1 The Role of the Situation in LeadershipVictor H. VroomYale UniversityArthur G. JagoUniversity of Missouri ColumbiaLeadership depends on the Situation . Few social scien-tists would dispute the validity of this statement. But thestatement can be interpreted in many different ways,depending, at least in part, on what one means byleadership. This article begins with a definition of lead-ership and a brief description of 3 historically importanttheories of Leadership . The most recent of these, contin-gency theories, is argued to be most consistent withexisting evidence and most relevant to professionalpractice. The Vroom, Yetton, and Jago contingency mod-els of participation in decision making are described indepth, and their work provides the basis for identifying3 distinct ways in which situational or contextual vari-ables are relevant to both research on and the practiceof :participation, situational Leadership , normativemodels, contingency theoryThe termleadershipis ubiquitous in common dis-course.
2 Political candidates proclaim it, organiza-tions seek it, and the media discusses it ad , research on Leadership has done little toinform these endeavors. As Bennis and Nanus (1985) havenoted,Literally thousands of empirical investigations of leaders havebeen conducted in the last seventy-five years alone, but no clearand unequivocal understanding exists as to what distinguishesleaders from nonleaders, and perhaps more important, what dis-tinguisheseffectiveleaders fromineffectiveleaders. (p. 4)Although this assertion is over 20 years old, our positionis that any serious review of the more recent literaturewould reveal that the quote is as relevant today as it of the problems stems from the fact that the termleadership, despite its popularity, is not a scientific termwith a formal, standardized definition. Bass (1990) haslamented the taxonomic confusion by suggesting that there are almost as many definitions of Leadership as thereare persons who have attempted to define the concept (p.)
3 11).In this article, we begin by examining a set of issuessurrounding the definition of Leadership . Then we pursueour central objective to examine the role of situationalfactors in Leadership . Our focus is on the Leadership oforganizations public, private, or nonprofit rather thanleadership in political, scientific, or artistic Definitions of LeadershipVirtually all definitions of Leadership share the view thatleadership involves the process of influence. One thing thatall leaders have in common is one or more followers. If noone is following, one cannot be leading. One person, A,leads another person, B, if the actions of A modify B sbehavior in a direction desired by A. Note that this defini-tion of leading is restricted to intended influence. Elimi-nated are instances in which the influence is in a directionopposite of that desired by A or in which changing B sbehavior was not A s leading is influencing, then what is Leadership ?
4 Clearly, if this term is useful, it refers to a potential orcapacity to influence others. It is represented in all aspectsof a process that includes the traits of the source of theinfluence (see Zaccaro, 2007, this issue), the cognitiveprocesses in the source (see Sternberg, 2007, this issue), thenature of the interaction that makes the influence possible(see Avolio, 2007, this issue), and the situational contextthat is the subject of this that the definition given above makes no mentionof the processes by which the influence occurs. There are,in fact, a myriad of processes by which successful influencecan occur. Threats, the promise of rewards, well-reasonedtechnical arguments, and inspirational appeals can all beeffective under some circumstances. Do all of these modesof influence qualify as Leadership ? It is in the answer to thisquestion that Leadership theorists diverge.
5 Some restrict thetermleadershipto particular types of influence methods,such as those that are noncoercive or that involve appealsto moral values. Others use the form of influence not as adefining property but as the basis for distinguishing differ-ent types of Leadership . For example, Burns (1978) distin-guished betweentransactionalandtransformationall ead-ership, terms that are described in more detail by Avolio(2007). Similarly, other scholars have written about char-ismatic Leadership (Conger & Kanungo, 1998), tyrannicalleadership (Glad, 2004), and narcissistic Leadership (Ketsde Vries & Miller, 1985).Another point of difference among definitions of lead-ership lies in their treatment of the effects of theorists assume there is a close link betweenVictor H. Vroom, School of Management, Yale University; Arthur , College of Business, University of Missouri concerning this article should be addressed to VictorH.
6 Vroom, School of Management, Yale University, New Haven, CT06520. E-mail: 2007 American PsychologistCopyright 2007 by the American Psychological Association 0003-066X/07/$ 62, No. 1, 17 24 DOI: and the effectiveness of a group or organiza-tion. If fact, organizational effectiveness is often takenas a strong indication of effective Leadership . Exhibitingleadership means not only influencing others but alsodoing so in a manner that enables the organization toattain its goals. The usefulness of adding effectiveness tothe definition of Leadership has recently been questionedby Podolny, Khurana, and Hill-Popper (2005). Theynoted the tenuous connections between these two vari-ables in economic organizations and suggested that lead-ership be defined as a process of meaning-making ( ) among organizational support disentangling the definition of leadershipfrom organizational effectiveness.
7 Not only is the effec-tiveness of an organization influenced by many factorsother than the quality of its Leadership , but there are manyprocesses by which leaders can impact their organizationsthat have little or nothing to do with what is defined asleadership. For example, mergers and acquisitions, changesin organizational structure, and layoffs of personnel mayhave great impact on shareholder value but do not neces-sarily embody the influence process integral to would expect Leadership as defined here to contributeto organizational effectiveness, but it would be neithernecessary nor sufficient for achieving the myriad of definitions that have been put for-ward over the years, we offer the following working defi-nition that will, at least, serve the objectives of this see Leadership as a process of motivating people towork together collaboratively to accomplish great a few implications of this Leadership is a process, not a property of a The process involves a particular form of The nature of the incentives, extrinsic or intrinsic.
8 Is not part of the The consequence of the influence is collaborationin pursuit of a common The great things are in the minds of both leaderand followers and are not necessarily viewed asdesirable by all other Heroic Conception of LeadershipMost early research on Leadership was based on an assump-tion that has been largely discredited. Leadership was as-sumed to be a general personal trait independent of thecontext in which the Leadership was performed. We refer tothis as aheroicconception of Leadership . Heroic modelsoriginated in the great man theory of history proposed by18th-century rationalists such as Carlyle, Nietzsche, andGalton. Major events in world history were assumed to bethe result of great men whose genius and vision changedthe world in which they lived. Among psychologists, Wil-liam James (1880) stressed that the mutations of societywere due to great men who led society in the directionsthey believed to be development of psychological testing in the earlypart of the 20th century provided the potential for testingthe trait concept.
9 If Leadership is a general personal trait, itshould be measurable, and people with a high level of thistrait could be placed in positions requiring their talents. Ifthe heroic model proved to be correct, society could enor-mously benefit through improved leader to test this heroic model have compared thetraits of leaders with followers and effective leaders withthose who were ineffective. The psychological tests usedhave ranged from tests of aptitude and ability, includingintelligence, to personality tests measuring traits such asextroversion, dominance, and detailed summary of all of this work is beyond thescope of this article. Zaccaro (2007), whose article appearsin this special section, discussed the evidence in moredetail. Stogdill, who reviewed 124 studies, noted substan-tial variability in the findings reported by different inves-tigators. He stated that It becomes clear that an adequateanalysis of Leadership involves not only a study of leaders,but also of situations (Stogdill, 1948, pp.)
10 64 65).Reviews such as those by Stogdill (1948) gave pauseto those investigators looking for the components of thetrait of Leadership . Beginning in the 1950s, there was amove away from dispositional variables as the source ofleadership to other and possibly more promising ap-proaches. Zaccaro (2007) made the case for resurrectingthe study of Leadership traits, arguing that their rejectionwas premature and based on something other than anunbiased appraisal of the the notion of Leadership has declined as astarting point for research, it still constitutes the prevalentview held by the general public (see Avolio, 2007). In theirarticle, Hackman and Wageman (2007, this issue) sought toaccount for this discrepancy with their concept of the leaderattribution 2007 American PsychologistThe Search for Effective LeaderBehaviorsDisenchantment with the search for universal traits of lead-ership led to a new movement in Leadership research in the1950s and 1960s.