BIG FIVE THEORY OF PERSONALITY
The big five theory of personality suggests that there are five universal personality traits: extroversion (positive attitude, sociable), agreeableness (accommodating, adaptable), conscientiousness (goal oriented), neuroticism (need for stability, pessimistic), and openness (imaginative, creative, open minded). Each of these traits is represented as a continuum that ranges between two extremes (e.g., extroversion and introversion) (McCrae & Costa, 1987). It is accepted that personality is a complex phenomenon with wide variation among individuals. However, according to this theory, the “ideal leader” is resilient (low on the neuroticism factor), energetic and outgoing (high on the extroversion factor), visionary (high on the openness factor), competitive (low on the agreeableness factor), and dedicated to a goal (high on the conscientiousness factor).
Contingency and Situational Theories and Leadership Styles
Contingency and situational theories postulate that effective leaders use a combination of behaviors or styles that are contingent upon the particular situation, the personalities involved, the task, and the organizational culture (Fiedler, 1967; Hersey, 1985). Contingency and situational theorists such as Fiedler (1978) and Hersey and Blanchard (1976, 1982) refrained from describing an ideal leadership style based solely on traits or personality and emphasized that successful leaders are able to understand their motivations and preferred style and are able to adapt their style to the situation and the needs of the group. Fiedler’s (1978) basic premise was that leadership was a function of the leader’s motivational style and the control requirements of the situation. According to the contingency theory, there are two primary motivations for leaders: relationship building and task completion. In addition, the control requirements of situations are dependent upon leader–member relations, task structure, and positional power. Leader–member relations pertain to the way followers feel about the leader. Tasks can be clearly structured or ambiguous and unstructured. Disinfecting equipment in the physical therapy clinic after a patient treatment session is an example of a highly structured task, while creating a process that will improve patient care in a particular unit from intake to exit would be considered an unstructured task.
Position power is related to the assigned power the leader has over the group. A leader has more positional power if everyone formally reports to that leader. The attending physician has strong positional power over a group of medical residents while a case manager has less positional power over the nurses and therapists who are part of a treatment team since each of the members report to different units in the organization.
Stress and anxiety increases when the leader’s style does not match a situation, and poor decision making is often the result. The most successful outcomes occur when the leader’s preferred style matches the situational requirements and they are able to expand their behavioral repertoire through formal training. Relationship-oriented leaders are able to incorporate task-oriented behaviors while task-oriented leaders demonstrate increased relationship-building behaviors (Fiedler, 1978; Northouse, 2010).
Hersey and Blanchard’s situational theory (1976, 1982) posits that the best leaders are able shift their focus over time from task to relationships based on the developmental needs of the group. Newly formed or immature groups that have yet to build commitment and expertise may do best with a directive, task-oriented leader, while moderately mature and mature groups are most successful when guided by a supportive, relationship-oriented leader. Ultimately, the level of engagement, participation, autonomy, and maturity that is achieved by the group depends, in part, on the degree to which decision-making authority is shared between the leader and the group members (Blanchard, Zigarmi & Zigarmi, 1985).
Blake and Mouton (1978, 1980, 1982) proposed that leadership style is informed by the degree to which the individual is concerned with task completion or relationship building. Their leadership grid provided a graphic representation of the variations in leadership styles ranging from (1,1) apathetic and not concerned with people or outcomes to (9,9) a leader who demonstrates his/her dual concern for relationship and goal attainment by fostering teamwork. Blake and Mouton identified the latter as the ideal leadership style.
The following grid is based on the work of Blake and Mouton (1978, 1980, 1982) and depicts managerial style based on the level of caring about people (concern for people) and caring about getting the job done (concern for production).
1. In the culture of your organization, which style is the most common?
2. Is this style effective? Why or why not?