Leadership Theories and Styles


Leadership Theories and Styles

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Leadership Theories and Styles
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Theory Definition Description and Examples Characteristics
Trait Theory of Leadership
  • Trait theory of leadership is based on the assumption that leader comes naturally that is they are born. Because of this belief and notion, individuals that possess traits and qualities are those that are considered to be better suited to business leadership.
  • The model of this leadership style is built upon the characteristic of many global leaders both past and present leaders that are considered successful and unsuccessful (Colbert, Judge, Choi, & Wang, 2012).
  • The theory is used to forecast the effectiveness of leadership. A list of a trait is established which is used as the basis to be compared against the lists of potential leaders to evaluate their chances of failure of success.
  • Despite the fact the theory is being largely considered outdated, proponents of the theory have a belief that the development of leadership is made of recognizing and assessing leadership traits and qualities, selecting and screening those leaders deemed to have potential from non-leaders and finally providing training those considered to have potential. Modern theory on this theory have evolved and suggest that the traits above are little as compared to the characteristics (Colbert, Judge, Choi, & Wang, 2012). This is to men that modern thinking has placed significant importance on the characteristics than the traits.  In modern day theory, leadership is observed as a skill that leaders can master and thus the characteristics mentioned can be refined. The recommendation provided for modern leaders based on the trait theory of leadership is that is leaders needs first to comprehend traits that define leaders, then recognize the weaknesses of the theory for them to be great leaders (Hogg, 2001).
  • Several research have identified that the success of leaders necessarily does not rely on traits rather the working relationship that exists between people, the leader and the changing circumstance.
  • Some of the recognizable characteristics that define leaders according to this theory are they are persistent and vigour in pursuit of goals, they are driven by responsibility and desire to complete task, they have self-confidence and originality while solving problem, they are willing and ready to accept the outcome of their actions and decisions, they have significant influence to the behaviors of other people and express willingness to cope up with interpersonal stress and pressures (Colbert, Judge, Choi, & Wang, 2012).
Behavioral Theory of Leadership
  • Behavior is defined as a range of mannerism and actions made by systems, organism, and entities of artificial in connection with their specified environmental circumstances which includes but not limited to other organisms or systems and the physical environment.
  • Human behavior is defined as a range of behaviors that human being exhibit and which are significantly influenced by attitude, culture, values, ethics, coercion, hypnosis, authority, rapport or genetics. Human behaviors can be learned or innate (Hogg, 2001).
  • Behavioral theory of leadership is a type of leadership theory that makes consideration to the reactions and actions of followers and leaders in a given circumstance. The theory focuses on the behaviors of leaders. Unlike the trait theory of leadership which it assumes that leaders are born, in the behavioral theory of leadership, the assumption made is that leaders can be made and that leaders considered successful are one that possesses learnable and definable behaviors.
  • The classification of this leadership theory focuses on the study of particular behaviors that leaders possess such that the behavior a leader possess give the best predictor of the leadership influence he or she will have and thus is recognized the best determinant of the leadership success such leaders will realize (Northouse, 2015).
  • The development of the behavioral theory of leadership is considered as the expansion of the trait theory in that it contradict the trait theory of leadership in that it assumes that leadership is not inherited rather it is learned. The theory is developed from principle and notion that behaviors can be accustomed in such a way that one can incorporate a particular response to particular stimuli.
  • Instead of pursuing traits that are inborn, behavioral theory investigates what leaders really do by evaluating and studying the behaviors of leaders in respect to changing situations and circumstances and then analyzing the success of leadership by assessing the actions of leaders and correlating them with behaviors that are significantly related to success (Northouse, 2015).
  • Behavioral theory of leadership emphasis on concerns for collaboration and people. It promotes a decision-making process that is participative as well as promoting the development of teamwork by aligning and supporting individual needs and group objectives (Tal, & (Gordon, 2016).
Contingency leadership
  • This style of leadership was developed by Fiedler. Contingency leadership defines effective leadership as on that depends on both controls a leader has over a situation as well as the style of leading a leader will implement.
  • Contingency theory of Fiedler tries to find a perfect match between a leader and circumstance/situation. That is how best the style of leadership a leader adopts fits a specified circumstance. Its focuses on the situations and styles and sufficiently matching the situation with the leadership style. The generation of the Least Preferred Co-worker (LPC) scale enables the leader in this theory to lists of traits that can be attributed to the followers in which the leader preferred the least.
  • To analyze contingency theory of Fiedler focus is placed on the factor that is least considered that is the leader-led circumstance. However such emphasis highlights issues only instead of providing a complete assessment of the circumstance. Despite the clear outlines the theory provides about the definition and characteristics of effective leadership, this theory fails to provide a clear plan or strategy to evaluate a situation. Leaders need to be adaptable, and the theory of Contingency lends itself to the nature of characteristics (Tal, & (Gordon, 2016).
  • For effective leadership to exist in the contingency leadership, three factors need to exist. These factors are there needs to be a task that has clear goals coupled with the procedure on how to achieve them, there must exist a sound working relationship between a leader and the followers, and finally, the leader must have powers to punish and reward followers.
  • In general terms, Fiedler outlined some factors which defined effective leaders. These factors include the personality of the leader, the nature of the task and the characteristics of the followers being lead. Situations or circumstances in this theory are characterized by analyzing three critical issues.
  • These are; the structure of the task, the leader-follower relationship that is the atmosphere that exists within the group, confidence, attraction, and loyalty, and position power that is the degree of power granted to the leader (Tal, & (Gordon, 2016).
Skill Based Leadership Theory
  • The development of the theory originates from the flaws identified in the trait theory of leadership. Theorists of skill-based leadership theory pursued to investigate and discover the abilities and skills that defined effective leaders.
  • Just like Trait theory of leadership, skill-based leadership theory is basically built on leader-centric and put significant focus on the factors that are deemed desirable for making effective leaders (Meuser, Gardner, Dinh, Hu, Liden, & Lord, 2016).
  • Built from limitations identified in the Trait theory of leadership, this theory is placed significant focus on the performance of effective leadership on learnable and learned skills instead on the traits. With such focus, this style aim provides a notion that such leadership will be available to everyone.
  • Although the theory is not built entirely on trait approach, certain innate skills and abilities such as cognitive ability and motivation are still incorporate in this theory. The theory emphasis that after understanding leadership skills, effective leaders needs to find a balance on how to apply the leadership skills.
  • An example is provided that suppose if a leader decides to focus much on the technical skills which compromising human skills can alienate the follower, in this case, the employees despite making them more effective and efficient. Similarly, a significant focus on planning while compromising the technical requirements of undertaking a plan can lead to a strategy failure. A leader considered effective is one that establishes a balance between skills set to maintain a business proficiency in performance (Meuser, Gardner, Dinh, Hu, Liden, & Lord, 2016).
  • Theorist like Katz considered some of the characteristics of Skill Based leadership theory to be related to technical skills that relates to the fields of human skills which focuses on the how communication should be done between a leader and followers, conceptual abilities and skills that relates to establishing vision as the key concern that leaders to be considered effective needs to be nurture in themselves.
  • The theory recognizes that effective leaders need to possess strong conceptual skills and abilities as well as sound technical skills. Also, skill-based leadership theory identifies effective leaders as one who has social judgment capabilities, and problem-solving skills (Northouse, 2015).
Situational Leadership
  • Situational leadership is defined as the type of leadership in which the leader commonly considered as the manager of an entity or business have to fine-tune his or her style of leadership to cope up and fit the development of the follower he or she tries to influence.
  • Thus the basis of situational leadership needs that a leader to change his or her mode of leadership instead of the follower he or she rules over to adapt to the style of leadership the leader employs (Northouse, 2015).
    • The theorist behind Situational leadership was Paul Hersey and Kenneth Blanchard. In this leadership type, the style employed by a leader can occasionally change to cope with new demands and situations of the organizations they preside over. In the development of this leadership theory, the authors had a belief that there was no sole approach considered to be the best to leadership (Tal, & (Gordon, 2016).
    • Instead, there reasoning was that leadership considered to be effective was one that is perceived as task-relevant. Thus this style recommends effective leaders to be one who have the ability to adapt to wide-range maturity levels situations. Integrated to be part of the basic foundations of the theory is that choices of leadership styles are ones that incorporate the willingness of individual employees as well as expressing the capacity of a leader to take task responsibility. Also, part of the basic requirements for an effective leader in this theory is that he or she need to have the appropriate experience and education background necessary to adapt him or her to changing situations (Northouse, 2015).
  • In the theory, it is evident that there exists a wide-range variance between factors surrounding effective leadership which are significantly subjective to individual’s perceptions. The basis of such performance is significantly influenced by specific job function a leader will be executing.
  • Situational leadership style establishes four critical characteristics that are provided to give extreme adaptability and accustomed in such a way that it will lead to high productivity from each group or employees.
  • These four characteristics/styles includes;

Telling where a leader instructs his followers on what to do and how it should be done,

Selling; just like in

telling, the leaders still maintain information and direction only that an additional element of two-way communication with followers will be integrated, Participating; here the leaders focuses more on the building relationship and providing less direction to followers and

Delegating where the leader settles of passing on responsibilities to followers/subordinates while maintaining the oversight role in the execution of the task (Hogg, 2001).



Colbert, A. E., Judge, T. A., Choi, D., & Wang, G. (2012). Assessing the trait theory of     leadership using self and observer ratings of personality: The mediating role of     contributions to group success. The Leadership Quarterly, 23(4), 670-685.

Hogg, M. A. (2001). A social identity theory of leadership. Personality and social psychology     review, 5(3), 184-200.

Meuser, J. D., Gardner, W. L., Dinh, J. E., Hu, J., Liden, R. C., & Lord, R. G. (2016). A network     analysis of leadership theory: The infancy of integration. Journal of Management, 42(5),     1374-1403.

Northouse, P. G. (2015). Leadership: Theory and practice. Sage publications.

Tal, D., & Gordon, A. (2016). Leadership of the present, current theories of multiple     involvements: a bibliometric analysis. Scientometrics, 107(1), 259-269.

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