Leadership Theories and What They Mean

Leadership theories come in all shapes and sizes with little to no real substance behind them!

So what makes someone a great leader? I suppose we need to all agree on what a great leader is before we can decide what makes the great!

Let’s list the various leadership theories floating around out there and see if we can peel back the layers and get to the real heart of the matter.

Relationship Theory

Trait Theory

Behavioral Theory

Management Theory

Situational Theory

Great Man Theory

Contingency Theory

Participative Theory

I suppose if we got really creative we could continue this list with many more theories of how leadership defines a leader! Let’s just focus on these for now and see what we can discover.

Although many would disagree I want to inform you of my bias towards an individual possessing traits within them from birth that make them more likely to become great leaders. Try a simple experiment to prove this leadership theory. Try getting several people together and present them with a challenge that will require everyone’s participation. Just sit back and watch what emerges from the group. At least one of them will step forward and begin to take charge. Whether good or bad they will and the others will fall in line behind them.

Having said that let’s continue exploring the various leadership theories based on the above list.

The relationship theory is where a leader becomes connected with their staff and hopes to impart the bigger picture to them. This is an effort to bring the group closer together while helping each to individually perform better. This type of leader cares about their staff on an emotional level.

The trait leadership theory suggests that people are born with certain traits and this enables them to be better leaders. Those that are not born with these leadership traits will not exhibit good leadership skills. Although I am more in line with this type of theory it is not by its definition alone my belief.

The behavioral theory of leadership is based on the belief that leaders are created through training and lifestyles and not born. One could assume this was the theory that monarchies go by since the kingdom is passed on from generation to generation.

The management theory of leadership believes that you can manage the leadership process through a series of rewards and consequences to achieve the outcome. This type of leader will present the carrot on the stick or the hammer over the head.

The situational leader will base their actions on the situation they are faced with. If the situation is something they are very comfortable with they may make all the decisions without involving anyone else. If the opposite is true they may count heavily on those around them.

The great man theory is one where leadership is inherited through the gene pool. This type of leadership theory lends itself to someone having no choice but to be a great leader. It’s in their blood. The person that believes this would believe that all of George Washington’s off spring would have been great leaders.

The contingency theory of leadership focuses on all the variables involved and may use all the leadership theories over time. The type of leadership the person would implement would be determined by such things as the staff being led, the type of problem, the type of resources available, and the time allowed to accomplish the goal.

The participative theory of leadership likes to get the input from their staff before making any decisions. This type of leader needs the support of their staff and generally speaking will not move unless they are alright with it.

After reviewing all the types of leadership theories I am left with my original belief and that is that leaders are not made, they are born. Although I don’t buy into any one particular theory of leadership I do believe there is much truth any many of them. Like most things in life it boils down to balance and keeping an open mind.

Regardless of how we feel about the above theories it doesn’t change anything except to understand what we have seen or experienced from various leaders in our past.

Is there one that is best?

My answer to that is it depends!

What are we trying to accomplish!

If we have an airline pilot whose engines just shut down during takeoff because of bird strikes I do not want a leader in the pilot’s seat that buys into the participative theory of leadership. I want the pilot to be in complete control and a person that was born to make decisions in a situation just like this.

On the other hand if the leader is trying to determine the type of health benefits they should have for their staff it would be nice to have that participative theory of leadership before they make a final decision.

Thank you and May GOD Bless You!

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