Leadership Theories - What is Leadership?

What is leadership? What are leadership styles? What are the different leadership theories? Why do you need to know and understand them? How will they benefit you? These are a range of questions that I get asked when working with people.

The following pages will go into more detail on leadership theories, leadership styles and how to develop your skills. However, here we will give a brief outline the different approaches to leadership.

So, what is Leadership: Leadership is an influenced-based relationship. A leader is someone who has the capacity to influence others. Leaders create followers and should also be followers. There are different styles and approaches to leading. No one way is the right way. However, lead in the wrong way and you won't create followers, nor willing followers!



Leadership Theories

Leadership Theories can be divided in the following main categoies:


The trait theory of leadership says that there are certain characteristics that effective leaders possess e.g. drive, intelligence, self-confidence, assertiveness, good decision-making, empathy. Traits are external behaviours that are observed and experienced by people. Many things may influence these behaviours. Some traits or behaviours will have a negative impact on leadership style while others will have a positive impact on leadership style.

Behavioural theory:There are a lot of different thoughts on the way a leader should behave for example:

  • Concern for task. The extent to which the leader emphasises high levels of productivity, organises and defines group activities in relation to the group’s objectives.
  • Concern for people. The extent to which the leader is concerned about his or her subordinates as people – their needs, interests, problems, development etc. rather than treating them as units of production.
  • Directive leadership. The extent to which the leader makes all the decisions concerning group activities him or herself and expects subordinates to simply follow instructions.
  • Participative leadership. The extent to which the leader shares decision making concerning group activities with subordinates.

From studies no one approach has emerged as the most appropriate in all situations. Studies from The University of Michigan (1957) and Ohio State (1961) identified two independent dimensions of leadership which are in essence a combination of the four types of behaviour described. The two dimensions are “Consideration” based on much of the Softer Skills and “Initiating Structure” based on much of the Hard Skills of management.

Contingency Theory or Situational Leadership: Behaviour should be contingent on the organisational situation at the time and on the people. This is also called Situational Leadership. One theory that is commonly used in leadership programmes is Hersey and Blanchard (1993) theory: the readiness of followers. The leader matches the leadership style according to the readiness of the subordinates which moves in stages along a conintuum. Readiness: The ability and willingness subordinates have to completing tasks. Ability is defined as the knowledge, experience, and skill the person possess. Willingness is the motivation and commitment required.

Use of

power is another aspect that all leaders and managers need to be aware of. See following pages for more information on this.

Adairs Action Centred Leadership should also be mentioned and well worth learning more about.

This site is currently under construction. Many pages are not built yet. If there is any information you would like or have any questions please contact me on info@dymphnaormond.com or use the contact form.

Recommended books for reading on the subject can be found in the Resource page.

Situational Leadership
Power and influence
Leadership characterisitcs
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