Leadership Studies


# Select two leadership theories discussed in this course, and give a brief summary of the findings in your research. (TTRAIT LEADERSHIP THEORY AND SITUATIONAL LEADERSHIP THEORY)
#Provide a critical analysis of scholarly works on this theory (use at least 3–5 scholarly works).
# Identify conflicts or criticism of the theories found in your work.
#Determine if there are gaps in the literature, and propose the potential for further scholarly research topics.
# Compare and contrast different perspectives on the theories.
#Summarize your own perspective on the theories. 


Use APA format for your literature review.


Critical Review of Leadership Theories

  1. Select two leadership theories discussed in this course, and give a brief summary of the findings in your research (trait leadership theory and situational leadership theory)

The trait leadership theory focuses on the personality attributes that are believed to be closely related to a person’s effectiveness as a leader. Some of the personality traits associated with leadership effectiveness in this theory include physical vitality, task competence, emotional intelligence, need for achievement, self-confidence, assertiveness, flexibility, courage, and readiness to accept responsibility.


On the other hand, situational leadership theory is based on the view that the effectiveness of a leader is contingent on the extent to which he is able to modify his behavior to suit the level of maturity and sophistication exhibited by subordinates. This theory states that an effective leader must come up with different mixes of the directive and supportive behavior, leading to four leadership behaviors: telling, selling, participating, and delegating behaviors. Telling behavior is characterized by low supportive behavior and high directive behavior while selling behavior involves high supportive behavior and high directive behavior. Participating behavior involves high supportive behavior and low directive behavior while delegating leadership entails both low supportive and low directive behavior.

  • Provide a critical analysis of scholarly works on this theory

Trait theory provides crucial insights into leadership qualities that top management teams should look for when setting out to mentor a new breed of leaders within an organization. However, the theory has its fair share of weaknesses. To begin with, the theory has no clear hypothesis, which makes it look poorly articulated (Zaccaro, 2007). For instance, there is no consensus on the number of personality traits that effective leaders should possess. Moreover, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between those personality traits that are possessed by leaders and the ones that are possessed by followers. This point is well captured by Lussier&Achua (2013), who argue that although many leadership traits have been identified in trait theory, all of them have exceptions. In other words, most of the leadership-related personality traits are shared by both leaders and followers, something that greatly weakens the validity of the theory.

The situational leadership theory is equally important for an organization. It offers guidelines on the various ways in which a manager should assess his situation and adapt his style of leadership accordingly. According to Silverthorne& Wang (2001), companies whose managers employ situational leadership tend to achieve more success than those whose managers do not use the theory. However, there are several negative aspects of the theory that leaders should know. One negative side of the theory is that it can easily promote behavioral inconsistency among leaders. This occurs whenever a leader unsuccessfully tries to alter his personality in order to adapt to different situations. Behavioral inconsistency brings confusion among followers who may know what to expect from their leader from time to time.

  • Identify conflicts or criticism of the theories found in your work

In my work, trait theory is seen to pose a conflict in the sense that it is difficult to measure and comprehend personality traits. Followers are likely to refuse to offer any respect to a leader within who they feel they share the same personality traits. Such followers may feel disgruntled by the thought that they have everything it takes to become leaders yet no one has recognized and rewarded those abilities. Conversely, the theory easily encourages leaders to entertain the thought that leadership is theirs by right. This is because the theory emphasizes that many of the personality traits that make great leaders are an integral part of the leaders’ genetic makeup.

One major criticism of situational leadership theory that is evident in my work is that the method is sometimes considered a management technique and not an actual style of leadership (Graeff, 1997). This is simply because it focuses on a short-range view of the organization and its objectives. Leadership should be about nurturing a long-range view of the vision that the organization seeks to actualize. The theory fails to take cognizance of the fact that followers are always changing in terms of knowledge, maturity, intelligence, experience, level of commitment, and loyalty to the organization. Those followers who are inexperienced and unmotivated today will soon become highly experienced, skilled, intelligent, and motivated members of the organization. A leader who relies on situational leadership is likely to face numerous challenges in efforts to convince such a follower why he has switched from telling to delegating behavior. Such a follower may get the impression that the situational leader is after all not a leader but a manager who likes to dispense with short-term challenges instead of having his sights persistently trained on long-range organizational planning.

  • Determine if there are gaps in the literature, and propose the potential for further scholarly research topics

There is a gap in the literature on trait leadership theory. The theory states that people with certain personality traits, acquired through genetic makeup, will make more effective leaders (DeRue, Nahrgang, Wellman, Humphrey, 2011). At the same time, the theory entertains the idea that leadership abilities can be acquired through behavioral training, although this is a difficult endeavor(DeRue, Nahrgang, Wellman, Humphrey, 2011). Thus, the theory is not clear on whether leadership is about personality traits, behavior, or both. Future research topics on trait theory should provide an answer to the question of whether it is possible to find a leader who is effective solely by virtue personality trait (genetic makeup) and another who is effective solely by virtue of training (behavioral change).


Regarding situational leadership, gaps in literature manifest themselves on the issues of continuity, conformity, and consistency (McCleskey, 2014). Future research topics need to offer solutions on how a leader can use the situational leadership method and still maintain consistency in the way he projects his personality and behavior towards followers. The research topics must also address various conceptual ambiguities and contradictions associated with the theory.

  • Compare and contrast different perspectives on the theories

In trait theory researchers are preoccupied with the personality traits of the leader while in situational leadership theory, they are preoccupied with the behavioral characteristics of followers. Trait theories outline the personality traits that can lead to leadership effectiveness while situational leadership theory calls upon leaders to keep changing their behavior towards followers depending on the prevailing situation. However, both theories are similar in the sense that they examine various ways of influencing the actions of followers with the objective of achieving leadership effectiveness.

  • Summary of my own perspective on the theories

Trait leadership theory can be an effective tool for enabling company founders and top executives to identify those middle-level managers and supervisors that they can nurture and mentor to become future organizational leaders. On the other hand, situational leadership theory should be applied by novice leaders who want a simplistic guide on how to handle different groups. The theory may be less applicable in situations where experienced leaders are routinely faced with the challenges of task complexity and time constraints.


DeRue, D., Nahrgang, J., Wellman, N. Humphrey, E. (2011). Trait and behavioral theories of leadership: An integration and meta-analytic test of their relative validity. Personnel Psychology, 3, 118-127.

Graeff, C. (1997). Evolution of Situational Leadership Theory: A Critical Review. Leadership Quarterly, 8(2), 153-170.

Lussier, R. &Achua, C. (2013). Leadership: Theory, Application, & Skill Development. Mason, OH: Cengage Learning.

McCleskey, J. (2014). Situational, Transformational, and Transactional Leadership and Leadership Development. Journal of Business Studies Quarterly,5(4), 117-130.

Silverthorne, C. & Wang, T. (2001). Situational Leadership Style as a Predictor of Success and Productivity among Taiwanese Business Organizations. The Journal of Psychology: Interdisciplinary and Applied, 135(4), 399-412.

Zaccaro, S. (2007). Trait-based perspectives of leadership.American Psychologist,62(1), 6-16.

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