Leadership theories try to explain how and why certain people become leaders. Some theories focus on leaders' characteristics, while others attempt to identify behaviours that people can adopt.
Previously, debates on the psychology of leadership suggested that these were inherent skills. However, recent theories propose that while certain traits may help natural leaders, experience and situational variables also play a vital role.
According to this point of view, great leaders are born to lead with internal characteristics such as charisma, confidence, intelligence, and social skills.
Great man theories assume great leaders are born, not made. These theories suggest people cannot learn how to become strong leaders.
Trait theories assume people inherit certain qualities and traits that make them better suited to leadership. Traits include extroversion, self-confidence, and courage.
However, some people possess these traits but are not leaders, nor do they explore leadership positions. There are also effective leaders who lack some of the key traits associated with leadership.
This theory focuses on particular variables related to the environment that determine the specific style of leadership.
Leadership researchers White and Hodgson suggest that truly effective leadership is about finding a balance between behaviours, needs, and context. Good leaders can assess the needs of the followers, read the situation, and adapt their behaviours accordingly.
The theory suggests that leaders choose the best course of action based upon situational variables. Different leadership styles may be more appropriate for certain types of decision-making.
For instance, a more knowledgeable and experienced group member may use an authoritarian leadership style, while a group with skilled experts may use a democratic style.
The theory is based on the belief that great leaders are made, not born. People can learn to become leaders through teaching and observation.
This leadership theory centres on the actions of leaders, not on mental qualities or internal states.
This theory suggests that the ideal leadership style considers the input of others.
These leaders encourage participation and contributions from group members and help them feel more connected and committed to the decision-making process.
Also known as transactional theories, these theories focus on the role of supervision, organisation, and group performance.
The leadership theory is based on a system of rewards and punishments, where employees are rewarded when they are successful but reprimanded when they fail.
Known as transformational theories, these theories focus on the connections formed between leaders and followers.
Transformational leaders motivate and inspire people. They help the group members to see the value of the task. They also want every person to fulfil their potential.