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The Paradigms of Leadership

It is much easier to describe and illustrate than define leadership, due to the fact that the understanding of the complex phenomenon is normally formed under the influence of relevant personal experience. However, in order to define the main values, goals, beliefs and practices in education, which refer to leadership, it is necessary to delineate it in scientific terms.

One of the most common and neutral definitions of leadership is the one formulated by Bass: “Leadership is a process by which a person influences others to accomplish an objective and directs the organization in a way that makes it more cohesive and coherent” (Bass, 1989, p. 19). This process is carried out through employing the leader’s attributes including skills, knowledge, values, beliefs, ethics and character. The specific leadership techniques as well as determinants of their success are described in a number of perspectives on leadership. For instance, situational and contingency approaches generally imply that leadership is the ability to adjust decision-making to the definite circumstances of situation. In particular, the Fiedler model identifies two types of leaders: those who focus on developing and maintaining positive relationships with the team while working on certain task (relationships-oriented-oriented) and those who prioritize carrying out the task itself (task-oriented) (Blake & Janse, 1985, p.47). The effectiveness of these strategies depends on the favorability of the situation. The absolutely favorable situation includes strong leader-group relationships, clear and structured assignment and high formal power the leader has; this theory also assumes that task-oriented leaders perform at their peak in extremely favorable or extremely unfavorable conditions, whereas relationship-oriented leaders are successful in situations with medium favorability. Vroom, another contingency theorist, supplemented and specified the above described paradigm with a decision matrix, in which leadership styles are presented in connection with formal situations within the organization (Vroom & Jago, 1988, p.116).

Style and behavioral perspective on leadership involves the creation of taxonomy of leadership styles, behaviors and traits. In particular, Lewin classifies leadership behaviors into three styles depending on the type of group decision-making, feedback and project management methods the leader employs. Authoritarian leadership is associated with the lack of group’s involvement into decision-making, criticism as a preferred form of feedback and uncertainty of the future steps of the project to the group. Democratic leadership is characterized by collective participation in decision-making and project planning as well as feedback sharing between the team and leader at each stage of the project. Finally, laissez faire leaders delegate the responsibility for making decisions to the group and do not participate in the division of labor (Blake & Janse, 1985, p. 82).

Functional approach to leadership addresses the usefulness of concrete behavioral patterns of the leader to the organization or unit. The classical functions believed to contribute to the effectiveness of the organization include “environmental monitoring; intervening actively in the group’s work; organizing subordinate activities; motivating employees or students; teaching and coaching students or subordinates” (Bass, 1989, p. 64).

One of the paradigms of leadership, described and supported in DePree’s book implies equating the specified to service: “Try to think about a leader, in the words of the gospel writer Luke, as “one who serves”. Leadership is a concept of owing certain things to the institution. It is a way of thinking about institutional heirs, a way of thinking about stewardship as contrasted with ownership” (DePree, 1989, p.12). Thus, servant leadership implies psychological commitment to the development of others (the team or group of learners) and is characterized by close cooperation, empathy, ethical use of power and trust. The idea of servant leadership is consistent with the contemporary philosophy of education, which assumes that the teacher or instructor is responsible for shaping personalities and professionals who will apply the knowledge and skills learned during the course for the good of the community.


Bass, Bernard (1989). Stogdill’s Handbook of Leadership: A Survey of Theory and Research. New York: Free Press.

Blake, Robert R. and Mouton, Janse S. (1985). The Managerial Grid III: The Key to Leadership Excellence. Houston: Gulf Publishing Co.

DePree, M. (1989). What is leadership? In Leadership is an Art, pp. 11-22. New York: Dell Publishing.

Vroom, V. & Jago, A. (1989). The New Leadership: Managing Participation in Organizations. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall.

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