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Leadership Theories

Leadership behavior has been a subject of discussion for long time now. All leaders have two things in common, viz. a goal to achieve and followers. A plethora of leadership theories are available pertaining to how the leader balances task (goal) with the human factor (followers).

There are two theories that I particularly like, the first of which was developed by Robert Blake and Jane Mouton. They developed the leadership grid based on two behavioral dimensions, i.e. concern for people and concern for production. This model identifies five distinct leadership styles, the most ideal being team leadership, where concern for production is high and concern for people is also high.

These leaders stress production needs and the needs of the people equally highly. The premise here is that employees are involved in understanding organizational purpose and determining production needs. This creates a team environment based on trust and respect, which leads to high satisfaction and motivation and, as a result, high production.

The second theory is the situational leadership theory created by Dr Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard. This theory states that instead of using just one style, successful leaders should change their leadership styles based on the maturity of the people they’re leading and the details of the task.

While these theories hold good in their own stead, there is certainly a third dimension which seems to be missing, which I firmly believe has to be put right ahead of people and task. Ironically, that is the only thing that we have absolute control over, but seldom do we rightly focus in this direction. Yes it is the ‘self’. A true leader will have his house in order first and then focus outside, therefore the order being the self, then people (relationships) and finally the task. An approach, that is gaining popularity, as the ‘inside-out’ approach.

Begin with the self: External pressures will mount and demands will go up. With the passing of time, responsibilities only increase, and it is a one way road. So, is the leader equipped to move ahead steadfastly and is he the one that others can trust? Is he reliable, disciplined, mature, truthful, empathetic, and to sum it, is he emotionally intelligent? Is he congruent, i.e. is there synchronicity between his thoughts, words and actions? People who are biased, hypocrites, weak minded, vested in interests, emotionally erratic and incongruent cannot inspire others, and would not have appropriate goals. Some of the best leaders are self aware and work rigorously on themselves before marching out into the world to achieve! No wonder, come to think of it, we are called human beings and not human doings. So, let each of us ask ourselves this one question, am I working on myself enough?