What Are Some Leadership Theories?


The study of leadership is a longstanding academic discipline, dating back at least to the time of Plato, as well as an ongoing area of inquiry with various ideas on the nature of leadership. Leadership studies are often related to management studies. Leadership theories are easy to understand when grouped into eight broad categories.

Great Man Theory

  • This idea contends that leadership is an innate quality that emerges only when it is needed. The Great Man Theory is somewhat outdated in favoring male aristocrats as presenting the best available leadership material.

Trait Theory

  • Trait Theory also argues that leadership is an innate quality, and that it is specifically composed of various traits and skills like adaptability, assertiveness, intelligence and creativity.

Behavioral Theory

  • This ideas enjoins that leaders learn to lead in the course of their lives. Behavioral theorists believe that anyone can learn how to lead with the proper education and training.

Participative Leadership

  • The Participative Leadership view focuses on leadership arising out of cooperation with others and the idea that leadership involves collaborative decision-making. This theory claims that more democratic leadership results in superior decisions.

Situational Leadership

  • The Situational Leadership theory argues that both the behavior and the effectiveness of leadership depends on the specific situation at hand. This is a more recent idea that also seeks a unification of different leadership theories.

Contingency Theory

  • Contingency Theory is an idea related to Situational Leadership concepts maintaining that the individual capability of leaders varies considerably from situation to situation and variable to variable.

Transactional Leadership

  • The Transactional Leadership idea asserts that leadership works hierarchically both naturally and most effectively. In this view, leaders using top-down decision-making wield authority over followers motivated by a system of rewards and punishments.

Transformational Leadership

  • Transformational Leadership postulates that enthusiasm, energy and charisma are at the heart of leadership, and that people are more apt to follow a vision that both they and their leaders are passionate about.

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