Here is a compilation of term papers on the ‘Theories of Leadership’ for class 11 and 12. Find paragraphs, long and short term papers on the ‘Theories of Leadership’ especially written for school and college students.

Term Paper # 1. Trait Theory of Leadership:

The trait theory of leadership states that there are certain identifiable characteristics that are unique to leaders and that good leaders possess such qualities to a great extent. The advocates of this theory have identified long list of qualities that seem to be more relevant for them than for leaders in other walks of life.

The underlying logic of this theory is that an individual possessing such traits is usually able to influence others. This is also known as the ‘Great Man’ Theory of leadership. The underlying assumption of this theory is that leaders are born, not made.

In the late 1940’s, Ralph Stogdil reported on the basis of his studies the important traits a leader should possess. They are intelligence, physical features, inner motivation drive, emotional maturity, vision and foresight, acceptance of responsibility, open mind and adaptability, self-confidence, Human relations attitude and fairness and objectivity.


This theory has been criticised for the following reasons:

(a) There is no sure connection between traits and leadership acts.

(b) It is very difficult to find out a particular leadership trait in the greatest leaders of the world of all times. For example leaders like Hitler and Lincoln had quite different traits.

(c) List of traits furnished by authorities is not uniform.


(d) This theory fails to mention traits necessary to maintain leadership.

(e) Traits theory fails to take into account the effect of situational factors on leadership. Further this theory has not produced clear results because they do not consider the whole leadership environment.

The one good aspect is to identify personality and motivational traits related to effective leadership. This approach is to be used along with other theories of leadership.

Term Paper # 2. Behavioural Theory of Leadership:

The trait theory failed to explain what caused effective leadership. So the attention shifted to the behavioural approach which involved studying the behaviour of leaders. This theory is based on the premise that effective leadership is the result of effective role leader. A leader uses conceptual, human and technical skills to influence the behaviour of his subordinates.


The essence of this approach is as follows:

(a) The leadership process must focus not only on the work to be performed but also on the need satisfaction of the work group.

(b) This approach emphasises that effective leadership is the result of role behaviour.

During 1950’s and 1960’s the behavioural theory was advocated. The popular theories that were developed by Rensis Likert, Robert R. Blake and Jane S. Mouton and Robert Tannenbaum and Warren H. Schmidt.


Likert’s Management Systems:

Other name- Michigan University Studies.

Rensis Likert and his associates conducted an extensive survey of management and leadership patterns in a large number of organisations. Within the basic style categories of task orientation and employee orientation, Likert developed a four level model of leadership effectiveness.

These patterns of leadership were termed systems of management and were assigned rulers from 1 to 4 to indicate the stages of evolution in the pattern of management in organisations.


His four systems of management in terms of leadership style are:

System 1 – Exploitative Authoritative

System 2 – Benevolent Authoritative

System 3 – Consultative


System 4 – Participative.  

A brief description of these systems is given below:

System -1 (Exploitative – Authoritative):

Such managers are highly autocratic who believe in threats and punishments. They rely on coercion as the primary motivating force. Managers make all the work related decisions to carry them out. Communication between managers and subordinates is highly formal and downward in direction. They follow strict supervision over subordinates.


System -2 (Benevolent – Authoritative):

There is a blend of authority within benevolence. The managers are autocratic but not fully authoritative. They give flexibility to subordinates who carry out their tasks by exceeding their prescribed limits. Subordinates are rewarded for their performance above standards. They are very harsh on subordinates who do not carry out their tasks. They follow carrot and stick approach.

System – 3 (Consultative Management):

Managers set the goals and issue general orders after discussing them with subordinates. Major decisions are taken by superiors while routine decisions are taken by subordinates. There is two-way communication in the organisation. Emphasis is more on rewards rather than on punishments with the object of motivating subordinates. The managers feel that they can rely and trust on subordinates to a large extent.

System – 4 (Participative Groups):

Higher management views its role as that of making sure the best decisions are made through a decentralised participative – group structure. These groups overlap and are co-ordinated by multiple memberships. There is a high degree of trust, which allows both superiors and subordinates to exercise greater control over the work situation.


In this system the relations between managers and subordinates are cordial and friendly. The communication system is completely open. The goals are set and work-related decisions are taken by the subordinates. Group approach is adopted for supervision and control. The employees are given economic rewards and the subordinates worth and performance is recognised.

Rensis Likert tries to measure and evaluate the actual patterns of management in a variety of organisations within the framework of his four systems.

His findings were:

(a) Most managers and organisations fit into one or the other of his systems in terms of operating characteristics related to variables like goal-setting, decision-making, communication and control.

(b) Secondly, he sought to relate his systems of management with certain performance characteristics like productivity, quality, wastage, employee turnover and absenteeism.

(c) According to him System 4 is the best way to develop and utilise human assets of the organisation. Organisation with system 1 orientation scored very poorly and while those with system 4 orientation scored creditably with those performance characteristics.


(d) He concluded that many managers and organisations fitted into Systems 2 and 3. There must be extensive and intensive leadership training at all levels of management and to be given to make them move towards System- 4 in his framework.

Managerial Grid – Robert R. Blake and James S. Mouton:

These two authorities have discussed two dimensions of leadership in the form of grid. The word grid means an iron grating a frame-work of parallel bars. They identified five basic leadership styles of practicing managers representing various combinations of the aforesaid two dimensions.

By this grid diagram they developed to measure a manager’s relative concern for people and production. This diagram tries to identify a range of management behaviour on the various ways that task-oriented and employee-oriented styles can interact with each other.

The managerial grid diagram given below identifies the following:

Managerial Grid Diagram

(a) Concern for production is shown on the horizontal axis and concern for employees on the vertical axis.


(b) It identifies five basic leadership styles or five district management behaviour that result from interactions.

(c) In reading the grid the first number refer to leader’s task orientation and the second to employee orientation.

(d) They have 9 point systems in the grid and suggested that 81 different combinations could be identified.

The interpretations are:

(a) A manager getting a 9.1 behaviour score in the grid is described as a stern task master. He is autocrat. He emphasises a high concern for production and efficiency but hardly any concern for employees. This behaviour is focussed exclusively on tasks at the expense of relationships.


(b) A manger rate 1,9 is considered as one who has a high concern for employees, but a minimum concern for production. The focus is on developing personal relationships with the object of keeping employees happy and satisfied.

Managers of this type tend to avoid the use of pressure in getting the work done. This approach is suitable for organisations with well-defined and standardised tasks, with a good bunch of competent employees, and a leader who has a strong confidence and control.

(c) The manager with a rating of 1, 1 in the grid has hardly any concern for people and production. This combination is termed as “impoverished management” because it represents a dissatisfied manager with little interest in the position. This type of manager is described as an abdicator.

(d) Rating 5, 5 in the grid identifies the manager as one who places some emphasis on both people and production. He is not an effective manager as he has no strong commitment to either factor. He may at times use an implicit bargaining approach to get the work accomplished.

(e) A manager rated 9, 9 in the grid emphasises a high concern for both production and people and uses participative team approach in getting the work done. He if of the strong opinion that mutual understanding and agreement regarding the organisation’s goals and the means of attaining them are at the core of direction.



They emphasize that a high concern both for employees and production is the most effective leadership behaviour. They are of the opinion that in most organisations 9, 9 rated manager with a concern for people and production uses the ideal management style. The managerial grid tends to be an attitudinal model that measures the predispositions of a manager. The grid is widely used as a means of managerial training and of identifying various combinations of leadership styles.

Tannenbaum and Schmidt’s Leadership Continuum:

This theory suggests a continuum of leadership styles. The degree of decision-making authority the manager grants to subordinates is an important component of decision-making style. These styles vary enormously. They range from absolute decision making by the group within limits set by the manager. The continuum of leadership behaviour deals with this style.

Each type of action is related to the degree of authority used by the boss and to the degree of freedom available to his subordinate in reaching decisions.

The actions shown on the extreme left characterise the manager who maintains a high degree of control. Such a manager is said to exercise boss- centered leadership. The actions shown on the extreme right characterise the manager who releases a high degree of control. This manager considers his subordinates as human beings.

He recognises their needs, respects and their human dignity. He tries to develop team-work among his subordinates and helps them in solving their problems. So his idea is to build an effective work group with high performance goals. Besides preparing them for their present jobs, he also tries to develop them for the higher jobs.

A task-centred leader is concerned primarily with performance of assigned tasks at prescribed speed using standard methods and conditions. He believes in getting results by devising better methods, keeping people constantly busy and urging them to produce.

They have identified seven styles of managerial actions. In their continuum or range clearly shows that there are a number of leadership styles which can be employed by managers at different times in different situations.

Continuum of Leadership Behavior

Term Paper # 3. Situational Theory of Leadership:

This theory advocates that leadership is strongly affected by the situation from which a leader emerges and in which he works. Leader is a means of achieving the goals of the group and the members. He recognises the needs of the situation and then acts accordingly.

The emphasis is on the behaviour of leaders, their followers and the situation. Leadership process is thus a function of the leader, those being lead and the nature of the situation in which they operate.

The main thrust of this theory is that the style of leadership is adopted to meet the goals of the people in one situation may not be relevant in the next situation. A new style and the leader would emerge on the specific demands of the situation.

The popular situational theories are:

(a) Fred E. Fiedler’s Contingency Model

(b) Robert J. House’s Path-Goal Theory

(c) Hersey and Blanchard’s Situational Theory.  

(a) Fiedler’s Contingency Model:

According to this theory that there is no one best style of leadership universally applicable to all situations. A leadership style may be effective under one situation and ineffective under the other. Fiedler has advocated three major situational variables which exert powerful influence on leader’s behaviour and his effectiveness.

The three variables are:

(i) Leader-follower relations.

(ii) Task structure which means the degree of structure in the task that the group has been assigned to perform.

(iii) Position power which means the degree of informal power and formal authority granted to the manager.

These three variables determine whether a given situation is favourable or unfavourable to the leader. The favourableness of a situation may be defined as “the degree to which the situation enables the leader to exert his influence over his group.”

He advocated eight possible combinations of the three situational variables. As the leadership situation varies from high to low on these variables, it falls into one of the eight combinations or situations. The most favourable situation is one in which the leader-follower relations are very good.

This is possible only when the leader enjoys great position, power and task structure is well defined. On the other hand, the most unfavourable situation signifies that the leader is disliked, the leader has little position, power and the task is unstructured.

After having developed the frame work for classifying group situations, he attempted to determine the most effective leadership styles for each of the eight situations.

He comes to the following conclusions:

(i) Task oriented leaders tend to be most effective in situations that are either very favourable or very unfavourable to them.

(ii) Relations-oriented leaders tend to be most effective in situations that are intermediate in favourableness.

(iii) Thirdly, it is very difficult to suggest an ideal leadership style. A leader can be effective only if he is able to adapt his style according to the dynamics of the situation variables.

But in reality, task-oriented and relationship-oriented are to be combined by successful leaders. His contribution is considered as significant one in management literature. He concludes that the leader’s effectiveness is done to the interaction between leadership qualities and the type of the situation. Successful leaders may be having different degrees of effectiveness. They will be highly effective if their style of leadership is appropriate to the needs of the situation and meets the requirements of subordinates.

(b) Robert J. House’s Path-Goal Theory:

This situational theory of leadership is based on path, needs and goals. The main advocation of this theory is that the leader smoothens the path to work goals and provides rewards for achieving them. He has made use of expectancy theory of motivation to develop his path goal theory of leadership.

According to expectancy theory, an individual will be motivated to produce it he perceives that his efforts will result in successful performance, which will, in if turn, lead to desired rewards.

An employee’s motivation is influenced by three specific factors:

(i) The employee’s perceptions of his ability to accomplish task.

(ii) The relationship of the rewards to the accomplishment of the task and

(iii) The value of the rewards offered. This theory predicts that the leader can influence these perceptions of rewards and can clarify what employees have to do to win these rewards.

This theory is basically concerned with the ways in which a leader can influence a subordinate’s motivation, goals, and attempts at achievements.

House suggests that a leadership style will be effective or ineffective depending on how the leader influences, the perceptions of:

(1) Work goals or rewards of subordinates.

(2) Paths that lead to successful goal accomplishment.

According to this theory subordinates are motivated by the behaviour of a leader. The behaviour not only influences attractiveness of goals but also the paths available to reach the goals.

Two major propositions of the theory are the following:

(a) Leader behaviour is acceptable and satisfying to subordinates to the extent that they view such behaviour as either an immediate source of satisfaction or an instrument for acquiring future satisfaction.

(b) Leader behaviour will increase the efforts of subordinates if it links satisfaction of their needs to effective performance, and is supportive of their efforts to achieve goal performance.

These propositions instruct the managers to increase the number of outcomes available for effective performance, remove barriers to performance and see that subordinates achieve desired results.

For successful functioning, the theory has recognized the following leadership styles:

(a) Task oriented leader

(b) Employee-oriented leader

(c) Participative leader

(d) Achievement-oriented leader

These leadership behaviours are based on the situational factors. According to this theory leadership behaviour is influenced by two situational factors.

These factors are:

(i) The personal characteristics of subordinates such as ability, self- confidence and needs.

(ii) The environmental factors which are beyond the control of subordinate such as co-workers, the task assigned and the leader’s exercise of power.

Where the first factor is good then less supervision is needed and the second factor also affects an individual’s performance indirectly. These situational variation do affect the employees’ performance and manager’s behaviour. So the essence of this theory is that situation dictates the style of leadership and managers need to adjust themselves.

(c) Hersey and Blan Chard’s Situational Theory:

Another important approaches to leadership was made by Paul Hersey and Kennith H. Blan Chard’s situational leadership theory. This theory describes how leaders should adjust their leadership style in response to their subordinates evolving desire for achievement, experience, ability and willingness to accept responsibility.

The advocates of this theory believe that the relationship between a manager and subordinates moves through four phases as subordinates develop a nature and that managers need to vary their leadership style with each phase.

In the initial phase when subordinates first enter the organisation a high task orientation by the manager is the most appropriate. The subordinates are to be given complete instruction about performance and they are to be familiarized with the organisation’s rules and procedures. Either a non-directive manager or non-participatory employee would also be inappropriate.

Situational Theory of Leadership

As the subordinates begin to learn their tasks, task-oriented management remains essential because subordinates are not confident of accepting full responsibility. The manager’s confidence and trust in employees increases as he becomes familiar with them and wishes to encourage further efforts on their part. So the managers choose to initiate employee oriented behaviour in the second phase.

In the third phase, the subordinate’s ability and achievement motivation are increased and they actively begin to seek greater responsibility. The manager will no longer need to be directive. He has to play a supportive and considerate role in order to strengthen the subordinates, resolve for assuming greater responsibility. With the increase of self-confidence and experience of subordinates the manager can reduce and minimise the support and encouragement.

In the fourth phase subordinates no longer need or expect a directive relationship with their manager. They are on their own. The situational theory has generated interest because it has advocated a leadership style that is dynamic and flexible rather than static. The business is always under a flexible and changing conditions.

So it is the duty of the manager to choose the leadership style that is most appropriate to the motivation, ability and experience of subordinates. The manager must be capable of analyzing the situation and learn to shift his style of functioning to suit the requirements of the situation. If the managers are flexible in selecting the leadership style they will be effective. Otherwise they are bound to be ineffective.

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