Widely acclaimed studies on leadership can be listed as follows:
1. Lowa Leadership Studies (1939):
Ronald Lippitt and Ralph K. White, under the supervision of Kurt Lewin, conducted this study at the University of Iowa, forming hobby clubs for ten-year old boys. Each club was put under three different styles of leadership, i.e., authoritarian, democratic and laissez-fair. The authoritarian leader was very directive and did not allow any participation.
The democratic leader encouraged discussion and participation and the laissez-faire leader gave complete freedom. Under such experimental conditions, satisfaction, frustration and aggression of the boys were studied giving them the task of making masks, model airplanes, murals and soap cravings. Results of the study showed that boys under democratic leadership performed well than those who were under authoritarian and ‘aissez-fair leadership.
However, the study was considered incompatible to formal organizational environment obviously for pre-adolescent boys (sample) and for not adequately controlling the variables. Even then the study is considered as the pioneer as this was the first attempt to determine the effects of leadership styles experimentally on a group.
2. Ohio State Leadership Studies (1945):
Business Research Group of Ohio State University, with an interdisciplinary team (psychologists, sociologists and economists) of researchers, analysed leadership influence on different groups and researchers using a structured Leader Behaviour Description Questionnaire (LBDO). Consideration and initiating structure of leadership were found to be widely accepted by different heterogeneous groups like Air Force Commanders to School Superintendents.
3. Michigan Studies on Leadership Styles (1961):
In this study, Rensis Likert and his group identified two major styles of leadership— employee participation and production orientation. The employee-centred style resulted to high performance compared to the production-centred style.
Directive, authoritarian or autocratic style of leadership is based on the assumption that the leader’s power is derived from the status position he occupies, and men (subordinates) are inherently lazy and unreliable. Democratic or non-directive style of leadership is more concerned with human relationship, and it considers that men can be basically self-directed and can be made creative at work if properly motivated.
In between, there two extremes, there are, of course a wide variety of leadership styles. This will be clear from the following illustration:
The third leadership style, i.e., laissez-fair style permits the members of the group to do whatever they want to do. No policies or procedures are established, and everyone is let alone. No one attempts to influence anyone else. Practically, this style develops no leadership at all in the group.