A Review of Leadership Theory and Competency Frameworks
University of Exeter
Centre for Leadership Studies, University of Exeter
This report presents a review of leadership theory and competency frameworks that was commissioned to assist the development of the new National Occupational Standards in Management and Leadership. The report begins with a review of leadership theories and tracks their evolution over the past 70 years from the “great man” notion of heroic leaders, through trait theories, behaviourist theories, situational leadership, contingency theory and on to transactional and transformational leadership. Each of these offers some insights into the qualities of successful leaders, but there has been a shift in focus from the generic characteristics and behaviours of the individual to a recognition of the importance of responding to different situations and contexts and the leaders’ role in relation to followers. The review concludes with an introduction to the notion of “dispersed leadership” and a distinction between the process of “leadership” and the socially-constructed role of “leader”. The next section, on Leadership Models and Competency Frameworks, presents a range of leadership and management frameworks currently being used in organisations. These define the qualities required of people in leadership positions and help to inform the leadership development process. Seven private-sector, nine public sector and eight generic frameworks are discussed and web links to the full models included where available. The following section gives a brief overview of a selection of leadership development initiatives both associated with, and as alternatives to, a leadership competencies framework. The aim of this is to give an indication of how different techniques can be used to develop leadership capability within individuals and organisations and how this relates to the underlying philosophy of the programme. The section on Providing Governance, describes the key legal and ethical responsibilities of Directors and an indication of the kinds of skills, behaviours and values required to achieve these. The report concludes with a discussion of the competency framework approach to leadership and leadership development and a proposal as to alternative ways of addressing these issues. It is concluded that whilst this approach has its strengths, it leads to a particularly individualistic notion of leadership and a relatively prescribed approach to leadership development. The changing nature of work and society, it is argued, may demand new approaches that encourage a more collective and emergent view of leadership and leadership development and of sharing the role of “leader” more widely within organisations.
Chase Consulting; Management Standards Centre