The Seven Leadership Theories

It is common for a lot of emphasis to be placed on Leadership – not just in a work and organisational context, but also in politics and sport for example.  Sir Winston Churchill and Sir Alex Ferguson are a couple of notable examples of ‘Leading’ in their respective realms. However, the definition and description of Leadership can be quite complex – so what form(s) do you think Leadership comes in?

With a brief reference to academic literature, this blog looks at the seven “Leadership Theories”.

Leadership as an Ability

The ‘ability’ to lead is a common and popular term and can be defined in an organisational setting as “The ability to influence people towards the attainment of organisational goals” (DuBrin, 2013). Indeed, these goals do not necessarily need to be in line with the desires of the individuals that the leader is influencing.

Leadership as a Behaviour

‘Leadership behaviours’ can generally be split into two parts: Task behaviours (“getting the job done”); and Process behaviours (perhaps by fostering a positive and inclusive organisational culture). If you agree with this idea, do you think one set of behaviours is more important than the other?

Leadership as an Influence Process

Do you agree that Leadership can be defined as a “process whereby an individual influences a [sometimes diverse] group of individuals to achieve a common goal”? (Northouse, 2001)

Leadership as a Relationship

Are you of the opinion that the ‘Leader-Follower’ relationship is central to effective Leadership? This theory promotes the idea that a positive relationship between a Leader and their Followers will naturally yield positive outcomes, and vice versa.

Situational Leadership

Some people might be familiar with the idea of adapting their Leadership style according to a specific situation – perhaps through delegation, supporting, coaching, or directing followers. When looking at the opposite ends of this spectrum, one can reasonably argue that the delegation approach could be more appropriate for a highly skilled and experienced employee; compared with the need to direct someone who is perhaps completely new to the organisation, or indeed to the world of work itself.

Leadership as a Skill

The ‘Leadership as a skill’ theory argues that Leadership is a competency that can be learned by anyone if they are able to learn from their experiences – implying that Leadership is something that can be acquired by an individual

Leadership as a Trait

Finally, perhaps effective leaders need to exhibit the ‘Five Big Personality Traits’: Extraversion; Agreeableness; Conscientiousness; Emotional stability; and Openness. Is this something that you can see within your own organisation.

Final Thoughts

It is clear that one can make reasonable arguments that Leadership can be categorised under any of the above headings – perhaps some more than others. It is nonetheless a really interesting area of discussion so please let us know how you would define Leadership, or perhaps what you think its most common form is in a work and organisational setting.

Image source.

Academic References:

DuBrin, A (2013). Principles of Leadership. 7th ed. London: Cengage Learning.

Northouse, P (2001). Leadership: Theory and Practice. 2nd ed. London: SAGE Publications.

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