Leadership theories and women
Bass, 1990, explains that the word ‘‘leadership’’ was initially used to explain political influence and control of the British Parliament in the 1800s. He further elaborates that leadership was based on heritage and appointment and used to take place often in Anglo-Saxon countries (Bass, 1990, p. 11). Katz and Kahn, 1966, p.334 expands that leadership is to acknowledge the skill to influence others on organisational relevance. Michener et al. (1990) described leadership ‘‘as a process that takes place in groups in which one member influences and controls the behaviour of the other members towards some common goal’’ (cited in Denmark, 1993, p. 343), signifying that the control of employees was a required aspect of effective leadership. The assumption therefore is that if someone is to lead, he should extend beyond influence. This comprises motivation and helping others to accomplish the goals of the organisation.
The Great Man theory of leadership assumed that personal attributes of a great man determined the course of history (Denmark, 1993). The great man was thought to have distinctive and exceptional features and traits that distinguished him from his followers (Bass, 1990). Only very few people were thought to have such abilities, which were believed to be inherent, in other words, leaders were born with these qualities (Denmark, 1993).
During this time, women were not taken into account as possible leaders. The name given to sum up this theory illustrates that women were not professed as leaders in any capacity, and even research on leadership during this period related exclusively to males. It is therefore proposed that the Great Man theory has not ascribed something towards raising the profile of women in management.
Trait theories were essentially linking traits in manly terms, and these characteristics were considered vital for successful leadership. Women in the 1900s, worked mostly in helping roles in organisations such as secretaries or assistants. By 1940, only 4% of leaders were women (Parker and Fagenson, 1994). The normal work for women then were those of carers, assistants, nurses and teachers but not leading (Koziara et al., 1987). The caring and nurturing characteristics attributed to females were not seen as suitable in the role of leadership. The value bestowed on male characteristics or traits in leadership was inveterate in influential research which described the ‘‘think manager-think male’’ trend (Schein, 1973). It is also assumed that the trait theories did not support the effect of raising the profile of women in leadership. Thus, it is sensible to assume that there was no support drawn from the trait theories which would have had the effect of raising the profile of women in management.
McGregor, 1976, explained that researchers in the 1940s projected that traits only were not sufficient to explicate effective leadership. Interaction of leaders and followers, and situational factors,...