Leadership & Motivation Research Paper Starter

Leadership & Motivation

(Research Starters)

This article will focus on the relationship between leadership and motivation. A history of leadership theory is presented, followed by the link between leadership and motivation as it pertains to today's mainstream leadership theories. The major theories of motivation are presented in the context of leadership. This article will explore how leadership theories have developed and converged, and how motivation has become an integral part of the leadership construct.

Keywords Herzberg; Human Relations; Leadership; Leadership theory; Maslow; McClelland; Motivation; Needs; Situational leadership; Transformational Leadership

Management: Leadership


Leadership is not a new concept in organizational theory. While many leadership theories have developed and converged in the last century, most business professionals and scholars consider leadership to be a critical individual skill set for employees that are committed to helping their organization succeed and to helping their own careers develop. Part of the leadership construct is the ability to motivate one's constituents, whether they are subordinates, peers, or others in an employee's work group. The best leaders know how to intrinsically motivate and inspire their employees through a variety of techniques. This article will explore how leadership theories have developed and converged, and how motivation has become an integral part of the leadership construct.

Evolution of Leadership Theory

In the last two centuries, many theories of leadership were developed and considered valid during their time. However, in most cases, each new theory was generally short-lived, with a new one quickly following. There is a logical progression of leadership theories through which many of them converged to create Transformational Leadership Theory, today's predominate and current mainstream leadership theory.

The Great Man Theory

In the 1920's, Frederick Taylor was instrumental in applying a much-needed management model, based on productivity, after the tremendous factory boom caused by the Industrial Revolution. No longer were organizations small, and operating out of the home through small shop owners or agricultural farmers. Instead, the birth and fast expansion of large-scale factories were changing the face of the workplace. Wren (2005) stated, "The Industrial Revolution had provided the impetus; Taylor provided the synthesis" (p. 274). Taylor was the first to expose the importance of worker productivity through studying the motions and habits of production workers. He was the first to functionally separate the "manager" from the "worker," by essentially classifying the worker as the one who does the work, and the manager as the one who makes the decisions.

At the same time, simple yet formal leadership theories began to develop. These theories were simplistic and without scholarly research and empirical data. The predominate leadership theory that existed during the Scientific Management era was the Great Man Theory developed by Thomas Carlyle (1841-1907). Dorfman's study (as cited in Tirmizi, 2002) stated, "According to this theory, a leader was a person gifted by heredity with unique qualities that differentiated him from his followers" (p.270). This was the first theory that laid the foundation for several subsequent trait-based theories that evolved decades later, and were often referred to as the Trait Period or Trait Theories. In the meantime, beside Carlyle's Man theory, the practice of leadership was being molded by the factories and production lines, and by the work of Frederick Taylor. Taylor's work in these areas was very authoritarian. According to Rost (as cited in Harrison, 1999), "From 1900 to 1930, leadership definitions focused on control and centralization of power." Taylor's work clearly had influences not only management development, but also on leadership methods.

As new leader's emerged, scholars realized that there were some inconsistencies in the Great Man Theory. The reality was that there were many respected leaders that were quite different from each other, which questioned the validity of Carlyle's assertion. In addition, Taylor's work with management theory also demonstrated some inadequacies. There was clearly something missing with viewing the employee as just a 'tool' to get the work done, and the theories' ineffectiveness was likely due to the lack of in-depth scholarly research and empirical data. This led to the next era of leadership theory, which was primarily centered on relationships and behavior.

Behavior Era of Leadership

Mary Parker Follet was one of the first people to introduce elements of psychology theory into the workplace, and viewed leadership from a group and organizational perspective. These views subsequently developed into the fields often referred to as Organizational Behavior and Human Relations, of which leadership is a critical component. This period in time is often referred to as the Behavior Era in leadership theory development (Van Seters & Field, 1990).

The Behavioral Era in leadership theory was the genesis of the classic argument about whether leaders are born or made: nature versus nurture. Where the trait theories supported the idea that leaders are born (leadership skills are hereditary), the behavioral theories contented that leaders can be trained by modifying their behavior to emulate the behavior of past effective leaders. These two schools of thought diverged after World War II. Stogdill (1975) opined that one theory was based on the role of the leader while the other was based on relationship between leaders and their followers, and the effectiveness of group performance. Nearing the tail end of this period, behavioral theories took over as "Carter (1953) and Startle (1956) maintained that the trait approach had reached a dead-end and suggested that the attention be directed toward the behavior of the leader" (Stogdill, 1975).

The early behavioral theories began with studies done at Ohio State University and the University of Michigan. The focus of these theories was on what effective leaders do, and not on what they are. For the first time in history, leadership theories now became multi-dimensional. Johns and Moser (1989) stated, "The University of Michigan leadership studies under the direction of Likert and the Ohio State leadership studies under the direction of Stodgill and Shartle were antithetical to the trait or single-continuum approach" (p. 116). Leadership theories now included both task and relationship elements.

Behavioral theories subsequently converged with the continued development of management principles. One example is Blake and Mouton's managerial grid, which plotted consideration against initiating structure, and another example is McGregor's development of the Theories X and Y (Van Seters et al., 1990). From this point forward, the development of leadership theories had begun to emerge at a progressively rapid rate.

Where supporting research in the past had been thin to none, this era was full of scholarly research and empirical data relating to leadership. As a result, the theories became more applicable than ever, and researchers felt as if they have made tremendous progress toward finally defining leadership. In their studies, Johns and Moser (1989) stated, "Empirical research began to challenge personal trait and one-dimensional views of leadership. Empirical studies suggested that leadership is a dynamic process varying from situation to situation with changes in leaders, followers, and situations" (p. 116). Scholarly research had finally taken foot in the development of leadership theories.

Situational, Contingency,

The pace of management development and the evolution of new management theories accelerated significantly from the 1960s to the present, and the knowledge and information available for continued management and leadership studies is abundant. Wren (2005) stated, "It is not possible to examine the full extent of modern management writings, for they are too diverse and too extensive for any in-depth analysis" (p. 395). During this time, the evolution of leadership theories was also at a record pace, and research findings were at an all-time high as more scholars set out to finally define the concept of leadership.

Scholars continued to discover that trait and behavior theories were not enough, and that there was still something missing. They discovered that leaders who went beyond modeling their behavior after previous leaders by adjusting how they act to situations became more effective. This led to two theories that are commonly used in organizations today: the Situation and Contingency theories. Fielder's concept of Situational Favorability was based on influencing others (Maslanka, 2004). The Hersey-Blanchard situational model continued building on previous task-relationship models, and added the element of the readiness of the follower. This was a significant development, because it meant that leadership might be more about the relationship between the manager and subordinate, and less about the leader himself, including his or...

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