Slide 3 of 28
Unable to determine which particular behavior patterns consistently resulted in effective leadership, researchers then attempted to match behavior patterns that worked best in specific contexts or situations. That line of research collapsed for practical reasons when people realized leaders would need to refer to decision trees or wheel charts to determine how to behave. Additionally, an infinite array of situations existed which researchers would be unable to study, so producing a definitive compendium matching behaviors with situations is impossible.
In the 1980s, having tried and discarded all of these fragmentary approaches, leadership researchers determined that “leadership is simply doing the right thing to achieve excellence. That meant the researchers had to find out what the right thing is, so they set about researching excellent companies and CEOs, and developed lists of traits, behavior patterns, group facilitation strategies, and culture-shaping practices for would-be leaders.” (Rost, pages 22-23)
The problem with this historical timeline of leadership studies is that it implies that each theoretical era was separate and distinct from the others, and that theories, once superseded by a new perspective, were completely discarded. In fact, as Rost points out (pages 28-29), “The theories did not run riot in any one separate time period, nor did they disappear from the picture when the next so-called dominant theory appeared on the scene…there were periods of heightened popularity for certain theories, but when that popularity waned, the theories remained in the…minds of scholars,,, because they appealed to the structural-functional frame in which most researchers operated.”