Leadership Theories
Explaining How Leadership Works

Leadership Theories. Each and every business demands leadership in greater or lesser quantity to be a successful and thriving enterprise. So detailed understanding of “Leadership Science” is very beneficial for new comers, as well as, to small to medium businesses.

In wake of this, let us study the prevalent leadership and the theories related to leadership. Leadership is about to creating a way for people to contribute to making something extraordinary happen. And theories are a way of explaining how a process works. In due course studies of leadership involve several points of views and scholars follow several theories to explain this process as a whole. Some are as follows:

Leadership Theories / Great man Theories
According to this theory “Leaders are born not made” Ancient studies made on a base of people who were already great and majority of them were male. These great people often came from aristocracy and very few were emerged from lower level so it leads to the dynastic concepts.

Leadership Theories / Trait Theories
According to this theory “People are born with inherited traits. Some traits are particularly suited to lead, making them excellent leadership qualities. People who make good leaders have the right combination of traits”. Stogdill (1974) listed the following traits and skills as vital to leaders:

leadership theories 1

After detailed studies this inherited traits theory had been kept at bay and situational and learned factors became more accepted.

Leadership Theories / Contingency Theories
It has been observed that leaders who are successful at one place or in one situation may be found not so successful in another place or situation. So we can say that the leader's ability to lead is contingent upon various situational factors, including the leader's preferred style, the capabilities and behaviors of followers and other situational factors.

Leadership Theories / Situational Theories
Here actions of the leader is solely dependent upon the factors that prevail in the situation. Situational decisions demand the motivation and capabilities of team member or followers. A leader's behavior is dependent upon the perception of themselves and other factors such as stress.
Yukl (1989) identifies six other variables.

  • Subordinate effort: the motivation and actual effort expended.
  • Subordinate ability and role clarity: followers knowing what to do and how to do it.
  • Organization of the work: the structure of the work and utilization of resources.
  • Cooperation and cohesiveness: of the group in working together.
  • Resources and support: the availability of tools, materials, people, etc.
  • External coordination: the need to collaborate with other groups.

Leaders here work on such factors as external relationships, acquisition of resources, managing demands on the group and managing the structures and culture of the group.

Leadership Theories / Behavioral Theories
Opposed to the trait theory, behaviorial leadership is not only inherited but learned. Statistical analysis of the leadership successes and actions of leaders provides the scientific clues for behavioral patterns involved. Here success can be defined in terms of describable actions and it is easy for others to follow it.
Behavioral theory can further explain in form of “Role Theory and “The Managerial Grids”.

Leadership Theories / Role Theory
According to this theory people define roles for themselves and for others based on their readings and social learning. In a broad sense people have internal points pf view for the role of the leaders based on what they read, discuss and so on.

These are all delivered to the leaders in different forms, thus the public defines the role of their leaders. In an organization formal and informal chains develop to carry out messages in both directions.

Leadership Theories / The Managerial Grids
Blake and Mouton (1960) define this model. In which leaders may be concerned for the team and also concern for the work done (tasks).

leadership theories 2

Participative Theories
According to this theory involvement of the team in decision-making improves the understanding of the issue and makes them more committed to the actions, less competitive, and more collaborative. Several people make better decision then single one.

leadership theories 3

Participative Theory also define by some scholar in their own ways and they are:   
Lewin’s leadership style
Lewin et al (1939) classified it in Autocratic, Democratic and Lasiz-Faire styles. Among them Democratic style is most acceptable and effective one.

Likert’s leadership theory
Likert (1967) identified four main styles Exploitative authoritative, Benevolent authoritative, consultative, and participative.

Leadership Theories / Transactional Theory
This theory is based on the reward and punishment and it works best with a clear chain of command. Here leaders allocate the work and subordinates are responsible to accomplish it. Feedback is given according to their performance. The early stage of Transactional leadership is to negotiating the contract at that time their style is “selling”. Once the contract is in place then the leadership adopts the “telling” style.

Transactional Theory is further explained by Leader-Member Exchange Theory (LMX): According to this theory, the leader often forms two circles: an inner and an outer. The inner circle consists of the people who are more trusted and loyal to the leaders. They carry more responsibility, have more decision influence and are empowered with more access to the resources. The LMX has its own process. 1st Role taking, 2nd Role making, 3rd Routinization.

Leadership Theories / Transformational Leadership theory
These kinds of leaders inspirs the team, injecting enthusiasm and energy. This leads to things getting done. These leaders have vision and passion to do great things. They constantly sell the vision and show how this vison can be manifested. They are forefront fighters and never hide themselves behind the troops. They are people oriented.

There are three schools of thoughts prevails for the transformational theory...

Bass’s Transformational Leadership theory
It is based on assumptions that –Awareness of task importance and focus on team or organization produce better work and good motivational factors. Bass in 1998 noted that authentic transformational leadership is grounded in moral foundations that are based on four components:

  • Idealized influence
  • Inspirational motivation
  • Intellectual stimulation
  • Individualized consideration

...and three moral aspects:

  • The moral character of the leader.
  • The ethical values embedded in the leader’s vision, articulation, and program (which followers either embrace or reject).
  • The morality of the processes of social ethical choice and action that leaders and followers engage in and collectively pursue.

Burn’s Transformational Leadership theory
Social and spiritual levels are great motivational factors. It gives people an uplifting sense of being connected for higher purposes and a sense of meaning and identity.

Kouzes and Posner's Leadership Participation Inventory
James Kouzes and Barry Posner created a list of the characteristics of successful entrepreneurs (leaders) based on the survey of more than 75000 people. The list consists following characteristics: Honest Forward-looking, Competent, Inspiring, Intelligent, Fair-minded, Broad-minded, Supportive, Straightforward, Dependable, Cooperative, Determined, Imaginative, Ambitious, Courageous, Caring, Mature, Loyal, Self-controlled and Independent.

Some are other schools of thoughts and according to them the following are other theories for leadership:

  • Management Theories
  • Relationship Theories
  • Functional theory
  • Agentic Leadership
  • Coaching
  • Communal Leadership
  • Max Weber's Charismatic authority
  • Antonio Gramsci's theory of Cultural hegemony
  • Ethical leadership
  • Islamic leadership
  • Ideal leadership
  • Leadership Character Model
  • Leadership development
  • Servant leadership
  • Toxic Leadership
  • Youth leadership
  • Collaborative leadership
  • Outstanding leadership theory

Stogdill, R.M. (1974). Handbook of leadership: A survey of the literature, New York: Free Press

Yukl, G. A. (1989). Leadership in Organizations. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Maier, N.R.F. (1963). Problem-solving discussions and conferences: Leadership methods and skills. New York: McGraw-Hill

Lewin, K., LIippit, R. and White, R.K. (1939). Patterns of aggressive behavior in experimentally created social climates. Journal of Social Psychology, 10, 271-301
Likert, R. (1967). The human organization: Its management and value, New York: McGraw-Hill

Bass, B. M. and Steidlmeier, P. (1998). Ethics, Character and Authentic Transformational Leadership, at: Science Direct

Changing Minds


For more information on leadership and how you can learn from successful entrepreneurs follow these links:

Leadership Styles

Define Leadership

Leadership Qualities

Transformational Leadership

Situational Leadership

Read some Success Stories of Entrepreneurs. Prepare to be inspired.

To learn about the Definition of an Entrepreneur follow this link.

Return from Leadership Theories to VoteForUs home page.

buz banner



buz banner