A Critical Review of Leadership Theory

Beverly Alimo-Metcalfe

2.1 Introduction

This chapter adopts a critical approach to reviewing developments in leadership theory. It begins with a general overview of research relating to the evidence of an association between leadership and individual and organizational performance, before describing the main stages in the history of the study of this complex and fascinating subject.

2.1.1 The importance and the complexity of leadership research

It is hardly surprising that the topic of leadership is one of the most popular areas of study in the field of organizational behavior and organizational studies, since it is widely assumed that leadership affects the link between individual effectiveness and organizational performance (Barling et al., 1996; Bass, 1998; Crant, 2000; Keller, 2006; Yukl, 2010), in part as a result of having a significant impact on subordinates’ attitudes to work, which, in turn, affect their work-related behaviors (e.g. Bass, 1998; Belschak & Den Hartog, 2010; Northouse, 2010; Rowe et al., 2005; Strauss et al., 2009).

2.1.2 Issues of leadership and performance measurement

There are, however, few studies that show a causal link between leadership and performance that is measured objectively, and for which the potentially confounding effect of contextual variables has been controlled (e.g. Jing & Avery, 2008; Keller, 2006). Of those studies which have examined the relationship between leadership and measures of effectiveness ...

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