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The Role of Situation in the Leadership Process: A Review and Application

by James Reagan McLaurin
published by Academy of Strategic Management Journal, 2006
Ref ASMJ05-06

In simple terms, writes the author of this article, leadership is an interaction between two or more members of a group and often involves a structuring or restructuring of the situation and the perceptions and expectations of the members. Therefore, the situation in part defines the leadership process.

This article reviews the role of situation in the leadership process taking into account various prominent models, including the path-goal theory, situational leadership model, and contingency model. The article also includes some real-life examples of leaders adapting their leadership styles according to the needs of the situation. The author traces the history of efforts to define the concept of leadership, including the move away from behavioural approaches to take into account the influence of situation on the leadership process.

Leadership has emerged as a dynamic social process, argues the author, a relationship between traits, behaviours, and the situations in which they are found. Situations may include a number of variables, including followers’ attributes, leader-follower relationships, and external factors such as time pressure and the nature of the work to be done. Effective leadership is therefore a match between the leader and the situation.

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About the author

James Reagan McLaurin is a Professor at the American University of Iraq and has taught in various universities across North America, Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

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