Contemporary Leadership Approaches Essay


Leadership is considered as the process of influencing people to acquire a set objective (Goleman, 2000). According to House et al. (2004), leadership is the ability to influence, motivate, and enable individuals. Great leaders often lead the people towards where they want to be. Different leadership approaches are practiced today. Some of these include servant leadership, transactional leadership, transformational leadership, and situational leadership. This paper is going to prepare a literature review that compares and contrast these leadership approaches.

Comparing and Contrasting the Leadership Approaches

Servant leadership is the philosophy where the primary goal of the leader is to serve. It shares power, puts the need of the people first and helps them perform and develop better (Smith et al., 2004). Servant leadership takes the approach of “servant first.” This is a different approach to transactional and transformational leadership approaches. Bass & Riggio (2006) defines transactional leaders as those who motivate their subordinates by exchanging rewards for the services offered. Leaders give promise to goals and performance through praise, recognition, reward, and pay. This approach is mainly focused on the goal. Through the rewards and punishments, transactional leaders can ensure that subordinates are motivated for the short term. According to this approach, people function at their best when the chain of authority is definite and clear, and when respecting and adhering to the instructions and commands of the leader is the major goal of the followers.

He also describes a transformational leader as one who motivates the subordinates to perform beyond the expectations. However, these two approaches are similar in the sense that they are focused on achieving better results. This leadership approaches inspire, motivate, and encourage employees to create and innovate to grow and modify the future of the organization. This is achieved by setting an example at the corporate level with robust sense independence at the workplace, employee ownership, and organizational culture (Bass & Riggio, 2006). This approach gives employees an opportunity to be creative, look into the future and solve problems that occurred in the past. While transactional leadership focuses on supervision and group performance, transformational leaders focus on change within an organization.

Situational leadership is the approach where the manager or leader adjusts the style of leadership to match the development level of the subordinates he/she tries to influence.  According to Blanchard and Hersey (1995), this approach is based on the leadership itself and the level of development of the follower. Goleman (2000) argues that in this approach, it is upon the leader to modify the style of leadership and not the follower to adapt to the style of the leader. The style of the leader should change continuously to meet the needs of the followers in the organization, based on different situations. This means that it is an adaptive leadership style that chooses an approach that best fits the goals and circumstances of the employees. Situational leadership is different from the three approaches discussed above because it incorporates different techniques (Northouse, 2016). The style of choice depends on the present environment in an organization and the competence as well as the commitment of the followers.

These leadership approaches are similar in the sense that they are aimed at the strategic development of organizations and achieving organizational goals. The leadership approaches aim at getting the best out of the employees to achieve the goals of the organization (Northouse, 2016).


There are different approaches to contemporary leadership that is being employed by different leaders today. Literary studies show that these approaches have different styles that are aimed at achieving the goal of the organization. The different leadership styles are suited to different situations in an organization; therefore, some may be effective in one situation but ineffective in another. However, these styles have one thing in common, achieving strategic development and goals of an organization.




Bass, B. M., & Riggio, R. E. (2006). Transformational leadership. Psychology Press.

Goleman, D. (2000). Leadership that gets results. Harvard business review, 78(2), 4-17.

House, R. J., Hanges, P. J., Javidan, M., Dorfman, P. W., & Gupta, V. (2004). Leadership, culture, and organizations: The GLOBE study of 62 societies.

Irgens, O. M. (1995). Situational leadership: A modification Hersey and Blanchard. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 16(2), 36.

Northouse, P.G. (2016).  Leadership: Theory and Practice.  Los Angeles: Sage Publications.