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Critical Evaluation of the Evolution of Leadership and Management Theories


Effective leadership and management are significant for accomplishing a company’s goals, fostering employee engagement, and maintaining a competitive edge in the current dynamic business environment (Paillé et al., 2014). In the current world, leadership and management shape the direction and vision of an organisation. Precisely, leaders define a company’s objectives and develop long-term goals and strategies toward achieving these goals (Groysberg et al. 2018). They also articulate a compelling vision that motivates employees to achieve these goals.

In addition, leadership and management drive the performance and productivity of an organisation (Hurduzeu, 2015). Managers oversee the daily operations, allocate resources, delegate tasks, and monitor the progress to improve performance and productivity (Armstrong, 2011). This way, effective management practices drive a high-quality output maximising operational efficiency. Effective leadership and management practices also accelerate employee engagement and retention (Sadeli, 2015). For instance, leaders who listen and involve employees in decision-making create a sense of ownership and satisfaction in their work (Armache, 2013). Fapohunda, 2013, and Massingham and Tam, 2015 argue that regularly providing feedback, awarding employee achievements, and creating opportunities for growth and Development would translate to employee retention, loyalty, and organisational success.

Lastly, leadership and management are responsible for stakeholder management and building relationships (Doh and Quigley, 2014). Managers and leaders play a significant role in building relationships with investors, suppliers, customers and the general community (Lemoine et al., 2021). In this case, they build and nurture partnerships by representing the overall organisation. They address stakeholder needs, creating positive relationships and long-term sustainability.

In general, leadership and management determine the organisation’s growth and success. Therefore for organisations to strive and achieve their set objectives in the current competitive business landscape, it is crucial to invest in leadership development and effective management.

In this case, this report will critically appraise the evolution of leadership and management theories. The report will draw different theories and contexts of leadership and management from various sources to provide a literature review of these contexts. Also, three leadership and three management theories will be discussed, and the social-economic and technical context ending their Development to demonstrate the evolution better. Therefore, qualitative and quantitative analysis will be integrated to evaluate the evolution of leadership and management theories critically. Perhaps, the qualitative analysis will provide an in-depth analysis of this matter, capturing different theories’ diverse perspectives and historical contexts. This will be achieved through a literature review to define the history of leadership and management theories, analysing primary sources to understand the assumptions and motives shaping these theories, and exploring various case studies on the practical application of various leadership and management theories.

On the other hand, a quantitative methodology will provide a numerical and more statistical approach to validate qualitative findings. For instance, examining the relationship between specific leadership and management theories and organisational outcomes through performance metrics is a quantitative method that can help achieve the objective of this assignment. Additionally, analysing publication trends to assess theories’ influence over time would be a significant quantitative method. Therefore, combining these two methodologies would provide a comprehensive understanding of the evolution of leadership and management theories.

Critical Evaluation of the Evolution of Leadership and Management Theories

Critically evaluate the evolution of Leadership and Management Theories and their respective socioeconomic and technical context and drivers chronologically.

Nawaz and Khan (2016) claim that leadership theories expound on how and why certain people become leaders by focusing on the character traits of leaders. Some theories recognise the traits that individuals can agree on to enhance their leadership abilities in various conditions (Giltinane, 2013 Vasilescu, 2019). On the other hand, management theories comprise ideas that recommend the general rules for managing an organisation (Hussain et al., 2019). Simply, they help organisations to focus, communicate and evolve (Lai and Huili, 2017). This section critically evaluates the chronological growth of leadership and management theories with their corresponding socioeconomic and technological contexts.

Leadership theories

Trait Theory

The trait theory of leadership began in the early 20th century. It focused on identifying an effective leader’s personal characteristics and qualities (Penney et al. 2015). This theory suggests that confidence, intelligence and determination distinguish leaders from non-leaders (Siegling et al., 2014). Thomas Carlyle ad Ralph Stogdill are the scholars behind this theory. The context influencing the Development of this theory includes cultural intelligence, where businesses have grown. Also, Ralph Stogdill argued that a successful leader’s characteristics must be relevant to the demands of the leadership situation (Maloş, 2011). This implies that a good leader must know his followers’ challenges, concerns, abilities and values (Chuang, 2013). However, this trait leadership theory has faced criticism for its limited emphasis on individual characteristics disregarding situational factors.

Behavioural theory

Kult Lewin and Douglas McGregor suggested a behavioural theory in response to the limitations of the trait theory of Thomas and Ralph (Schein, 2011). Behavioural theory emphasises its focus on the inherent traits as proposed in trait theory to the behaviours of leaders. For this case, the behavioural theory suggested that effective leadership is learned and developed through specific behaviours such as tasks-oriented and people–oriented strategies (Tu et al. 2023). The socioeconomic context of post-world War II shaped the emphasis on the behavioural influenced the emergence of this theory (Maher, 2020). Additionally, changes in social and cultural contexts have shaped the Development of this theory.

Transformational theory

In the late 20th century, James MacGregor and Bernard Bass proposed the transformational theory focusing on leaders’ ability to motivate and inspire their followers (Giltinane, 2013). This theory suggests that leaders transform their followers’ values, goals and beliefs, leading to higher performance levels. The Development of this theory was driven by the rapid globalisation context and the need for leaders to adapt to complex environments (Dugan, 2017). The components of transformational leadership proposed in this theory are; idealised influence, where a leader should be an ideal role model for their followers; inspirational motivation, where a transformational leader is believed to have the capacity to motivate and inspire followers by having a vision; individualised consideration where transformational leaders have a sincere concern on the feelings of their team and assist them to self-actualise; knowledgeable inspiration where leaders should challenge his team to be creative and innovative.

Management Theories

  1. Scientific Management theory

This theory was proposed by Fredrick Taylor in the late 19th and early 20th centuries (Taylor, 2004). The socioeconomic context of the industrial revolution, where organisations sought to maximise productivity and minimise waste, spearheaded the Development of this theory (Tabatadze, 2019). Taylor emphasised enhancing efficiency and improving work processes. Therefore, he proposed using scientific methods to identify effective task undertaking while focusing on motion studies and time.

  1. Administrative Theory

Henry Fayol is the scholar behind this theory (Wren et al. 2002). Early 20th century, he suggested this theory focusing on management principles and managers’ functions. The Development of this theory was driven by the economic context of rapid industrialisation and the demand for effective organisational structures (Kwok, 2014). Fayol identified core management functions in this case as planning, organising, commanding, coordinating and controlling (JD and Ala, 2023). Therefore, this theory provided a framework for effective management practices and impacted the Development of modern management styles.

  1. Systems Theory

Ludwig Von and Kenneth Boulding developed the systems theory in the 20th century. According to this theory, organisations are complex systems influenced by many interrelated factors (Lai and Huili, 2017). The system theory stresses the interrelationships of multiple organisational components and the desire for a holistic approach to management (Morgeson, 2015). Increased technological advancement and the growth of large-scale organisations have driven the growth of systems theory.

The emerging socioeconomic and technical context and drivers’ trends will likely inform and influence the Development of new leadership and management theories.

In the 21st century, new leadership and management theories reveal changes in socioeconomic and technical contexts (Dike et al., 2015). While traditional theories, such as the transformational leadership theory, are still relevant, emerging theories address unique challenges and occasions of the current modern period (Bush, 2017).

To mention a few of these theories include; authentic leadership, which focuses on the leader’s displaying transparency to build trust with their team (Hirst et al. 2016); adaptive leadership, which stresses the ability to lead followers in a complex changing environment and even mobilising the team to drive an organisational change (Arthur-Mensah and Zimmerman, 2017); servant leadership claims that a leader’s primary objective is to support their followers by prioritising their needs and fostering a positive work environment (Heyler and Martin, 2018); ethical leadership which highlights the essence of leaders in fostering ethical behaviour in an organisation (Al Halbusi et al. 2021). This theory focuses on corporate ethics and social responsibility. These new theories replicate the changing dynamics of socioeconomic and technical contexts in the modern environment (Zanda and Zanda, 2018), (Baltaci and Balcı, 2017). For instance, elements such as sustainability, diversity and technology drive new theories’ emergence (Baran and Berkowicz, 2020). Therefore, this section critically evaluates the emerging socioeconomic and technical contexts that influence the Development of new leadership and management theories. The driver’s trends are characterised by rapid technological growth, globalisation, shifting demographics and societal values (Ahlstrom et al., 2020).

Technological Advancement: The emergence of big data and artificial intelligence technologies is reshaping the business environment even globally (Cukier and Mayer, 2013). Managers and leaders need to leverage these technological tools to navigate the social and ethical implications they bring (Canedo et al. 2017). In this way, new leadership and management theories are emerging to address possible issues by emerging technologies (Bailey et al., 2022, Pentland et al., 2020). For instance, Maheshwari and Yadav (2020) suggest that leaders should understand how to navigate leadership in a digital world and manage their followers in a technologically connected landscape. Technology helps develop a more effective leadership style, which can be referred to as a catalyst for a new leadership style (Balda and Mora, 2011). However, this leadership style would come with significant challenges that can be addressed through new theories; therefore, technological advancement is a technological trend that affects the emergence of new leadership and management theories (Pattit et al. 2012).

Shifting work dynamicsThe evolution of the market defines the influence of new theories to address concerns that come along with changing work dynamics (Pisano, 2015). Perhaps, the labour force has become diverse, with multicultural from different geographical locations and generations (Saxena, 2014). This diversity demands leaders and managers to embrace adaptive and inclusive strategies in their work which can be achieved by developing new theories (Chrobot-Mason et al. 2014). Therefore, developing new theories would focus on cross-cultural leadership, where leaders should understand cultural differences, foster diversity and inclusion and manage virtual teams to cater for a geographically dispersed workforce (Tshukudu, 2022, Shirish et al., 2023).

The unpredictability of the market and Globalization: Globalization has interconnected worldwide economic activities creating an unpredictable business environment (Coe and Yeung, 2015). This market volatility is influencing the Development of new theories to address cross-border issues, decision-making in uncertain times and agile leadership (Neville et al. 2016). Globalisation changes organisations’ rules, making the leaders not remain constant in terms of skills and capacities (Litz, 2011). In addition, globalisation makes managers develop strategies for globalisation to transform their organisations into a globally competitive business (Hitt et al. 2016). In this way, leaders and managers must learn how to manage global operations, navigate complex geopolitical environments and adapt to unstable market conditions (Cole and Snider, 2019). Therefore, new theories are developing to guide them on how to carry out operations in the global market.

Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility: Organizations are shifting their operations to a more ethical and sustainable away from the growing environmental awareness and social issues (Garavan and McGuire, 2010). This trend requires leaders and managers to integrate social responsibility and sustainable practices into operations (Weingarten et al. 2017). Therefore, sustainability and corporate social responsibility are the socioeconomic drivers influencing the Development of new theories in leadership and management to address critical issues in organisations, such as ethical decision-making, sustainable leadership and stakeholder management (Simba and Thai, 2019).

Changing Employee Expectations: In the current world, employees seek meaningful work to balance their work life and opportunities for personal growth (Gilley et al. 2015). In this case, leaders and managers must understand changing employee expectations to attract and retain talent (Anderson et al. 2017). For this case, varying employee expectations have influenced the Development of new theories focusing on employee engagement, purpose-driven leadership and creating a positive work culture (Carraher-Wolverton,2022).

Collaborative work practices: The outdated hierarchical leadership styles have paved the way for a more agile work practice (Mergel et al. 2021). Leaders and managers must create teamwork while fostering innovation and enabling a flexible decision-making process (Lewis et al., 2014). New theories have emerged for this case to address issues such as cross-functional collaboration, agile management and servant leadership (Boedder, 2015).


Various socioeconomic and technical contexts shape the evolution of leadership and management theories. In addition, the chronological progressions of leadership theories, perhaps from trait to behavioural and transformational theories, portray a shift from individual traits to behaviours and inspirational leadership. In the same way, management theories evolving from scientific management to administrative and systems theories reflect an emphasis on efficiency, management functions and systems thinking.

In addition, the trending socioeconomic and technical framework is influencing the growth of new leadership and management theories by providing a shift to a sustainable leadership approach, collaborative work practices and technology-driven management. These new theories will focus on navigating the international market, integrating sustainability, managing a diverse team and accomplishing employee expectations. Some new leadership and management theories include servant leadership, ethical leadership, authentic leadership and adaptive leadership. These theories emerge to solve the challenges that come with new generations and the growth of the business world.

In summary, the socioeconomic and technical contexts that have influenced the Development of new leadership and management theories include shifting work dynamics where the labour force is diversified and characterised by different cultures and generations. This calls for new theories relevant to cultural intelligence. Also, the new theories would attract new flexible leadership styles to ensure leaders adjust their decision-making and communication processes. In addition, technological advancement is a core driver in developing new leadership and management theories. Managers in the modern technological era need to learn how to navigate the challenges that come along with new technologies. In this case, the Development of new theories would address these challenges.

Similarly, employees are looking for meaningful employment to balance their work life. In this case, the transition in employee expectations drives the Development of new leadership and management theories. Moreover, the growth in eco-friendly operations is pushing organisations to shift to sustainable practices and corporate social responsibility. In this case, new leadership theories develop to address ethical practices and sustainable leadership. Lastly, unpredictable markets and globalisation have influenced the Development of new leadership and management theories. This is best explained by compliance with regulations in the global market which may challenge leadership and management strategies. Therefore, new theories are emerging to help leaders and managers navigate the geopolitical environments and successfully help organisations grow in the globally competitive market.


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