Studies conducted by various authors as listed above, outline the main characteristics of leaders. The following traits are deemed to be the most important ones for an individual to possess to be perceived as a leader according to the trait approach (Northouse, 2016). These traits are intelligence, integrity, self-confidence, determination, and sociability (Northouse, 2016). These traits are perceived as inherent and in general fixed (Northouse, 2016). This means that a leader cannot easily acquires these traits through training or education. The trait perspective seeks to identify a set of abilities, values, personality traits and other characteristics that make the leader successful. These traits according to Williams (2006) refer to the following qualities, namely, intelligence, honesty, integrity, self-confidence, determination, integrity and sociability.
The skill approach in contrast to the trait approach focuses on the skills and abilities of the leader (Northouse, 2016). These skills and capabilities can be acquired or enhanced through training and development. This is based on behaviour theory. Singh (2015) states that people are not born leaders and that leadership skills can be acquired by training. According to Katz (2009) the behaviour approach to leadership was fundamentally studied from the perspective of the development of skills instead of inherent skills as in the trait approach. These three skills (Katz, 2009) are technical, human and conceptual skills. Technical skills refer to a specific expertise or aptitude in a specific type of work. These include the proficiencies, analytical capability and the skill to use appropriate tools and techniques. These technical skills are very important when one want to be accepted as a leader in an industry like engineering. Human skills are skills a leader needs in order to work with team members, peers and superiors to achieve the goals of the organisation. These human skills are crucial in any situation where leadership is required. The ability to work with ideas is essential to create an organisation’s visions and to develop strategies to achieve the vision, and this is referred to as conceptual skills. These are of utmost importance for top leaders like a CEO.
In contrast, the style approach emphasises the behaviour of leaders. This refers to what leaders do, how they do it and the actions of the leader regarding the task and the relationship with their team members (Northouse, 2016). The most popular studies on the style approach were conducted at the Ohio State University in 1964, University of Michigan in 1978 and by Blake and Mouton in 1985. The approach can be used in most organisations, because it focuses on the task and the relationship of the leader with the team members (Northouse, 2016). This theory of leadership is based on the contingency model (Hellriegel, Jackson ; Slocum, 2005). According to Williams (2006) leaders should adjust their leadership style to the preparedness of their team members. Preparedness in this context refers to the ability and willingness of the team members to take responsibility. Two types of preparedness of team members are the people orientated/ relations orientated/ supportive style and the task-orientated style. This style of leadership is more concerned with the organising, supporting and the development of team members (Northouse, 2016). The advantage of this style of leadership is that it encourages teamwork and creative collaboration. The disadvantage is that the successful completion of the task becomes secondary (Williams, 2006). The task-orientated leadership style of leadership is totally the opposite of the people-orientated style. This type of leader is task-orientated, focuses only on getting the task completed, and ignores the well-being of the team members (Williams, 2006). These type of leaders put structures in place, plan, organise and control to get the task done. Such task-orientated leaders can suffer from difficulties in motivating and retaining their staff. The consequences are high staff turnover and a demotivated workforce.
2.5.2 Leadership from the perspective of the team members
The following leadership theories examine leadership from the viewpoint of the team members and the situation where leadership is needed. This section briefly distinguishes between the following three leadership approach theories (Northouse, 2016) namely situational, contingency and path-goal.
Hersey and Blanchard originally developed the situational approach during the 1960s. This approach assumes that leadership behaviour changes along with the situation the leader comes across (Northouse, 2016). Northouse (2016) claims that leadership is a combination of both command and compassion and that each element has to be applied appropriately in a given situation. In essence, this approach requires that leaders match their style to the commitment and competencies of their followers. Singh (2015) asserts that situational leadership is the consequence of the situation. He further states that an effective leader evaluates a situation critically and uses a leadership style that is suitable for the situation, is flexible and has the ability to influence and change a situation. These capabilities are of utmost importance for leaders of organisations owing to the dynamic environments in which leaders operate.
As a leader-match theory, the contingency theory, tries to match the leader to appropriate situations. This theory is based on Fiedler and Garcia’s work in the 1960s and 1980s (Northouse, 2016). This theory was developed by the study of organisations, primarily in military organisations. The leaders were studied by Fiedler and his team by observing the leaders’ leadership styles, the situations in which they work and whether these leaders were effective (Northouse, 2016). Northouse (2016) further comments by scrutinising the styles of leadership as displayed by leaders they could determine which leadership style were good and which styles of leadership were bad for a specified situation. Fiedler (1964) and his team were able to make empirically grounded generalisations of leadership styles in organisations.
In contrast the path-goal theory is based on the works of Evans and other scholars such as House and House and Dessler in the 1970s (Northouse, 2016). Williams (2006) states that path-goal leadership behaviour theory emphasises the team members’ satisfaction and performances at work are achieved by clarifying the paths to goals and the types and numbers of rewards available when goals are achieved. The main goal in this type of leadership approach is employee motivation. Williams (2006) distinguished between four leadership styles that are path-goal orientated. The first type is the directive leadership style which applies when clear consistent guidelines are set for completion of tasks, performances and standards. This type of leader ensures that team members follow set procedures. Participative leadership, as the second type, is when the final decisions rests with the leader. The leader, however, invites team members’ to make contributions. This involvement of team members not only increases job satisfaction, but it also helps to develop people’s skills. This style of leadership ensures that team members’ work effectively because their inputs are considered important (Pride, Hughes ; Kapoor, 2012). Team members feel in control of their own destiny, so they are motivated to work hard by more than just a financial reward. Williams (2006) also maintains that the advantage of this style of leadership is that team members, because of their participation in decisions, are more dedicated. One of the drawbacks of this leadership style is that input of the team members can take time, which may lead to the situation where final decisions taking longer because of the various channels and inputs that are required for this style. Another drawback may be that those team members whose input is not considered, may feel left out. The overall advantage of this style is that the final decision is more acceptable to all stakeholders, because they were involved in the decision-making process. The style is most suitable when working as a team is essential, and when quality is more important than speed for delivery or productivity (Williams, 2006).
2.5.3 Leadership from the perspective of the leader and the situation
This approach of leadership is a leader-match theory meaning the effectiveness of the leader to lead depends on how well the leader’s style matches the situation where leadership is provided (Northouse, 2016). The contingency approach was developed by the pioneer researchers Fiedler (1964), Fiedler & Chemers (1974) and Fiedler & Garcia (1987). Singh (2015) states that the contingency approach assumes that the ability of a leader to lead depends on situational factors such as the leader’s preferred leadership style, abilities and engagement of the team members. A leader with these abilities can effectively lead today’s organisational diverse workforce which consists of people with different skills, experiences, capabilities and personalities (Northouse, 2016).
All the three theories agree that the way leaders behave towards their followers depends on the situation (Northouse, 2016). However, the only difference between the three theories is that Fiedler’s contingency theory assumes that leadership style is resistant to change, while the other two theories state that leaders are capable of adapting according to the situation (Williams, 2006).
2.5.4 Leadership from the perspective of the leader and the team members
The Leader-Member exchange theory (LMX) considers leadership from the perspective of relationships between the leader and the team members. The previous approaches and theories are based on how the leaders act towards their followers. The LMX theory was developed through two perspectives, namely the vertical dyad linkage (VDL) and the leader-member exchange (LMX). The VDL theory stipulates that leaders practise vertical relationships with each team member. They found that this perpendicular relationship is built on expanded and negotiated roles and responsibilities. These negotiated roles and responsibilities are referred to as the people in-group and a staff member with a formal employment contract (defined responsibilities) is referred to as the out-group. The group in which team members are classified depends on how well they work with the leader and how well the leader cooperates with them. Danseraue, Graen and Hage (1975) state that personality and other personal characteristics are attributes that determine whether a team member is part of the in-group or the out-group. If a team member is part of the out-group he/she can negotiate with the leader to do more than his/her formal job description and thus becomes part of the in-group which in return will mean that the leader will offer more rewards to that team member. Team members in the in-group will receive more information, confidence and more concern from their leader. Also the team members in the in-group will receive more desirable tasks, more attention and support from the leader, greater participation and better career progress over the years (Graen ; Uhl Bien, 1995). The LMX theory shifts the focus area of the VDL theory. While the VDL theory focuses predominantly on the nature of the difference between the in-group and the out-group the LMX focuses on the positive effect of the relationship for the leader, team members, the team and the organisation at large. This focus shift of the LMX theory, assuming a high quality relationship, reduce staff turnover, brings about more positive performance evaluation, and higher possibilities of promotion, better job attitudes, and greater organisational commitment (Graen ; Uhl Bien, 1995). To ensure this the leader should establish a special relationship with each team member and avoid favouritism among team members.
2.5.5 New leadership paradigms
This new leadership paradigm approach has been the focus area of leadership since the 1980s (Northouse, 2016). This leadership paradigm shift can be attributed to the admission of the generation Y, people born in the 1980s and 1990s, to the labour market and globalisation (Northouse, 2016). Burgoyne, Beech and Roe (2013) argue that a need for ethical, spiritual and authentic leadership approaches came to the forefront because of economic conditions during the global recession starting in 2008. Northouse (2016) asserts that the five approaches were developed owing to the demand for a paradigm shift to cope with the new demands from leadership. These five approaches are the psychodynamic approach, servant leadership approach, authentic leadership approach, culture leadership approach, and transformational leadership approach (Northouse, 2016).
The psychodynamic approach has its roots in the work of Sigmund Freud in the late 1930s. This approach looks at different ways of impose of leadership. The most outstanding principle that underlines this approach is personality (Northouse, 2016). Personality refers to the consistent pattern of ways of thinking, feeling and acting with regards to the environment, including people. Two underlying assumptions of this approach are that personality characteristics of individuals are difficult to change and that team members have motives and hidden feelings. This means it is important that one should understand that team members and the leaders are different people with different skills and competencies who should work together to achieve the goals of the group/team or organisation. Effective leaders should realise that this approach is based on self-awareness and to understand the style and behaviour of followers (Northouse, 2016).
The servant leadership approach is based on the writings of Robert K Greenleaf in the 1970s. This leadership approach is appropriate when team members or society experience inequalities and social injustice in the workplace or society. The servant leadership approach focuses on leaders and their behaviour (Northouse, 2016). Perry and Wise (1990) define servant leadership as when a leader is motivated by a concern for the wellbeing of others rather than by self-interest based on personal gain. The personal gain can be financial or non-quantitative. Non-quantitative gains can include prestige of the position and self-interest. Northouse (2016) concurs with Perry and Wise (1990) and state that a servant leader is sensitive to the anxieties of their team, has empathy with his/her team members and cherishes them. This approach stresses that leaders should be focused on the concerns of their team members, identify with and support them. This type of leader puts his/her team members first and develops them to reach their maximum personal potential. Servant leaders are ethical and this can advance their team members, their organisation and society. Servant leaders prioritise the wellbeing and improvement of the emotional healing of their followers, behave ethically, help team members to grow and succeed, empower their team members and create value for the community (Liden, Pannacio, Meuser, Hu ; Wayne (2014).
One of the major criticisms, according to Northouse (2016) and this study is the name of the approach, because the name servant leadership distracts one from the real value of this type of leadership. This is because it perceives the leader as a follower which is contradictory to the idea of leading. Some scholars’ regard servant leadership as a trait of a leader, but this study agrees with Northouse (2016) that servant leadership is a behaviour. Perry and Wise (1990) distinguish between two types of leadership namely descriptive and normative public services leadership. According to Perry and Wise (1990) the normative public service motivation is a desire to serve public interest, loyalty to duty, government at large and social equity. An example is a staff member or manager that is chosen to represent other staff members at disciplinary hearings and to represent employees at union level. On the other hand, descriptive public service motivation is defined as an individual’s tendency to react to motives grounded mainly or exclusively in public institutions (Perry ; Wise 1990).