be something or someone I am not. I consider I am an effective manager within the health and social care sector, in the environments I currently work in, yet, I would not be equipped to be as effective in other areas of work such as politics. Also, the roles I have are in high pressured, busy environments where I thrive so change the environment to a more informal and relaxed one may not gain the bests results from my work ethics and values.

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Research Theories of Management and Leadership. (2020, Nov 20). Retrieved from

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