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Evaluating Contemporary Views Of Leadership

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Contemporary views of leadership come in many forms. Unlike views of the past, contemporary views of leadership include the complex interaction between the leader and follower, reactions to leadership and results of the leadership style. Six contemporary leadership styles that can be looked at are transactional, transforming, servant, situational, contingency and instrumental. Contemporary leadership views tend to be very similar, but there is much debate over the differences of each of them. The purpose of this paper is to discuss the similarities and differences among these six contemporary views of leadership. Before explaining the similarities and differences among these six different leadership views, it is important to have an understanding of each of them. Transactional leadership is a leadership that revolves around a transaction that occurs between the leader and the follower. Once the transaction occurs, the relationship ends and the leader and follower no longer have a common bond (Wren, 2005). An example is a teacher-student relationship. The teacher gets paid and the student learns. When the learning process is over they both move on.

Transforming leadership occurs when the leader and follower help each other increase their motivation and morality. The idea hindof this leadership is that the leader and follower bond and work together to improve themselves and the world around them. A good example of this type of leadership is Gandhi. Gandhi lead millions of Indians to improve their lives. (Wren, 1995). According to Spears (1996), “Servant-leadership emphasizes increased service to others; a holistic approach to work; promoting a sense of community; and the sharing of power in decision making” (para, 6). Martin Luther King Jr. is an excellent example of a servant leader. According to Encyclopedia Britannica (2015), he led the movement that would end segregation. Martin Luther King Jr. did this to improve the lives of those that followed him. Situational leadership style is one that will change to meet the needs of the follower’s developmental level.

For example, an employee who is a new graduate may be seen as a beginner. Beginners tend to be less competent but are enthusiastic and committed to the work. This type of follower would require a more direct leadership style to make them and their work successful (Thompson & Vecchio, 2009). According to Kriger and Seng (2005) contingency leadership is a style that is dependent on internal and external factors. This means that the style is dependent on what behaviors are taking place internally and externally within the leader’s environment. The leadership internal behaviors are linked to their religion, education, emotions. The external environment may be the task that is to be completed or the motivation level of others (Kriger & Seng, 2005). According to Wren, (1995) instrumental leadership style involves three elements to create and foster change. The three elements are structuring, controlling and rewarding. The idea is that this type of leader will motivate individuals to behaviors conducive to change or other desired behaviors (Wren, 1995).

Commonalities and Disparities
Each of these leadership styles has a purpose and this is where similarities and differences can be seen. Transactional, transforming and servant leadership styles are all about helping each others to improve and create positive change in a community. In transactional leadership, this is for a short term and the relationship is ended once the goal is met. Transforming and servant leaders focus on improving the community or help someone improve their life (Spears, 1996), (Wren, 1995). In contrast, situational, contingency and instrumental leadership styles are more about getting a task completed or the running of an organization. These leaders tend to focus more on the goal rather than on the emotional aspect of getting something done ( Kriger & Seng, 2005), (Thompson & Vecchio, 2009), (Wren, 1995).

The length and goal of each of the leadership styles gives another point to compare. Transforming and servant leadership styles are about a long term change and turning followers into leaders. The goal is improvement of something or someone (Spears, 1996), (Wren, 1995). Transactional leadership is short term and the goal is for the exchange of something between the leader and follower. This may be political, educational or economical (Wren, 1995). Situational, contingency and instrumental leadership are task oriented and the leadership style may change after the completion of a task (Kriger & Seng, 2005), (Thompson & Vecchio, 2009). Situational and contingency leadership styles change as needed. The situational leader changes the type of leadership they used based on follower’s development level (Thompson & Vecchio, 2009).

Contingency leaders change styles based on their experiences and the environment the leader and their followers are in (Kriger & Seng, 2005). Instrumental leadership uses the same components of structuring, controlling and rewarding to promote behaviors that the leader wants the followers to have (Wren, 1995). The type of communication between the leader and follower is another important area of contrast between leadership styles. Communication is necessary between leader and follower because it establishes a relationship between the two. Transactional, transforming and servant leaders tend to have an open communication with the followers because the leader wants the followers to take part in change or the completion of tasks (Spears, 1996), (Wren, 1995). Communication in contingency and situational leadership styles will change to fit the needs of the followers or task (Kriger & Seng, 2005), (Thompson & Vecchio, 2009).

For example in situational leadership, if the followers have a high maturity level the leader may have little conversation with the follower but the leader does value their ideas and opinions. If the followers have low maturity, the leader may talk to them often but more because of the need to tell them what to do and to check on their progress (Thompson & Vecchio, 2009). In contrast, instrumental leadership tends only to communicate to what tasks need to be completed or to check on the progress of the task. Instrumental leadership tends to take out the emotional aspect of the communication (Wren, 1995). Conclusion

Contemporary views of leadership are very complex and have several similarities and differences. We can see several similarities and differences based on the purpose of the leadership style. The purpose of transactional, transforming, and servant leadership styles are to improve and create positive change in a community (Spears, 1996), (Wren, 1995). While the purpose of situational, contingency and instrumental leadership styles are to help organizations in completing tasks ( Kriger & Seng, 2005), (Thompson & Vecchio, 2009) (Wren, 1995). Another area we can see similarities and differences are in the communication between leaders and followers. Transactional, transforming and servant leadership styles have an open communication between the leader and follower (Spears, 1996), (Wren, 1995). Situational and contingency leadership styles vary based on needs (Kriger & Seng, 2005), (Thompson & Vecchio, 2009). Instrumental leadership communication is less open and more to the point of completing a task (Wren, 1995).


Kriger, M., & Seng, Y. (2005). Leadership with inner meaning: A contingency theory of leadership based on the worldviews of five religions. Leadership Quarterly, 16(5), 771-806.. Martin Luther King Jr.. (2015). In Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/318311/Martin-Luther-King-Jr/285929/Assessment Spears, L. (1996). Reflections on Robert K. Greenleaf and servant-leadership. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 17(7), 33-35. Thompson, G., & Vecchio, R. P. (2009). Situational leadership theory: A test of three versions. The Leadership Quarterly, 20(5), 837-848. Wren, J. T. (1995). The Leader’s Companion Insights on Leadership Through the Ages. New York, NY: The Free Press.

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