Leadership: Concepts, Styles and Theories

leadership Concept and Theories

Leadership is often regarded as the important modifier of organisational behaviour. The success of an organisation depends much on the quality of a leader and thus a strong leadership can contribute to the overall effectiveness of the organisation.  Effective leadership is based upon ideas, but will not happen unless those ideas can be communicated to others in a way that engages them.


Leadership has been defined in different ways by different set of scholars. In simple terms, Leadership is defined as the ability to influence a group towards the achievement of a vision or set of goals.

Leadership Qualities and Characteristics

According to Chester Barnard, six qualities are essential for a leader and such qualities, as per his order of importance include (Fadia & Fadia, 2006):

  • Vitality and Endurance
  • Decisiveness
  • Persuasiveness
  • Stability in Behaviour
  • Intellectual Ability; and
  • Knowledge

The leadership qualities as suggested by Millet include:

  • Good health
  • Sense of mission
  • Interest in other people
  • Intelligence
  • Integrity
  • Persuasiveness
  • Judgement
  • Loyalty

Terry‟s list of leadership qualities includes (Fadia & Fadia, 2006):

  • Energy
  • Emotional stability
  • Knowledge of human relations
  • Empathy
  • Objectivity
  • Personal motivation
  • Communicative skills
  • Teaching ability
  • Social skill; and
  • Technical Competence

Styles of Leadership

Factors influencing Styles of leadership

The behavioural pattern, exhibited by a leader is influenced by various factors, including:

  • Personality of Leader
  • Personality of Group Members
  • Nature of Tasks
  • Nature of Environment

Styles of Leadership

  • Feudal Type
    • In the feudal type of leadership, the relationship that exists between a leader and follower is that of a lord and his subject.
  • Paternal Type:
    • In this type of leadership, the leader‟s relationship with the employee is that of a father and son. Here the  employees of the organization are seen as family members.
  • Dictatorial Type:
    • Here a leader dictates terms to the employees and demands obedience of the employees in carrying out the orders.
  • Participatory Type:
    • In this,  the leader tends to adopt a flexible approach, wherein the employees of the organisation are allowed to participate in decision making process.
    • The leader shares his/her vision and ideas to the employees and the decisions are arrived at by having a group discussion.
  • Developmental Type:
    • Here, the leader feels that it is his/her duty to develop people.
    • The leader considers his/her subordinates to have vast potentialities for improvement and thus the focus of this leader is laid on promoting the subordinates to highest performances.
  • Bureaucratic Type:
    • Under this type of leadership, a leader is bound by strict rules and regulations and they expect their employees to follow the procedures in a prompt manner.
  • Manipulative Type:
    • In this case, the leader manipulates the employees of the organization so as to attain his own personal goals.
  • Charismatic Type:
    • Charismatic leaders are regarded as of divine origin and the recognition of the followers depends upon the demonstration of constant proof, which in turn, augments follower devotion and enthusiasm.

Theories of Leadership

  • Great Man Theory
  • Trait Theory
  • Behavioural Theories
    • The Managerial Grid Model
    • Role Theory
  • Participative Theories
    • Lewin’s leadership styles
    • Likert’s leadership styles
  • Contingency Theories
    • Fiedler’s contingency theory
    • Hersey-Blanchard Situational Theory
    • Path-goal theory
    • Vroom-Yetton-Jago decision-making model
    • Cognitive Resource Theory
    • Strategic Contingencies Theory
  • Transactional Theories
    • Leader-Member Exchange (LMX) Theory
  • Transformational Leadership
    • Bass’ Transformational  Theory
    • Burns’ Transformational Theory
    • Kouzes and Posner’s Leadership Participation Inventory

Great Man Theory 

The Great Man theory assumes that the traits of leadership are intrinsic. That simply means that great leaders are born, they are not made. This theory sees great leaders as those who are destined by birth to become a leader.

Trait Theory of Leadership 

The trait leadership theory believes that people are either born or are made with certain qualities that will make them excel in leadership roles. Hence, according to this model :a leader must have certain traits and qualities. Leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Indira Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher, Nelson Mandela, Narayana Murthy of Infosys, Apple‟s Cofounder Steve Jobs etc. has been identified, based on the traits that they displayed.

Behavioural Theories 

In the 1940s, apart from the research studies being conducted on the traits displayed by leaders, research was also conducted on the behaviours exhibited by leaders. While the assumption behind traits theory is that „leaders are born, rather than made‟, behavioural theories assume that specific behavioural patterns of leaders can be acquired through learning and experience. While the trait theory concentrates on “what the leaders are‟, the behavioural theories concentrate on “what the leaders do‟.

Contingency/Situational Theories 

Sometimes the success of a leader does not depend upon the qualities, traits and behaviour of a leader alone. The context in which a leader exhibits her/his skills, traits and behaviour matters, because same style of functioning may not be suitable for different situations. Thus the effectiveness of leadership also depends upon situations.

Cognitive Resource Theory

In this model, the focus has been laid on the role of stress as a form of situational unfavourableness and how a leader‟s intelligence and experience influence her/his reaction to stress.

Transactional Theories

Transactional theories are also known as exchange theories or Management theories of leadership. These theories state that the leaders guide or motivate their followers in the direction of established goals by clarifying role and task requirements. The transactional leaders tend to be highly directive and action oriented and their relationship with the followers tends to be transitory and not based on emotional bonds.

Transformational Theories

The essence of transformational theories is that leaders transform their followers through their inspirational nature and charismatic personalities. These are also known as Relationship theories.


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