10 Major Leadership Theories and Styles
Here are the best-known leadership theories
Leadership Theories and Styles
The Great Man Theory.
It postulated that great leaders are born, not made. You either have it, or you don’t. And then it tried to identify the set of attributes that all of these natural-born leaders have in common.
Well, it’s now become clear that leadership has actually learnable. There’s indeed true to the notion that some people inherently have more leadership gifts than others.
Trait Theory of leadership
Several types of research that examines which individual characteristics we should pursue to lead effectively.
The upside is that it’s easy to understand be like this and people will follow you. But the downside is that it’s identified dozens of traits, and no single set has emerged as the ideal for all circumstances, so it can be overwhelming to attempt.
Skills Theory of Leadership
Just like trade theory tries to identify a set of key attributes, but in this case, practical skills rather than just general qualities of a leader.
The bottom line on this one is if you want people to follow you, you need technical skills in your field.
That is, you need to be good at what you’re doing, so you have some credibility.
You need people skills like persuasion and diplomacy and friendliness, and you need conceptual skills, the ability to see the big picture and think strategically next.
The Style type of leadership
There’s a theory that leadership style is the key to success styles, like be autocratic and demanding or be democratic and participative.
Or be Laisse’s Faire and leave people alone. Probably the best-known style-based theory is called The Managerial Grid adopted leadership style that’s both people friendly and uncompromising on performance.
Situational Leadership Theory argues that there’s no one size fits all model. Individual traits and skills and styles work better in one situation than another, so the leader must adapt.
For example, coaching high school boys’ team may imply a somewhat different approach than coaching high school girls.
Same objectives and standards, perhaps, but to get great results might require more of a disciplinarian for the boys but the highly relational coach for the girls. A closely related idea is called the Contingency Theory of leadership, whereas the situational leadership approach assumes that the situation is static, and the leader should adapt to it.
The contingency theory assumes that the leader’s default style is also pretty much fixed. Maybe he’s more task-oriented than people-oriented, so the trick is to fit the right leader to the situation.
Bottom line. Effective leadership is contingent on matching leaders’ style to the setting.
In the coaching example, it would mean to find and install the right coach rather than hoping the current coach will adapt his or her style to the situation.
Transactional Leadership and Transformational Leadership
Transactional leadership and transformational leadership are two theories that we can consider together.
As the term implies, transactional leadership means that there’s a reciprocity of behaviour between the leader and follower.
People will follow based on the incentives in place, so the leader’s job is to find the right mix of rewards and punishments and then closely monitor what’s going on.
The theory of transformational leadership, by contrast, says that leaders gained by an and commitment not so much from the quid pro quo approach they do from encouraging their followers caring for them, inspiring them toward a vision.
In short, to get results by proactively transforming the environment and the relationships, cultivating followership rather than paying for it or punishing non-compliance as the transactional leader does.
Leader-Member Exchange Theory
Leader-Member exchange theory is a bit like transactional theory because it suggests that leadership is basically about a fair exchange between the leader and the led.
But it goes further to say that the exchange creates an in-group and out-group with respect to the leader, and that, in turn, affects people’s performance and willingness to stick around.
In a way, it’s just like being back in high school. There was the in-crowd, and then there were the rest of us, and that could have some dysfunctional consequences.
The theory suggests that leaders may want to address their tendency to alienate people.
Servant Leadership Theory
And then there’s servant leadership theory, which is kind of a blend between transformational and transactional leadership boiled down to its essentials.
It says that if a leader makes a priority of identifying and meeting followers’ needs serving rather than being served.
That leader creates an environment of trust and cooperation and reciprocal service and ultimately, higher performance.
It’s been popularized in recent decades by many researchers, but it goes back a lot further than that. Much of Jesus influence, for example, was and still is a result of compassion and service and sacrifice.
People follow out of love and gratitude rather than out of compulsion or fear.