Theories of Leadership Behavior


Your leadership style affects the attitude and productivity of your whole team. Overbearing leaders might cause team members to feel overwhelmed and underappreciated, while weak leaders often allow team members to form unproductive habits. It is crucial to understand leadership theories so you can improve your leadership behavior and maximize your team's performance.

Great Man and Trait Theories

  • These two theories argue that great leaders are great from birth. Great Man theory studies the characteristics of past great leaders. Trait theory studies the general characteristics that great leaders share and why these traits are particularly important to effective leadership.

Behavioral Theories

  • Behavioral theories focus on developing leadership rather than looking for inborn traits. For example, role theory studies how social learning leads to an acceptance of our roles and the roles of others in particular situations. Managerial grid theory (also known as leadership grid theory) studies the balance between a leader's concern for employees on the one hand and productivity and efficiency on the other.

Participative Leadership

  • Participative leadership theories state that it is important to involve lower-rung team members in decision-making processes. These theories argue that participation leads to a greater understanding of the issues at hand and increased commitment among team members.

Situational Leadership and Contingency Theories

  • Situational leadership theories state that management style should be shaped to fit certain situations. Situational theories study the interpersonal dynamics of organizations, including employees' motivations, capabilities and relationships with managers. Contingency theories are similar to situational theories but shift the focus from relationships to other variables, such as leadership capabilities and an organization's specific features.

Transactional Leadership

  • Transactional leadership theories rely on behaviorist psychology. These theories study how a leader can control people with a system of rewards and punishments. For example, a leader using this theory might punish those who fail to finish work, regardless of their efforts or capabilities. Those who complete work would receive rewards. The managerial focus is on correcting malfunctioning areas of an organization.

Transformational Leadership

  • Transformational leadership theories study how strong leaders inspire followers. The focus is on developing passion, enthusiasm and energy in a team. These theories study how leaders can develop a vision for an organization, sell the vision to the employees and then help them carry it out.

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