Contemporary Leadership Theory

Read Complete Research Material


Contemporary Leadership Theory And Conduct A Literature Review

Contemporary Leadership Theory and Conduct A Literature Review


Early research by Burns (1978) concluded that “leadership is one of the most observed and least understood phenomena on earth” (Burns, 1978, p. 3). The quest to enhance our understanding of leadership has led to an enormous body of research and literature which has spanned centuries. This chapter will critically review the early theories of leadership through to current leadership research on transformational and transactional leadership styles, with a view to considering if previous theoretical approaches have played a role in raising the profile of women in management. It will also discuss how the current findings on leadership are likely to impact on the career advancement of women in leadership roles in the future.


To consider how leadership theories have helped or hindered raising the profile of women in management and leadership roles.


This paper traces the earlier leadership theories through to the contemporary research on transactional and transformational leadership styles and offers a viewpoint on how each theory has contributed, or otherwise, to an awareness and acceptance of women in management and leadership roles.


In 1990, research began to report gender differences in leadership styles with female managers being seen in positive terms as participative, democratic leaders. More recent work reports that women are believed to exhibit more transformational leadership style than their male colleagues, and this is equated with effective leadership.


The paper reviews the major leadership theories, and links these to a timeframe to illustrate how women were not visible in a management context until relatively recently. Such an omission may have contributed to the continuing low numbers of women who advance to senior management and leadership roles.


Leadership defined

The word “leadership” was originally used in the early 1800s in writings about the political influence and control of the British Parliament during the first half of the 19th century (Bass, 1990). In this period, leadership was “based on inheritance, usurpation or appointment” and was considered to occur most frequently in Anglo-Saxon countries (Bass, 1990, p. 11). Early definitions of leadership recognised the importance of the ability to influence others, for example, “any act of influence on a matter of organizational relevance” (Katz and Kahn, 1966, p. 334). Tannenbaum et al. (1961) expanded on the importance of influence and defined leadership “as an interpersonal influence, exercised in situations and directed, through the communication process, toward the attainment of a specified goal or goals” (p. 24). As recently as 1990, Michener et al. (1990) described leadership “as a process that takes place in groups in which one member influences and controls the behaviour of the other members towards some common goal” (cited in Denmark, 1993, p. 343), suggesting that the control of employees was a necessary element of effective leadership.

However, more recently, the GLOBE Study of 62 societies has elaborated on this definition by describing leadership as “the ability of an individual to influence, motivate, and enable others to contribute toward the effectiveness and ...
Related Ads
  • Leadership Question

    1- Compare the Leadership Trait & Behavior of Be ...

  • Leadership Theories

    Contemporary leadership theory is typically a ...

  • Leadership

    Both ends of this interpretive spectrum can also be ...

  • Authentic Leadership

    Both ends of this interpretive spectrum can also be ...

  • Leadership Philosophy

    Pulitzer Prize-winning political scientist Burns is ...