Origins of leadership

Origin of leadership:

  • Darwinian insight: much of human social behaviour resulted from adaptations to Pleistocene and hunter-gatherer life-style
  • Semi-nomadic groups of 30 to 50, bonding up to 150 people
  • Fundamentally egalitarian (social coordination essential for game hunting and tribe defence) no formal leaders
  • Ice age 13,000 years ago: agriculture emerges, with cultural elites and peasant farmers since Roman empire
  • Agriculture: land becomes valuable - landowner vs landworker
  • Warlord societies: exploitation of peasant masses
  • Industrial revolution: modern states and organisation: possibility to defect: new way of leadership
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Leadership research

Past research into leadership failed because

  • (1) leadership is defined solely as people in charge of organisations
  • (2) ignores the followers
  • (3) doesn't acknowledge return of investment

We lack a complete understanding of leadership but it is important to learn: in the 20th centry, 167,000,000 people were murdered for political reasons: invading armies killed 30,000,000 people, and 137,000,000 were killed by their own government.

Leadership is a matter of life and death

Psychological approaches to leadership aims to answer three core questions: Who will lead, what is good leadership, and are leaders born or made?

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Approaches to leadership

Chemers (2000): "a process of social influence in which one person is able to enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task". Describes leadership as a process, situation dependent. 'Right time, right place'.

Hogan et al (1994): "leadership involves persuading other people to set aside, for a period of time, their individual concerns and to pursue a common goal that's important for the responsibilities and welfare of a group". Describes leadership as an ability ot build, motivate, and maintain teams. Organisational and trait perspective.

Approaches to leadership

  • Trait approaches: personality, intelligence, capacity to influence. Explains why some become leaders and not other, and why some are more successful
  • Contingency models: leadership determined by situational factors. Anyone has the potential to become a successful leader given the right context
  • Behavioural approaches: different leadership styles. May fit different contexts and have different effects on people, involving different psychological processes and techniques
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Freud's group psychology

In groups, individuals tend to become highly suggestible to influence by others. High susceptibility includes trance-like mind and regression to a lower intellectual level, thus more easily swayed by a leader. Leadership emerges as a natural consequence of a group's thirst for obedience, and willingness to submit to a master.

Freud's (1921) core aspects of leadership

  • Includes trait perspective
  • Leadership is more a question of followers than it is of actual leader
  • Identification with other individuals of a mass, all of whom are drawn in the same way to the leader
  • Admiration and idealisation of the leader takes place through process of idealisation
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Trait approaches

Great man theory

  • Leaders differ in their psychological characteristics from non-leaders - which are the common traits underlying all great leaders? Can we predict leadership based on these traits? Can people learn to become great leaders?
  • Stogdill (1948): no single variable could predict leadership in all situations - no universal trait predictors of leadership

Implicit theory

  • Lay people's beliefs and perceptions about leaders: shared cognitive prototypes about characteristics of effective leaders
  • "Describe best and worst boss" task - 4 categories emerged: integrity (trustworthy, rational behaviour), decisiveness (sound, timely and good decisions), competence (resources, expertise), and vision (giving confidence in future, goals, perspective)
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Leadership and Big Five

Recent years have seen the re-emergence of the trait approach for 3 reasons (Locke, 1997):

(1) advent of the Big Five/Five Factor Model, (2) better understanding of mechanisms, (3) meta-analysis. Furnham (1994) and Hogan (1994) speculated about the Big Five predicting leadership

Meta-analysis by Judge et al (2002)

  • 73 studies reviewed on personality and associations with leadership performance and leadership emergence, with 25,000 managers from all levels, from 5,000 organisation, across every industry sector
  • Big Five related to leadership performance: IQ correlation at .23, multiple personality correlation at .53
  • Intelligence accounts for 6% of the variance, and personality for 28%
  • Emotionally stable, extraverted, conscientious, and open-minded people are perceived as having a talent for leadership, regardless of level and area
  • Agreeableness was irrelevant (zero-order correlation) for leadership
  • However, Big 5 fails to provide causal explanations for individual differences in thought, emotionality and behaviour. Doesn't provide explanation for individual's motivation to be a leader
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Behavioural approaches

Leadership style = stable pattern of behaviours adopted by leaders. Leaders are differently considerate regarding their subordinates' feelings and needs. The behavioural approaches seeks to establish whether some leaders behave considerately, and if others do not.

Charismatic leadership:

  • charismatic leaders are visionary, inspirational, with great communication skills
  • they are able to empower: raising followers feelings of self-worth, motivation, and confidence
  • founded on the psychoanalytic notion of personal identification: role models
  • creates dependence: followers are dependent on leader's approval
  • low self-sufficiency and feelings of loss if leader leaves
  • social identification: individuals are happy to replace their personal goals for group goals
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Behavioural approaches pt.2

Transformationa leadership: leader works with subordinates to identify needed change, creating a vision to guide the change through inspiration, and executing change in tandem with committed members of a group

  • overlap with charismatic leadership
  • communication and sharing leader's vision in order to inspire followers to sacrifice personal interests for the group
  • followers identify with and depend on the leader
  • transformational leadership = leaders and followers engage to achieve higher goal/morality
  • transformational leaders are innovative, creative, empowering but dependent of people/organisation
  • highly effective leadership style
  • Judge & Bono (2000): meta-analytic review of 14 samples of leaders from 200 organisation. Found extraversion (.28) and agreeableness (.32) associated with transformational leadership skills
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