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Fundamentals of communication,

Leadership research at the Universities of Iowa, Ohio & Michigan:

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Modern theories of leadership in Private and Public Enterprises and Or

It should not be considered an overstatement to assert that for about twenty four centuries of human
history, from the era of the philosophical writings of Plato and Aristotle to the dawn of the 20th century,
the 'trait theories' on leadership held protagonist role and were prevalent. In essence, during this long
period of history, the discussions and the study of leaders and leadership focused mostly on political
and religious institutions and personalities involved in them. Late in the 19th and early 20th centuries, as
we already have noted, there occurred an immense expansion of industrial production and large scale
enterprises and organizations became a reality of the times. These facts, coupled with the widespread
acceptance and application of 'Taylorism' and 'Fayolism', shifted the focus of the study of leadership
from political and religious institutions to the vastly expanding field of management. This shift added
the economic institutions to the cadre of political and religious institutions and thus in addition to
philosophers, sociologists, political scientists and psychologists begun to study leaders and to assess
leadership qualities in medium and top level management personnel as their performance became visible.

As Stogdill's (1948, 1974) surveys of research conducted between 1904 and 1970 suggest, for the 'trait'
theorists, efforts were concentrated on discovering, defining, appraising and discussing the specific traits
that differentiate leaders from other, ordinary, human beings. Among a vast variety of traits investigated
by theorists and researchers operating within the framework of this theoretical approach the most often
listed ones were those of charisma, appearance, confidence and intelligence. In other words, trait theorists
and researchers aimed to identify the 'great Man, great Leader' type of human beings who obviously
were different than the average person by possessing one or a combination of more of the above traits.

Trait theory studies had a specific shortfall as they saw the leader possessing, inherently, specific innate
traits in character or personality with which they were born. Trait theories differentiated between people
who possessed these innate characteristics bestowed on them by their parents inherently and others that
were not 'blessed' with them through heredity.

A significant shift in the focus of interest took place as researchers and theorists started looking at the
'behaviour' of leaders toward those they were leading. The 'behaviour' types of leadership theory (also
referred to in many academic texts as the 'style of leadership' approach) lead to a new type of research
efforts conducted by Kurt Lewin, Ronald Lippet and Ralph White (1939) at the University of Iowa
shortly before the eruption of the Second World War. In the Iowa University studies the researchers
made specific selections and subsequently put in charge of small groups of children 'leaders', using as a
research platform and frame of reference the three well known, classic types of leadership, namely, the
'authoritarian' type, the 'democratic' type and the 'laissez-faire' type.

Acting in an 'authoritarian-autocratic' style the leader would coerce the members of his team toward
desired behaviours and control rewards; acting in a 'democratic/laissez faire' style the leader would
encourage participation and decision making and would delegate authority. The results pointed out
that the most effective style of leadership was the 'authoritarian-autocratic' type, when the leader was
physically present, but the children seemed to resent this style and did not perform as well during the
leader's absence. Furthermore, the results relating 'effectiveness to authoritarianism' were not convincing
as the children, where the leader performed in a 'democratic/laissez faire' style, behaved as well as children
of 'authoritarian' leaders not only when their leader was physically present but even during his absence.

Soon after the end of the Second World War a team of researchers at Ohio University realizing that
the Iowa University research in which children were involved were not as fruitful as originally hoped,
changed their focus and efforts using as subjects a broad spectrum of employees and managers employed
by a variety of Governmental organizations and private enterprises. The Ohio University research team,
using a questionnaire originally consisting of some 1,800 items, asked subordinates to describe their
supervisors' behaviour in a variety of settings and a multitude of circumstances. As Hemphill and Coons
(1957) have indicated the questionnaire was finally limited to about 180 items and was labelled LBDQ
(Leader Behaviour Description Questionnaire). The LBDQ was given to a large number of educational,
military and industrial personnel and the results pointed out that indeed certain clusters of leadership
behaviours were identifiable in persons holding leadership positions.

Several years after the initial introduction of the LBDQ, Stogdill (1963) published a shortened, more
efficient for research purposes, questionnaire which came to be known as the LBDQ-XII form and has
been widely used ever since. The initial Ohio University research and the extensive use of Stogdill's
LBDQ-XII form unveiled and brought forth two significant characteristics of leaders' behaviour styles. As
Stogdill (1974) has indicated, assessing the respondents' answers to the LBDQ-XII form, the two emerging
characteristic leader behaviour types were those initiating structure and those initiating consideration.

The structure characteristic related to production matters focuses on task oriented issues while the
consideration element related to employees focuses on human relations matters.

The Ohio research managed to bring together matters falling under the purview of scientific management
and the developing 'human relations in industry' movement. The significance of the two characteristic
behaviour types related also to the discovery that the structure element and the consideration element
were not to be found on the same continuum but constituted two different realities having autonomous
and independent existence of varying degrees. In the Ohio University studies the central point was, in
essence, that leaders provide for their subordinates the most appropriate structure while, simultaneously,
they nurture them so that preset and desired results may be obtained. In relevant schematic presentations
one could see that a leader can be high in initiating structure and either low or high in task behaviour or
could vice-versa be low in initiating structure and be low or high in consideration behaviour.

At the University of Michigan the research efforts, as Likert (1961, 1967) has noted, helped in identifying
a pair of leadership types of behaviour characterized as employee orientation and production orientation.
Leaders with a strong commitment to human relations and employee satisfaction, who see their employees
as human beings while respecting their individuality and uniqueness, are obviously motivated by the
employee orientation element. Compared to the Ohio University types of leaders these persons do identify
with the consideration type of behaviour. Production orientation specifies the type of leaders who give
major emphasis to reaching production goals while they view the people they supervise as the necessary
means for getting their job done. It should be easily understood that this type of leadership behaviour
resembles the initiating structure type which had already been identified by researchers in the Ohio
University studies.

Initially, the Michigan researchers were lead to believe that the two types which emerged from their
efforts, namely employee orientation and production orientation, stand at the opposite ends of a continuum.
Further research studies lead them to revise their initial conception and move to a thesis similar to that
of the Ohio University researches, accepting the fact that the two types were independent of each other
and leaders could show interest to both production and employees.


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  2. Human Communication: scheme of human communication, defining
  3. Body Language: darwins contribution, intrigue of body language
  4. Mass Media & social media: stone inscription, printing process
  5. The Role of attitudes in human communication: defining attitudes
  6. The birth of a speciality: roots in antiquity, historic glimpse
  7. Publics, Public Opinion and its moulders: historical evolution, term
  8. Rhetoric, Persuasion and Propaganda: rome, love, definitions, variety
  9. Corporate Communication & Responsibility: corporate communication
  10. Press releases, special events and sponsorships: PR specialist
  11. Leaders and Leadership: pantheon of leaders, persons, injustice
  12. Leadership, Power, Authority & Charisma: events, political, financial
  13. Leadership research at the Universities of Iowa, Ohio & Michigan:
  14. Modern theories of leadership in Private and Public Enterprises and Or
  15. Instead of an epilogue: Women leaders remain under a ‘glass ceiling:
  16. References: Bibliography
  17. The Author: Dr Georgios P. Piperopoulos, sociology, psychology