Want to keep learning?

This content is taken from the Coventry University's online course, The Evolution of Management and Leadership Theory. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 8 seconds The Great Man Theory is a 19th-century theory that believes history is made by the impact of great heroes. The Great Man Theory of leadership would say that some people are born with the natural attributes of a leader, you either have it or you don’t. They possess intellect and bravery making them highly influential to their followers. It is now clear that leadership skills are now in fact learnable, however there is truth in the idea that some people do inherently possess leadership skills. This pathed the way for the Trait Theory – This identified different personality traits and characteristics that are linked to successful leadership. Once equipped with all the essential qualities a leader can assume positions of power and authority.

Skip to 0 minutes and 53 seconds Just like the Trait Theory the Skills Theory focused on identifying key attributes of a leader. However, Skills Theory acknowledged practical abilities rather than characteristics. Essentially, skill theory is made up of three pillars, Human Skills, Technical Skills and Conceptual Skills. Style Theory of Leadership places the emphases on what leaders actually do. Style Leadership looks at two main types of behavioors, Task Behaviour and Relationship behaviour. Varying degrees of these behaviours can contribute to the leader’s individual style. If you are too focused on Task Behaviour you may become too forceful with your followers. It would be equally disruptive to put full emphasis on the Relationship Behaviour and could lead to lack of productivity.

Skip to 1 minute and 42 seconds The Situational Leadership allows the leader to adapt their style to fit the followers they are trying to motivate. The leader should change continuously to meet the needs of their current organisation and modify themselves to a situation. A closely connected theory is Contingency Leadership.

Skip to 1 minute and 55 seconds The situational theory would say: a situation can’t change and the leader must adapt to it. The Contingency Theory believes it’s the leadership style that is pretty much fixed. Effective leadership is contingent on matching the right leader to the right setting. Transactional leadership believes people will follow based on the incentives in place, it’s the leader’s job to find the right mix of reward and punishment and oversee what’s going on.

Skip to 2 minutes and 27 seconds Similarly, Leader-Member Exchange Theory is built on a fair exchange between the leader and their followers. However, a side effect of this can create a divide, an ‘in’ and ‘out’ group. This can potentially lead to lower performance and low retention. Transformational Leadership Theory, in contrast, focuses on leadership that nurtures and encourages followers, inspiring them towards a set vision. These leaders actively transform the environment, build relationships forming organisational culture. Servant Leadership Theory takes Transactional Leadership and Transformational Leadership Theory one step further. The leader prioritises the needs of their followers, this produces a relationship of trust, collaboration and mutual service. This could ultimately lead to higher performance.

10 leadership theories

We are starting our final activity of the week by looking at the major theories that exist about leadership, what it is and how it arises. Watch the video in which you will be introduced to 10 major leadership theories.

These theories have led to the development of questionnaires designed to test the different traits, abilities and behaviours that various theories claim make someone a leader.

We are going to spend the rest of this week looking at your own leadership abilities based on some of these questionnaires. We will start by looking at how you score your own leadership traits and compare it with what other people think about you. We’ll then look at leadership skills, and assess the usefulness of tests like these in defining people’s capacity as leaders.

Share this video:

This video is from the free online course:

The Evolution of Management and Leadership Theory

Coventry University