Problems With the Contemporary Theories of Leadership

Contemporary leadership theories follow modern trends in management theories.
Contemporary leadership theories follow modern trends in management theories. (Image: Images)

Leadership theories seek to explain the nature of leadership and how individuals can hold authority over others. Contemporary theories have grown from older ideas on leadership and now have their own unique characteristics. Each form of leadership has advantages, but some possess inherent qualities that make them weaker.

Charismatic Leadership

The charismatic leadership theory states a leader should develop a relationship with subordinates built on friendliness, kindness and charm. The theory holds that once subordinates grow to appreciate their leader, they will begin to adopt their leader’s personal ideals and vision of success. Critics say the charismatic leadership theory erases the barrier between leaders and subordinates, allowing subordinates to see their leader as a friend or one of their own. In doing so, the leader can lose her authority over her subordinates, those critics claim.

Transactional Leadership

Transactional leadership theory suggests individuals enter into each interaction with a short-term goal or expected result. For instance, a manager confronts an employee and requests the subordinate to clean part of the store. The goal of each is simple, the manager wants the room cleaned and the employee wants to perform the duty. The disadvantage of this theory, critics claim, is it fails to consider the long-term relationship between leaders and subordinates, the past interactions and the history or reputations of each.

Connective Leadership

The connective leadership theory holds that leaders and subordinates collectively work towards mutual goals in a teamwork setting. A connective leadership platform suggests specific, unifying goals must exist and all must work together to achieve these goals. The theory requires all team members have the same goal, critics note. As an example, in a business situation the general goal of employees should be to do the tasks associated with their job but it is difficult to regularly inspire employees to go beyond these tasks for the betterment of their employer.

Servant Leadership

Servant leadership theory suggests when no formal leader is present, someone will step up and take a leadership role over a group. While their official power as leader exists only in their ability to inspire others and provide general direction, the servant leader can benefit the system. The disadvantage of this system, critics say, is it requires someone to step forward and take the position, an assertion that cannot be guaranteed. Further, if the servant leader is given no real power, his term as leader may be short, providing little motivation to do so again in the future.

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  • "Contemporary Leadership Theories"; Ingo Winkler; 2010
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