Leadership theories

So are leaders born or made?

Leadership theories have evolved from “Great Man” and “Trait” theories to “Transformational” leadership.

Early theories tend to focus upon the characteristics and behaviours of successful leaders, whereas the later theories consider the role of followers and the contextual nature of leadership.

Overview of leadership theories

(1) The Great Man theory - this was based on the belief that leaders are exceptional people, born with leadership qualities and are destined to lead. This theory reflects the male-oriented view of leadership which has pre-dominated until the late 20th century.

(2) Trait Theory - is based around an extensive list of all of the qualities or traits associated with leadership.

(3) Behaviourist Theories - focus on what leaders actually do rather than on their qualities. Their different patterns of behaviour are observed and categorised as leadership styles.

(4) Situational Leadership - sees leadership as situation specific - where the style of leadership is adapted to the requirements of the context in which it is exercised.

(5) Contingency Theory - is a development of the situational theory - focusing on the situational variables which will determine the most appropriate or effective leadership style to fit the specific circumstances at that time.

(6) Transactional Theory - emphasises the importance of the transaction - or relationship - that takes place between the leader and the led. It focuses on the perceived mutual benefits derived from that relationship whereby the leader dispenses favours in the form of tangible and intangible rewards in return for the commitment, loyalty or [at least] compliance of his or her followers.

(7) Transformational Theory - The central concept here is change and the role of leadership in envisioning and implementing the transformation of organisational performance

(8) Servant Leadership - emphasises the leaders’ duty to serve his/her followers - leadership thus arises out of a desire to serve rather than a desire to lead. It is a practical philosophy which supports people who choose to serve first, and then lead as a way of expanding service to individuals and institutions. It encourages collaboration, trust, foresight, listening, and the ethical use of power and empowerment.

(9) Dispersed Leadership - an ‘informal’, ‘emergent’ or ‘dispersed’ leadership, this approach argues a less formalised model of leadership where the leaders’ role is dissociated from the organisational hierarchy. Individuals at all levels in the organisation and in all roles can exert leadership influence over their colleagues and thus influence the overall leadership of the organisation.

(10) Primal Leadership - refers to the emotional dimension of leadership. The articulation of a message that resonates with their followers’ emotional reality, with their sense of purpose — and so to move people in a positive direction.


For more detailed information see this: Leadership theories and competency frameworks an Edited Version of a Report for Chase Consulting and the Management Standards Centre, published by the Centre for Leadership Studies, University of Exeter, EX4 1TF, United Kingdom http://www.leadership-studies.com

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Trait theory - Leaders ARE born not made

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