What is it that makes some individuals excel in leadership roles? Leadership theories tend to explain how and why specific people become leaders. Such approaches often focus on leaders’ characteristics, but some aim to recognize the behaviors that individuals adopt to enhance their leadership qualities in various situations.
The current business environment is full of complexities and uncertainties, which is why leadership theories are essential than ever. The top qualities cited by leaders include:
- Strong moral ethics and principles
- Competent learner
- Encouraging employee development
- Excellent organizational abilities
- Encouraging affiliation and connection
These qualities are considered to be crucial by leaders across the world. Leadership theories aid in illuminating how leaders utilize and cultivate these qualities. In this blog, we will look at different leadership theories and their significance. Further, we will also try to simplify their meanings so that you can easily comprehend and implement them. Thus, let us commence!
What are Leadership Theories & What makes a True Leader?
A leadership theory describes how and why specific individuals choose to become leaders. Leadership is a desired quality of every employee. Thus, knowledge of different leadership theories helps you become effective in the workplace.
Apart from the workplace, such theories help interviewers assess your leadership skills, enabling them to understand whether you are the best fit for the company or not.
Moreover, a successful leader possesses various skills like personality, vision, ambition, etc., to create organizational success. This is done by encouraging the team to perform at their level best. Essential leadership skills include:
- Open communication
- Effective planning
- Offering support to team members
- Making effective decisions
Significance of Leadership Theories
No matter whatever leadership approach you go for, understanding the purpose and significance of leadership theories is essential to help individuals understand various leadership roles. Furthermore, as you understand leadership theories, it gradually improves your leadership skills.
Most of us have a preference for the way we lead others. This comes from training, experience, and observing the people we admire.
So, for new leaders experiencing a new work culture or environment, knowing about leadership theories can be the first step towards identifying the leader you wish to become.
Similarly, for experienced leaders, exploring alternative theories can help show that their preferred leadership approach may or may not be working in all situations.
Thus, understanding alternative characteristics and behaviors efficacious in specific circumstances can help leaders make better organizational decisions, thereby leading to effective & constructive management.
Leadership Theories You Need to Know About
There are different leadership theories you can practice in the workplace. Thus, the more you know about these theories, the better will be your leadership style. Have a look!
- Transactional/ Management Theory
The transactional theory was first developed during the Industrial Revolution to boost the company’s efficiency and productivity. It is a leadership approach that focuses on the value of hierarchy. Managers in companies pay a lot of attention to structure and utilize their authority to enforce rules in order to inspire the staff to perform at their best. According to this theory, workers are rewarded for achieving their targets.
Leaders who practice transactional theory also keep an eye on their staff, ensuring they reach milestones and are disciplined when they fall short. Other factors include:
- Targeting immediate objectives
- Favoring standardized regulations & processes
- Adhering to recent changes
- Encouraging better work performance
- Emphasizing upon one’s own interest
Transactional leadership theory offers the desired outcomes when the challenges are clearly stated, and the main goal is to complete a specific task!
- Transformational Theory
The relationship between leaders and employees can help the organization. So, transformational leadership theory contends that influential leaders inspire employees to function as per their capabilities. Basically, this theory allows employees to reach their highest potential and contribute to professional development.
Leaders practicing this theory tend to develop a vision for their team members and encourage them to realize it. As a result, this raises the employees’ morale, which helps them perform better at work. So, here are a few characteristics of transformational leaders:
- Set an example
- Promote employees’ personal and professional development
- Receptive to fresh concepts
- Communicate openly
- Take risks and make difficult decisions
- Contingency Theory
According to this theory, there is no right way to run a company/organization. Determining the optimal strategy for better outcomes depends upon internal and external considerations. Therefore, the right candidate must fit into the correct scenario, according to the contingency theory. The following are the elements that influence this leadership theory:
- Work speed
- Management approach
- Employee spirit
- Employees’ maturity level
- Organizational targets
- Work environment
- Relationships between team members
Contingency theory helps the company achieve its targets and lets the leader know that difficult situations will always arise no matter how successful a leader is. Thus, leaders must be aware of certain situations in combination with their abilities to achieve the goals.
- Situational Theory
Just like the contingency theory, situational leadership theory emphasizes upon the significance of the context. It holds the idea that a leader should adjust to the shifting context to achieve targets and make effective decisions. Moreover, the team members’ level of competence and dedication can influence how these leaders choose to lead.
So, a situational leader must:
- Develop a connection with the workforce
- Encourage employees
- Develop various teams & organizational units
- Apply leadership theories in different situations
- The Great Man Theory
One of the first theories on leadership is the Great Man Theory. This theory indicates the fact that leaders are born, not created. Thus, they have inherent qualities through which they lead the organization. This hypothesis asserts that a leader has specific innate characteristics like:
- Effective Communicator
This viewpoint lays emphasis on the fact that individuals cannot be taught to become great leaders. It’s a quality that either one has or doesn’t. In addition, the idea holds that such leadership qualities are constant and apply to every organization, irrespective of their setting!
- Behaviorist Theory
Behaviorist theory applies when an individual’s leadership abilities are a product of their environment. Unlike the Great Man theory, this theory holds the idea that leaders are created and trained; they aren’t born! In other words, the leader’s performance is not influenced by their inherent traits but by their qualities and behavior. Therefore, anyone can become a leader, provided he/ she has undergone proper training and instruction.
According to this theory, managers must be mindful of their behavior to boost the team’s morale and get the desired output. This theory classifies leaders into different categories:
- Task-Focussed managers
- Apathetic managers
- Effective leaders
- Dictatorial leaders
- Reliable leaders
- Shrewd businessmen
Thus, it is simpler to access the leadership style of leaders utilizing this theory!
- Functional Theory
The functional theory emphasizes how employees or organizations are being led rather than who has been formally elected to lead. Within this leadership approach, the ability to get things done is collectively supported by a people’s attitude and behaviors instead of one person’s behavior.
- The Trait Theory
The Great Man Theory mentioned above is expanded upon the trait theory, which indicates that effective leaders have specific personalities and behaviors. They are efficacious just because of these qualities. This theory also promotes the idea that certain people are gifted compared to others.
Hence, the main characteristics of leaders in this theory are:
- Emotional equilibrium
- Identifying obstacles
- Motivating employees
This theory enables one to know about their strengths and shortcomings. Thus, once you are aware of your limitations, you can try to improve them!
Good Leadership is Rare!
Undoubtedly, leadership theories depend on different ways of thinking. For example, some focus on qualities and traits, while some touch upon the significance of circumstantial aspects that affect how leaders behave.
Like many other behavioral concepts, leadership is highly multi-faceted and includes various factors that enable the leaders to lead the organization. Thus, leadership is an essential skill in the business world that determines the success and failure of the company.
So, as a leader, which theory would you like to apply? Tell us in the comments below!