Psychology Campus
Forensic & Criminal



     Leadership is the ability to inspire confidence and support among people in a group that need to use competence and commitment in order to perform some task. A leader is someone who has the ability to influence a group toward the achievement of certain goals. Obviously, having effective leaders in any organization or group is key to the success of that group. When defining a leader, there are several ways to look at them and why they seem to take the role of leader so well.

1) Trait Theories:
     There are theories that posit that certain character traits of individuals make them leaders. These could be personality, social, physical or intellectual traits. For example - a leader may exhibit ambition and energy, a desire to lead, honesty, integrity, self-confidence, intelligence and job-relevant knowledge. As well, these theories posit that there are certain skills and abilities that are related to a leader's effectiveness. For example the following are all skills and abilities that are seen in effective leaders:

* technical skills,
* conceptual skills,
* interpersonal skills,
* analytical ability,
* persuasiveness,
* speaking abilities,
* memory for details and empathy,
* tact and charm

2) Orientation Theories:
     Some theories posit that difference in leader performances can be explained by the extent to which the leader is a "task" oriented person or a "person" oriented person. Task oriented leaders manage and lead by instruction and use goal setting as a technique. They are more focused on the task at hand. A more person-oriented leader show concern for their subordinates and are warm and supportive. A leader that is more high in person orientation will experience low performance from their employees. However, they will have less turnover and less grievances (complaints) from their workers. A person who is higher in task ordination will have high performance but also high turnover and high grievances. The best leader is both high in person orientation and in task orientation. Leaders who are high in both of these will experience high performance from their employees as well as low rates of turnover and low amounts of grievance - as the employees like how they are treated and are motivated to do well.

3) Transaction vs. Transformation Theories:
     This theory posits that the technique that a person uses makes them a good leader. A transactional leader uses rewards that are based on achievement, they act more as a manager than a leader and they assign responsibilities to people. A transformational leader uses charisma and inspiration to motivate employees and is intellectually stimulating and considerate of the individuals in their group. This sort of theory really draws a clear defining line between the difference in a manager and a leader. A leader is described as a visionary, as passionate, creative, inspiring and independent, whereas a manager is more rational, consulting, structured, authoritative and a stabilizing presence in the workplace.

4) Power Theories:
     This theory posits that a leader is so because of a certain power that they hold. There are 5 types of powers that leaders can possess. Expert power is when the leader has knowledge that others need, and others know that they have this knowledge. Legitimate power is when a leader has power by virtue of their position in a hierarchical structure - i.e., supervisor and subordinate. Reward power comes from a leaders power to control rewards, such as salary, bonuses, promotion and praise. Coercive power is the power to punish people and the willingness to use that power. Finally, referent power is when others like you and want you to like them.

Why Leaders Fail:
     There are some reasons why leaders fail. Perhaps they had no leadership training, or they are not smart enough or do not have the knowledge that was required. Some personality shortcomings they may have would include paranoid personalities, or passive aggressive tendencies. They could be self-serving and narcissistic.

Successful leaders:
The most successful leaders are:

* intelligent
* highly aware of their own actions
* high in both person and task orientation
* have a high need for power but a low need for others help
* emotionally stable
* have a variety and number of skills that allow them to adapt to different situations
* have a recognition of the situation and of their own leadership style

Related Links

I/O Psychology
Current Trends
Job Selection
Employee Training
Work Motivation
Job Satisfaction
Group Behaviour & Conflict