- Published: October 31, 2021
- Updated: October 31, 2021
- University / College: University of Oklahoma
- Language: English
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This chapter will focus on some of the ample research that one finds on Leadership. It will mainly focus on giving a good idea of what leadership is. Whether there are any differences in leadership due to gender or whether there are any particular personality traits that make a person a leader.This chapter gives a definition of leadership, even though defining such a word could prove to be difficult due to the extensive research undertaken over the years with different findings which emanate in literature. It will then focus on the different theories of leadership, from early research on the Trait Theory to Transformational Leadership. This permits to shift the focus to defining leadership using the Five-factor model of Personality. Furthermore, it will discuss leadership styles, taking into consideration the different styles of males and females and also the current situation. The discussion will then move onto men and women as leaders in large and small companies and then to the perceptions towards leadership. In the conclusion, there will be a focus on the main points of all the literature review taking into consideration the focus of this study.2.1 Defining LeadershipThere has always been a great interest in the topic of leadership, as early as the time of the Greek philosophers such as Plato and Socrates who were followed by many management and leadership gurus who wrote many books on this topic (Bolden, 2004). Leadership is now being given great importance as it may be that in this changing global environment, leadership may be the answer to the success of individuals and organisation (Gardiner, 2006). Nonetheless, there is still a big difficulty on how to define leadership.In his research, Stogdill (1974) determined that there are “almost as many definitions of leadership as there are persons who have attempted to define the concept” (Stogdill, 1974 cited in Bolden, 2004, p. 4). One notes that this reaserch was undertaken almost 40 years ago.Bolden (2004) states that there are 2 fundamental difficulties to define leadership. The first is that leadership is a “complex construct open to subjective interpretation” (Bolden, 2004 p. 4), which means that everyone has their own idea of what leadership is which is based on their experience and knowledge. This makes it difficult to form one defintion that suits all ideas. The second problem with defining leadership is that the way it is “defined and understood is strongly influenced by one’s theoretical stance” (Bolden, 2004 p. 4). One can view leadership as a social process that develops from group relationships, whilst others may look at leadership as an effect of certain traits or characteristics one might have (Bolden, 2004).”A leader is a person that exerts influence over other people, which may inspire, motivate and direct their activities to help achieve common performance goals” (Yukl, 1989 as cited in George & Jones, 2006, p. 557). Agreed goals within a group or an organisation can be achieved by the influence that an effective leader can exert.2.2 Theories of LeadershipThe next section will focus on theories of leadership, starting from one of the earliest theories of leadership, the Trait Theory and then moving along the years with new ideas which became new theories such as Behavioural Style Theory and Contingency Theory and then ending with Transformational Leadership Theory. The various theories help one define what makes an effective and successful leader.Earlier leader-focused approaches to leadership had 2 main features: “a description of the leader in terms of their characteristics and/or behaviour” and “the investigation and analysis of the characteristics and/or behaviours of what makes a ‘good leader’ regardless of what they lead” (Arnold & Randall, 2010 p.555)2.2.1 The Trait TheoryIn the early 20th century, the most dominant theory was the Trait Theory. Trait Theorists argue that leadership style depends on the personal characteristics or traits of the individual. They state that leader traits are different from non-leaders (Kirkpatrick & Locke, 1991). This theory was questioned by Ralph Stogdill (1947), after he had conducted a thorough review of literature available. Stogdill (1947), states that “A person does not become a leader by virtue of the possession of some combination of traits” (Stogdill 1947 as cited in Kirkpatrick & Locke, 1991). In his review of the Trait Theory, no traits of leadership were universal and furthermore situational factors were also influential (Kirkpatrick & Locke, 1991).2.2.2 Behavioural Style TheoryBehavioural Style theories refer to consistent behaviours or actions of an individual as a leader, unlike the trait theory which is based on personality-based characteristics. There is a shift from who the leaders are and instead the focuses would be on what the leader does on the job. Effective leaders are identified by their actions or behaviour in these styles of leadership. The Behavioural Style Theory has 2 major flaws, it does not take into consideration the situational demands and it does not emphasize the leader’s attributes (Moraski, 2001).Research did yield some interesting results but researchers did not find a constant profile of characteristics which were common amongst all leaders, although personality such as being sociable and persistent (Bono, Gerhardt , Illies, & Judge, 2002) and intelligence seem to be fundamental for persons to emerge as leaders and particularly effective leaders (Arnold & Randall, 2010).2.2.3 Contingency TheoryBehavioural theorist did not study what makes an effective leader in different situations but focused mainly on leadership styles. The Contingency Theory is based on Fiedler’s study in which he came up with the idea that leadership styles should be chosen according to the situation and therefore there is no one best way of leading (Bolden, 2004).The Contingency Theory suggests that effective leadership is dependent on two factors: the situational demands and the leadership style. Fiedler (1964) identified between task oriented managers and relationship oriented managers. He describes task oriented managers as being better in “situations that have good leader-member relationships” (Bolden, 2004) and tend to focus more on the task in hand whilst relationship oriented managers tend to be better in “participative style of leadership” (Bolden, 2004; Seyranian, 2009). Even though this model has been researched numerous times, it has yet to be further clarified due to the complex nature of the varying aspects (Seyranian, 2009).2.2.4 Transformational Leadership TheoryTransformational Leadership theory states that highly effective leaders achieve set goals with the aid of their followers which are empowered by certain men and women with specific traits (Bass, 1990). It integrates personality traits, leader behaviour, power and influence. Burns (1978) was the first to introduce the concept of transformational leadership. Burns (1978) suggested that transformational leadership “occurs when one or more persons engage with others in such a way that leaders and followers raise one another to higher levels of motivation and morality” (Burns, 1978 as cited in Bolden, 2004 p.11 ).In transformational leadership, the results are achieved in one or more ways: employee may be stimulated intellectually, emotional needs of emplyees are met by the leaders and/or leaders may inspire their emplyees by being charismatic (Bass , 1990).2.3 The Five-Factor Model of PersonalityPeople have certain personal characteristics which are constant in them throughout their life which can influence “how they think, feel and behave both on and off the job” (George & Jones, 2006 p. 87). These characteristics are called personality traits. These traits make you act, feel and think in certain ways which make every individual unique. It is very important that these traits are understood since every person’s personality influences their behaviour and their approach in managing people and resources (George & Jones, 2006).The Five-factor model of personality also known as the Big-five personality trait can be used to describe the most important aspects of personality (John & Srivastava, 2001). “The dimensions comprising the five-factor model are Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness to Experience, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness”(Bono, Gerhardt , Illies, & Judge, 2002 p. 767). The founding of the Five-factor model is generally credited to Tupes and Christal (1961) and Norman (1963) (Bono, Gerhardt , Illies, & Judge, 2002).Each personality trait is viewed as a continuum, somewhere along which every individual falls. A person can fall on the high end, on the low end or else somewhere in between. A person’s approach to management can be described by where they fall on a particular continuum personality trait, which is an easy way to understand how these traits affect a person’s approach to leadership (George & Jones, 2006).In the study of Bono, Gerhardt, Illies and Judge (2002), they defined leadership and its components by using the five-factor model. They related all the 5 criteria to leadership. They found that Extraversion is the trait which most correlates to leadership, therefore it is the most important trait of leaders and effective leadership (Bono, Gerhardt , Illies, & Judge, 2002). Conscientiousness and Openness to Experience were the most related to leadership after extraversion. Neuroticism was the only trait that is not significant to leadership. Agreeableness is somewhat related to leadership. This is because agreeable individuals tend to be passive and compliant and it is possible that they do not emerge as leaders (Bono & Judge, 2004).The effectiveness of each trait is determined by a complex interaction between the nature of the job, organisation in which they are working and the characteristics of that person. Furthermore, while some personality traits might be effective in one situation, they may be less effective or detrimental in others (George & Jones, 2006).2.4 Leadership stylesStudies such as the work of Alliger, Lord, and de Vader (1986) have highlighted the effects of personal and situational factors on the development of an individual as a leader. Amongst these personal factors are personality traits and gender (Jacobowitz & Pratch, 1996). Leadership roles are typically described in stereotypically masculine terms. This could mean that women have a slight disadvantage over men in being selected for leadership roles and when selected it may be difficult for them to be seen as good leaders.Leadership roles are usually occupied by men but in recent years women in leadership positions have increased considerably (Corrigall, Konrad, Lieb, & Ritchie JR, 2000). This has prompted many researchers such as Appelbaum, Audet and Miller (2003) and Eagly and Johnson (1990) to explore the relationship between gender and leadership.As mentioned before, there are various leadership styles such as task-oriented, interpersonally-oriented and transformational leadership. Other leadership styles include democratic style which means that leaders allow their subordinates to take part in decision making and autocratic style, where leaders, during decision making discourage their subordinated from participating (Eagly, van Engen, & Johannesen-Schmidt, 2003).2.4.1 Leadership styles of Males and FemalesGender has a large influence on the leadership style but studies on gender and leadership have yielded different results. There are mainly two opposing positions: men and women are very different in the way they lead and that men and women are similar in the way they lead (van Engen & Willemsen, 2000)In management literature such as the book by Helgensen (1990) and the article by Rosener (1990), the main idea is that men and women differ significantly in leadership styles (Klenke, 1993). This is a popular idea amongst the business and management area, whilst the social science literature takes on the similarity position, stating that when all the things are considered males and females lead in a similar way (Klenke, 1993).The leadership styles of males and females can be described in terms of the stereotypes of masculinity and femminity. Studies of people’s stereotypes about men and women show that the popular beliefs about male and female behaviour can be compiled, following Bakan, (1966), in terms of two dimensions; agentic and communal attributes (Jacobowitz & Pratch, 1996).Agentic characteristics define primarily an assertive, controlling and confident tendency. These characteristics are typically ascribed more strongly to men than to women. Agentic behaviours, in employment settings might include “speaking assertively, competing for attention, influencing others, initiating activity directed to assigned tasks and making problem-focused suggestions” (Eagly & Johannesen-Schmidt, 2001 p. 5).Women are more ascribed to communal characteristics. This is because communal characteristics describe primarily a concern with the welfare of other people. Examples of communal characteristics in employment settings are “speaking tentatively, not drawing attention to oneself, accepting others’ direction, supporting others and contributing to the solution of relational and interpersonal problems” (Eagly & Johannesen-Schmidt, 2001 p. 5).The styles of male and female leaders may be influenced by gender-based expectations. Individuals establish certain expectations for their own and others’ behaviour which is based on their own beliefs about what the appropriate behaviour of male and females should be (Eagly A., 1987). Women are stereotypically described as nurturing, supportive and concerned with interpersonal relationships whilst men are viewed as being directive and focused on task accomplishment (George & Jones, 2006). These stereotypes suggest that women can be more relationship oriented as leaders and are more considerate in their behaviour. Men are seen as more directed towards task-orientation and engage in more initiating-structure behaviours (George & Jones, 2006).People have become accustomed to the styles that men possess since they have long held these roles. As a result, there is more focus on women in the discussion of the impact of gender on leadership (Eagly & Johannesen-Schmidt, 2001). There is little agreement about how women actually lead even though there is this greater focus on women in research. Feminists’ writings have given great importance to differences and similarities between leadership styles in males and females (Eagly & Johannesen-Schmidt, 2001).Female leaders can adopt leadership styles that differ from those of men because they need to accommodate their behaviour to the occasionally conflicting demands of the female gender role and their role as leaders. There are different implications for the behaviour of male and female leaders due to gender roles because male and female roles have different content. People associate women as having communal qualties and successful leaders are perceived as having agentic qualities. Since agentic properties are more associated to men, people tend to believe that men are better at being leaders than females (Eagly & Johannesen-Schmidt, 2001).Eagly and Karau(2001) argued that apparent differences between typical leader roles and the female gender tend to create prejudice towards female leaders. It takes two forms: ” (a) less favorable evaluation of women’s potential leadership abilities and (b) less favorable evaluation of the actual leadership behavior of women than men because agentic behaviour is perceived as less desirable in women than men” (Eagly & Karau, 2001 p. 576).In the first prejudice, women’s characteristics and the resulting female-stereotypic qualities are different from what is expected and desired in leaders. This is a result from the descriptive norms of gender roles. The second prejudice arises from prescriptive norms of gender roles namely the beliefs of how women ought to behave. Women leaders can be negatively assessed for fullfilling the agentic requirements of leader roles and thus failing to comply with the communal characteristics, even though they may be praised for their fulfillment of the leader role (Eagly & Karau, 2001).Moreover, an enticing new study suggests that male leaders are judged more harshly than a comparable female leader when they make a mistake. When leaders make a mistake, it causes the employees and followers to view the leader as less competent. They are viewed as being less desirable to work for and less effective than leaders who do not make any errors (Nauert, 2012).In a study by Hunter, Thoroughgood and Sawyer (2012), it was discovered that male leaders in a man’s world are judged more harshly than women making the same mistake in a man’s world. It is a normal occurance that leaders make mistakes, and that these mistakes can have extensive negative consequences. It is critical that followers see leaders as competent for them to be effective. Followers must trust their leaders when making difficult decisions, implement their initiatives and as positive organizational figureheads (Thoroughgood , Sawyer, & Hunter, 2012). They concluded that when leaders make mistakes, followers are less keen to work for them and follow them and they also question their competence (Thoroughgood , Sawyer, & Hunter, 2012).2.4.2 The current situation on leadershipIn Malta, women have the highest rate of occupational inactivity- 65.2% compared to other E.U. countries which stnds at 35.7% (Spiteri, 2012). Nevertheless, in Europe there was an increase in the rate of employement for woman which now stands at 62%, up from 55% in 1997 (Almunia, Andor, Barnier , Reding, Rehn, & Tajani, 2012). Many women continue to face a ‘glass ceiling’, holding them back from achieving a higher level in their work place. Men dominate company boards: 86.3% of board members and 96.8% of the boardroom chairs, whilst women make up 13.7% and 3.2% respectively (Almunia, Andor, Barnier , Reding, Rehn, & Tajani, 2012). Women in Malta represent only 3% of board members which is well below the EU average of 13.7% (Spiteri, 2012).On the other hand, there is a higher pecentage (22.7%) of Maltese women who are achieving higher levels of tertiary education than men (14.6%). When compared to other E.U. countries it is still very low (37.2% women and 30% men – (Spiteri, 2012). The National Statistics Office in collaboration with the National Council of Women carried out a survey on the “Perceived Obstacles to the participation of women in Decision-making Positions” (2007). The result of this survey showed that many women in Malta are not advancing in their work to achieve top positions because of 3 main difficulties: reconciling long hours of work and family responsibilities, very little use of childcare facilities and lack of spouse/partner support (National Statistics Office, 2007).Maltese Governments have in recent years introduced measures to promote gender equality through various legislation and regulations. The Constitution of Malta guarantees equaltiy between men and women. It gives protection against discrimination on various grounds including sex. Additionally, Article 45(11) provides for “special measures aimed at accelerating de facto equality between males and females” (Spiteri, 2012). In 1991, Malta also approved the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).Even though these measures have been in place for a number of years, there is still a general impression that men are more suitable for decision-making positions. There are also a number of structural and cultural barriers which are preventing Maltese women from further advancement in their occupations. Such barriers include jobs without opportunities of promotion or training, practices that favour men for promotions, lack of employment laws and lack of household/childcare sharing responsibilities among husbands. There are also considerable barriers in attitudes and perceptions towards gendered roles in Malta (Spiteri, 2012).2.5 Men and Women as leaders in large or small companies”Company size is considered to be a fundamental feature with important implications for the strategic behaviour of organizations” (Delgado Almonte, Pedraja Rejas, Rodriguez Ponce, & Rodrigo Ponce, 2006, p. 161). The size of a company can have economic and financial effects where large companies are more effective since they generate more economy and small companies have higher risk due to low “liquidity of shares” (Delgado Almonte, Pedraja Rejas, Rodriguez Ponce, & Rodrigo Ponce, 2006, p. 161).The size of a company influences also the decision-making process. In their article, Delgado Almonte, Pedraja Rejas, Rodriguez Ponce and Rodriguez Ponce (2006) state that in a German study on the effects of size of companies on decision-making, found that only one person is responsible for decision taking in small companies, usually the owner whilst in a large company the top management teams are responsible for decision taking (Delgado Almonte, Pedraja Rejas, Rodriguez Ponce, & Rodrigo Ponce, 2006). From a social psychological perspective, the fact that a team is responsible for leadership within a large company is favourable for the company since the different persons within the group would make diverse contributions thus resulting in better decision taking than a single individual (Akert , Aronson , & Wilson, 2005).Women are most likely to be leaders of their own business or are the leader of a family owned business unlike men (Adler, 1997). Even though there was an increase in women participation in higher position jobs, they are still underrepresented (Almunia, Andor, Barnier , Reding, Rehn, & Tajani, 2012). There are certain strategies that are used to increase the amount of women in leadership jobs such as leadership and professional training programmes (Rey, 2005). This slight increase of women in leadership positions, could in the long run result in “incorporating approaches most frequently labelled as feminine” (Adler, 1997 p.177) into global leadership and thus making female characteristics suitable in male and female leaders.2.6 Perception of leadership”Perception is man’s primary form of cognitive contact with the world around him.” (Efron, 1969 p.137). Perception is a primary form of awareness and therefore all conceptual knowledge is based upon it (Efron, 1969).Perception towards leader behaviour can be manifested in various ways between the followers and the leaders. It is often suggested that followers will perceive the same behaviours equally since they are subject to the same leader (Garger & Jacques , 2008). However leadership perceptions can be influenced by individual differences and different tasks. According to Garger and Jacques (2008), one cannot “assume that leadership is perceived equally simply because an instructor is leading a group of students through learning” (Garger & Jacques , 2008 p. 253). For example, in a University, students are influenced by various leaders at the same time for a small period of time since they normally have one leader for every course (Garger & Jacques , 2008). This means that perceptions change according to what each person believes and thinks and according to the situation in which one finds himself.In a study by Bartol and Wortman (1975), it was concluded that there is no difference in the way subordinates describe their leaders irrespective of gender in a hospital setting (Bartol & Wortman JR., 1975). They used the Ohio State Leader Behavior Questionnaire (LBDQ-Form XII) to help them assess the perceptions of the participants’ immediate supervisors. They also concluded that when considering the sex of the subordinates, it produced significant results suggesting that the sex of the subordinates has an effect on the perception of leaders. This was in line with the findings of Day and Stogdill (1972) who studied the perceptions of subordinates towards the leader and the perceived effectiveness of the leaders. They concluded that subordinates’ described their leaders as having same effectiveness, irrespective of gender when performing similar functions and occupying similar jobs (Day & Stogdill, 1972).Cellar, Goudy, O’Brien and Sidle (2001) concluded that regardless of sex, people with a specific personality characteristic (Agreeableness) tended to favour democratic leaders compared to autocratic leadership and that the gender of the leader had no effect on the rated effectiveness (Cellar, Goudy, O’Brien , & Sidle, 2001).The study by Dobbins and Platz (1986) analysed 17 studies which examined gender differences in leadership amongst which were the studies by Day and Stogdill (1972) and Bartol (1974). They determined that from the studies investigating the effects of leader sex on subordinate satisfaction, there is no gender preferance from subordinates and that there is no differences between the gender of the leader and the leadership effectiveness in field settings (Dobbins & Platz, 1986).Recent research on the perceptions of leadership differences in males and female was difficult to find. Therefore in this study comparisons are made with studies more than 20 years ago. This study will focus on perceptions of University students towards male and female leaders in different work settings. It will try to determine whether students have a gender preference for small or large companies and whether examining male respondents and female respondents alone yields results which would favour one gender over the other. The following are the hypothesis to be testedHypothesis 1: University students’ perceive gender differences in leaders of small companies.Hypothesis 2: University students’ perceive gender differences in leaders of large companies.Hypothesis 3: Male University students’ perceive differences between male and female leaders in a small company.Hypothesis 4: Male University students’ perceive differences between male and female leaders in a large company.Hypothesis 5: Female University students’ perceive differences between male or female leaders in a small company.Hypothesis 6: Female University students’, perceive differences between male or female leaders in a large company2.7 ConclusionIn summary, one notes that a definite definition of leadership that applies to everyone does not exist but there are various researchers that try to define leadership from different perspectives. Theories of leadership have changed and adapted through time to accept and also include the female ways of leading. Gender has a large influence on leadership. Women leaders have a primary concern towards the welfare of others while men leaders are primarily more assertive, controlling and confident. There are certain prejudices towards female leaders but male leaders are judged more harshly when they make mistakes.Even though there is an increase in the amount of female leaders in high position jobs, women still face a difficult barrier to achieve higher levels in their job. The number of males in higher position jobs is still very high.In this study, 2 different companies are taken into consideration: large and small companies. Large companies give greater input in an economy therefore any decision taken needs to be clearly thought out. This is why there is normally a team to discuss any decision taken whilst in a small company one person is usually responsible to take decisions.Perceptions are general thoughts on what the surroundings mean to each person and therefore one concludes that every individual has a different perception towards leadership. Various studies have described the effectiveness of male and female leaders and their effectiveness and concluded that there is no difference in gender with regards to effective leadership and perceived satisfaction from subordinates.This study takes into consideration the perception that University students’ have when considering males or females as leaders in small and large companies.