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Three Contemporary Theories of American Democracy

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Knowing the past allows to better understand the present and predict the future. Most of the traditional leadership theories are dated before 1990. Many new theories or sub-theories have been derived from those theories with the ambition to more or less develop the original theories or to compensate for their shortcomings. The rapid development of communication technologies and technologies in general, which, among other things, support more massive globalization and wealth growth, was reflected in the need to adapt leadership theories to new conditions. It cannot be stated, for example, that Transformational theory has been overcome, but it is interesting to observe and analyze ongoing developments. Although progress cannot be stopped, something remains the same.

It is natural that also the ways of functioning in groups are evolving and the theories of leadership reflecting it. A lot of scientists and practitioners have tested, classified, sorted, grouped, praised or condemned individual leadership theories. For the purposes of this paper, one has chosen two approaches. The first is a selection of traditional theories including their derivatives, and their subsequent placing on a timeline. The second is an assessment of strengths and weaknesses of the theories with using their inclusion in quadrants into, this purpose adapted, Blanchard´s (1985) ‘The four basic leadership styles’ model. Traditional theories Most of the major leadership theories, presented by Northouse in 2012, such as Great Man theory, Trait theory, Transactional theory, and Transformational theory, originated before 1990.

The same with a link to a summary published at applies to many other theories associated with the main theories above as the Managerial Grid Model / Leadership Grid and Role theory associated with Behavioral theories, Fiedler’s contingency theory, Hersey-Blanchard Situational leadership theory, Path-goal theory, Vroom-Yetton-Jago decision-making model of leadership, Cognitive Resource theory and Strategic Contingencies theory associated with Contingency theories, Leader-member Exchange (LMX) associated with Transactional leadership theories, and finally Burns Transformational leadership theory, Bass Transformational leadership theory, and Kouzes and Posner’s leadership Participation Inventory associated with Transformational leadership theories.

One can also assign to this enumeration Charismatic leadership theory created almost at the same time as Transformational leadership and used, how Northouse (2012) stated, almost as synonym until the mid-1980s. Influencing the group through charisma and interpersonal attractiveness of its leader assign Dang, Gadi, and Danladi (2013) as the reason for including these theories to Trait based. Servant leadership theory, introduced by some authors among very contemporary theories, was, according to Smith (2005), created by Robert Greenleaf in 1970. Spear (2005), referring to Greenleaf, explains that Servant leader is a person who naturally wants to serve. He gives top priority to the needs of others. This style of leadership is not fast but ‘has the potential for creating positive change throughout our society.’ New directions With regard to the period after 1990, according to Northouse (2012), experts only agree that it is not possible to find a common definition of leadership. It is still being subject of exploring from many angles, by many disciplines and approaches. It is not surprising that some older approaches still persist.

An example is for the autocratic approach, which was for millennia an almost unquestionable attribute of leadership. Already 80 years ago, a group of scientists headed by Kurt Lewin except mentioned autocratic named two more styles of leadership: democratic or participative and delegative (Laissez-Faire). All three still exist. One may see a fresh impulse at the start of the research that led to collective theories, which Bryman in 1992 described as ‘new leadership’ or ‘New-Genre’ theories. Dan Brown (2017), in his detective novel Origin, writes about first, an extraordinary super-intelligent computer, unfortunately fictive, that, with its characteristics is similar to human thinking. How was this achieved or why it was not achieved earlier? “The trick,” is that this synthetic brain mimicking the human brain is segmented into left and right hemispheres, and is working as a bicameral mind. Here one can see a parallel with the new directions of leadership theories. In addition to the left, practical, hemisphere, we begin to discover the benefits of engaging the right, creative or spiritual, hemisphere.

Dinn in 2014 writes that according to Austin (2009) emergent theories such as Inspirational leadership are on the cutting edge of describing effective qualities of leadership and management. Inspirational leadership can be present in each leadership model as a ‘leader archetype’ having inspirational agenda contributing to company culture, education, motivation, inspiration, and supports of followers. Further Dinn quotes McEarchern (2005) who attributed Inspirational leadership to a combination of emotional and spiritual intelligence. Another style that expands the boundaries of original theories is Authentic leadership, utilizing the potential of positive psychological abilities and a well-developed organizational context, as Luthans and Avolio (2003) mention, to ‘greater self-awareness and self-directed positive behavior on the part of leaders and co-workers, encouraging positive self-development.’ Nohria and Khurana (2010) complement that an authentic leader needs to be self-aware, moral centered, transparent, and balanced decision maker. George (2003) characterizes Authentic Leaders as individuals equipped with moral integrity with ‘genuine desire to serve others through their leadership’, who set out on a never-ending journey of personal development promoting the ability for building lasting values and relationships. In addition to authenticity, ethics becomes also an important topic.

Companies are becoming aware of the importance of long-term sustainability. Mihelič, Lipičnik and Tekavčič (2010) put forward a long-term perspective vs. the consequences of individual decisions within the company. Humility, justice, responsibility, and mutual respect and work in favor of the good of others, or in other words reveal and respect ethical standards, should be the basic attributes of leaders that can be called ethical. At the same time, the authors attach results of the study of U.K. Institute of Business Ethics, published by Fulmer in 2004, where between 1997 and 2001 in a sample of 350 large U.K. “ethical” companies were found strong indicative evidence, that those companies following business ethical principles in their business activities have performance results above the average of comparable companies where such principles are absent. Many leaders, how stated by Page (2017), still consider innate intelligence (IQ) and level of education to be most important for leadership and professional success. Unfortunately, they do not realize that working with emotions and the ability to collaborate with others, attributes (EQs), may have a much stronger influence on the outcome of their efforts than they can imagine.

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And yet, in the new century, emotional intelligence seems to become increasingly important for leadership theories updates in the context of globalizing society and more sophisticated technologies. As Northouse (2012) quotes Adler and Bartholomew (1992) in global world leaders needs to be competent in cross-cultural topics such are ‘First, leaders need to understand business, political, and cultural environments worldwide. Second, they need to learn the perspectives, tastes, trends, and technologies of many other cultures. Third, they need to be able to work simultaneously with people from many cultures. Fourth, leaders must be able to adapt to living and communicating in other cultures. Fifth, they need to learn to relate to people from other cultures from a position of equality rather than cultural superiority.’ Additionally, Northouse (2012) quotes Ting-Toomey (1999) who stated ‘that global leaders need to be skilled in creating transcultural visions.

They need to develop communication competencies that will enable them to articulate and implement their vision in a diverse workplace. In sum, today’s leaders need to acquire a challenging set of competencies if they intend to be effective in present-day global societies.’ One can imagine that international corporations or international cooperation can generate a need for e-leadership utilizing online tools to save time and costs. Leadership research responds to the emergence of a virtual environment with new technologies. Hambley, O’Neill and Kline called new approach in 2006 ‘virtual leadership’ or ‘e-leadership’, and defined it as ‘ asocial influence process mediated by advanced information technologies to produce changes in attitudes, thinking, behavior, and / or performance of individuals, groups, and / or organizations ”. What can happen when members of virtual teams have different time zones, hardware and software, and even more, they have to respect local leadership priorities at the same time, is also imaginable. Ongoing research of brain activities, increasingly advanced technologies allow allows exploring of brain activities in connection with an individual’s behavior in the social environment, when decision-making, problem-solving, controlling emotions, collaboration, and mutual influencing, Muleyo (2017) ties together with emergence and development of Neuro-leadership theory.

Like the people who apply them, leadership theories are not perfect. That’s one of the reasons why one cannot use universal theory for all situations. The choice and applicability are determined by measurable factors (e.g. size of a company or project, time), but also those that we cannot measure well (e.g. geo-political-cultural-social-emotional factors). Therefore, the assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of individual theories is subjective and time-dependent. Blanchard in 1985 published the following “The four basic leadership styles” model: Figure 1 The four basic leadership styles. Adapted from Blanchard (1985). The quadrants are therefore renamed as follows: S1 = Autocratic, S2 = Democratic, S3 = Transformational, S4 = Delegative. people oriented (LOW) SUPPORTIVE BEHAVIOR (HIGH) E-Leadership , Cross-Cultural, Charismatic, Servant, Ethical, Spiritual, Visionary, Authentic, Transformational S3 Democratic S2 Delegative S4 Great Man, Trait, Behavioural Contingency, Transactional S1 (LOW) DIRECTIVE BEHAVIOR (HIGH) task oriented Figure 2. Four groups of leadership theories.

This illustrates belonging to groups with similar parameters. Edited from “ The four basic leadership styles” by Blanchard (1985) Theories and styles marked as new directions as are E-leadership, Cross-cultural, Charismatic, Servant, Ethical, Spiritual, Visionary and Authentic leadership theories are put into the same group as Transformational leadership because of the fact that, unlike autocratic, delegative and also democratic styles, the leaders are focused on the transformation of values, needs, preferences, and also full exploitation of the potential of followers. The following evaluations of the strengths and weaknesses of the guiding principles of leadership theories are based on materials published by St. Thomas University updated in 2018: Strengths: The speed of decision-making that an autocratic style can bring may be an advantage in certain situations such as crisis situations. Participative or group leadership theories can also be called democratic. Strengths are, not surprisingly, similar to the strengths of democracy itself. Enabling members to participate in decision making, relative openness to innovations and changes, mutual trust and support of the creative environment and team spirit belongs to basic attributes.

Diversification of the risk of fatal failure is also an important parameter. Transformational leadership theory offers vision, motivation, and satisfaction with a condition, that leaders are with using emotional intelligence and integrity able to gain the confidence of followers. This theory allows getting beyond the horizon of leaders knowledge, skills, experience, and courage by controlled unleashing the potential of the group’s members. If one wants to rebuild and prepare the company for the future, this is the way. Delegative leadership (Laissez-faire) by its nature ‘pushes’ group members to take over personal responsibility. If they have space and support for autonomous decision making, it can be relatively creative and effective. Weaknesses The risk of potential abuse of power by an autocratic leader or fatal failure is concentrated in one person. The leader’s horizons are reflected in the group’s environment and in a short can be limiting.

The threat of the emergence of negative emotions combined with the possible absence of appropriate communication paths to the solution, lack of flexibility, disharmony and unused potential does not qualify this style for long-term perspectives. Democratic theories can be weakened like any ‘democracy’ by conflict of opinions, finding consensus with people, who are not familiar with the situation and data, optionally also by the mob behavior threats. Democratic processes generally can slow down the decision making process. In general, the role and control of the leader are weakened. The theory of transformation leadership may suffer from a purely practical drawback, which lies in a confrontation of visionaries with quick wins, achievable goals, or simply with pure bureaucracy.

In addition, the style built on trust can suffer from its lack. Lack of coordination and unclear responsibilities can cause operational difficulties. If in a tribe is no functioning leader, members try to replace him. But this ‘forced’ reaction is usually stressful for them especially when the members do not have sufficient skills.

The theories chronologically following to Transformational theory cannot be considered completely new, full-fledged theories. Rather, they are sub-theories that take into account the process of globalization and technology development. At the same time, it is good to keep in mind together with Sedlacek the warning pronounced by Plato, that ‘despite all the development and progress we are still just people, who as Leaders only in the ideal world are not distracted by corruption from seeking a higher good for all of us’, and also the fact, that despite all the progress and globalization trends still exist ‘parochial altruism’, the term, how Green (2013) has marked the natural human tendency to tribalism, thinking, and behavior favoring people, who are closer to us, or by other words, members of another group are understood as our competitors. In addition to working on individual theories, it is definitely time to pay attention to gender issues as well as to the role of the CEO. In history was neglected the potential of women, whom Nohria and Khurana (2010) attribute abilities regarding networking, ‘nonhierarchical style and relational skills’, could be more suitable for less formal, less hierarchical and more knowledge-based systems of leading, because ‘women leaders don’t covet formal authority. They have learned to lead without it.” Nohria and Khurana (2010) consider the CEO as ‘epitome’ of leadership. But do the CEO´s really know how to play the role in order to be beneficial? Some things change, some remain.

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Three Contemporary Theories of American Democracy. (2022, November 25). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 2, 2023, from
“Three Contemporary Theories of American Democracy.” Edubirdie, 25 Nov. 2022,
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Three Contemporary Theories of American Democracy [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Nov 25 [cited 2023 Feb 2]. Available from:
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