Women in Technology Leadership | Leadership

A great amount of literature addressed leadership and management. According to Schermerhorn, et al. (2000), leadership is “a special case of interpersonal influence that gets an individual or group to do what the leader or manager wants done” (p. 287). McCartney and Campbell (2005) stated that leadership and management are often mistakenly made synonymous, as “leaders and managers differ in motivation, personal history and in how they think and act” (p. 190). The authors stated that “managers are people who do things right and leaders are people who do the right thing” (p. 191). Schermerhorn, et al. (2000) added that leaders provide a vision and empowerment for the people they lead. As an agent for change, a leader establishes organizational structure and creates his or her idea of the dominant culture of the organization (Schermerhorn, et al., 2000). Korac-Kakabadse, Korac-Kakabadse and Myers (1998) argued that the study of leadership is important for organizational outcomes because leaders have the power and authority to make decisions that directly influence viability and performance. The following section will provide a brief summary of several theories that have been used historically to define the practice of leadership.

The Great Man Theory

Early literature focused on “men and their methods for obtaining and exercising power, status, and legitimacy within organizational structures” (Gordon, 2007, p. 11). Cawthon (1996) reported the prevailing theory during the 20th century was centered on The Great Man Theory. According to Kreitner and Kinicki (2004), the premise behind The Great Man Theory is that leaders are born and not made. Flood (2007) wrote that early researchers were mostly male and utilized male characterizations to describe leadership. These researchers characterized leadership as “hierarchical, authority-based, and power and influence-oriented” (Flood, 2007, p. 13).

Trait Theory

Past research extended The Great Man Theory or “larger than life” (Flood, 2007) theories to trait theories. Trait theories are those where physical and personality traits are associated with leaders. This period had many scholarly challenges because of the inability to produce a list of traits that described all leaders (Schermerhorn, et al., 2000). The period also came under particular scrutiny by Ralph Melvin Stogdill in 1948, who argued that both the person and situation should be considered when determining those capable of being leaders (Gordon, 2007). Stogdill posited that “(1) intelligence, (2) dominance, (3) self-confidence, (4) level of energy and activity, and (5) task relevant knowledge” (Kreitner & Kinicki, 2004, p. 597) were the best predictors of leadership. Stogdill’s work, while highly criticized, led to a great amount of research on the impact of behavior on leadership (Gordon, 2007).

Behavioral Period

Theorists of the behavioral period did not view traits as the key determinant to leadership capability (Flood, 2007). Behavioral theorists believed instead that individual behavior led to superior leadership and performance (Doyle & Smith, 2001). With research leadership provided by The University of Michigan and Ohio State University, the Behavioral Period consisted of the development of The Leadership Grid and Graen’s Leader-Member Exchange Theory (Schermerhorn, et al., 2000). The Behavior Period presented a number of other models that aimed to address leadership from the perspective of the leader’s relationship with those that followed. The Behavioral Period focused on how leaders interacted with followers (Doyle & Smith, 2001). By the mid-1960’s, researchers began to move beyond behavior and take a closer look at a leader’s situational behavior (Gordon, 2007).

Contingency Leadership Model

According to Doyle and Smith (2001), contingency leadership is based on the argument that leadership is much more complex than behavioral models and must take into consideration the context for which leadership is being applied. The theory also acknowledges that leadership is ambiguous and that no one way exists for successful leadership (Kreitner & Kinicki, 2004). Kreitner and Kinicki (2004) stated that the contingency period investigated the ability of leaders to act in a manner appropriate to the situation. Doyle and Smith (2001) found that control and influence is achieved when a leader’s style is applicable to the leadership situation.

Several models exist that attempt to explain the relationship between leadership style and the situation (Cellar, Sidle, Gowdy, & O’Brien, 2001). According to Schermerhorn, et al. (2000), some of the models include Fiedler’s Contingency Model, Hersey-Blanchard Situational Theory, Path-Goal Theory and the Vroom-Yetton Leadership Model. The authors stated that each of these models describes a style of management that is situation-appropriate and each model provides guidance as to how to implement each model.

Transactional and Transformational Leadership

According to Kreitner and Kinicki (2004), the behavioral and social psychology perspectives yielded the theories of transactional and transformational leadership. Transactional leadership included concern for task and directive leadership, and transformational leadership included concern for people and participative leadership (Doyle & Smith, 2001). According to Kreitner and Kinicki (2004), transactional leadership “focuses on the interpersonal transactions between managers and employees” (p. 615). Gordon (2007) stated that transactional leadership is based on the principle that certain relationships are more rewarding than others and “positive or negative valences can change” (p. 15) depending on what is being requested by the leader of the employee. Kreitner and Kinicki (2004) posited that transactional leadership uses rewards to obtain performance goals. If the goals are not met, the transactional leader uses corrective action to influence the desired outcome (Gordon, 2007). Kreitner and Kinicki (2004) purports that the process of using rewards and corrective action to influence outcomes is “management by expectation” (p. 616).

Transformational leadership was born out of research produced by Max Weber as early as the 1940’s (Gordon, 2007). According to Gordon (2007), a transformational leader was able to translate “individualistic goals into collective accomplishments” (p. 15). Gomez-Mejia and Balkin (2002) defined transformational leadership as being “characterized by the ability to bring about significant change in an organization, such as a change in vision, strategy, or culture” (p. 139). Boje (2000) stated that a transformational leader identifies needs of the follower and pushes the followers to expand their expectations while achieving the goals of the organization (Boje, 2000). Kreitner and Kinicki (2004) stated that transformational leaders effectuate change by appealing to the personal identities and values of the followers.

Leadership and Gender

Cellar, et al. (2001) argued that leadership style interacts with gender to determine the effectiveness of the leader. Lantz (2008) suggested that although differences exist in the manner in which men and women lead organizations, no justification exists for the gender disparity in leadership positions within organizations. Gilmartin and D’Aunno (2007) reported that leadership perceptions within organizations have a gendered foundation. Kreitner and Kinicki (2004), also exploring leadership and gender, found that when men and women were seen as displaying more task and social leadership, respectively, (b) leadership styles varied by gender, (c) men and women were equally assertive, and (d) women were rated as more effective than men on a variety of criteria (p. 626).

The authors argued that the wide acceptance of leadership traits plays a central role in how leaders are perceived (Kreitner & Kinicki, 2004). Organizations that define leaders by traits and not behaviors result in the perpetuation of stereotypes that negatively impact women (Kreitner & Kinicki, 2004). Kreitner and Kinicki (2004) posited that organizations should not use gender as a determinant in identifying those most ready for leadership opportunities.