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Applying a Historical Perspective

There are many ideas afloat in the arena of effective leadership. In addressing the question of why it is important to know all the theories of leadership, a historical perspective must be applied. In the past, most researchers believed in a “one best way” or universal approach to leadership. Many also held the opinion that leaders were those who simply had the “right stuff” to lead others. Of course, one hundred years ago many assumed that great leaders were simply “born” to lead and the “right stuff” was unavailable to others! As other researchers studied farther, a different model was developed that viewed good leadership as contingent upon the given situation or environment. In other words, leaders are “made” as opposed to “born”. Widely varying circumstances typically require different qualities of leadership. These became known as contingency theories. It is important to undergird each theory with the bedrock of values. There is always a best way to treat people under any circumstance. That is with respect, fairness and dignity. The fact of the matter is organizations are changing at such a pace that the leader can ill afford to lock down on one theory or leadership approach. If we are to be effective in this diverse organizational climate, we must have the theoretical understanding to be adaptable while maintaining a sure foundation in regards to values.

Blake, R. and Mouton, J.S., (1969) Building a Dynamic Corporation Through Grid Organizational Development. Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley

Hersey, P. and Blanchard, K.H., (1977) The Management of Organizational Behavior (3rd ed.), Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall