In an attempt to define leadership philosophers have generated a number of differing leadership theories which attempt to define what leaders must possess or do in order to be successful.

Trait theory Edit

Proponents of the trait approach usually list leadership qualities, assuming certain traits or characteristics will tend to lead to effective leadership.

Common traits include

  • drive (a broad term which includes achievement, motivation, ambition, energy, tenacity, and initiative)
  • leadership motivation (the desire to lead but not to seek power as an end in itself)
  • honesty
  • integrity
  • self-confidence (which is associated with emotional stability)
  • cognitive ability
  • knowledge of the business
  • charisma

Behavioral and style theories Edit

In response to the criticism of the trait approach,theorists suggested that certain behaviors will result in sucessful leadersip rather than specific traits.

Common behaviours include

  • a high need for power
  • a low need for affiliation
  • a high level of

Analysing a leaders behaviour gives the us an understand of leadership style, three main styles exist.

  • Authoritarian - make decisions alone, demand strict compliance to orders, and dictate each step taken; future steps are uncertain to a large degree
  • Democratic - collective decision processes, assisted by the leader. Before accomplishing tasks, perspectives are gained from group discussion and technical advice from a leader. Members are given choices and collectively decide the division of labor. Praise and criticism in such an environment are objective, fact minded and given by a group member without necessarily having participated extensively in the actual work
  • Laissez-faire - freedom to the group for policy determination without any participation from the leader. The leader remains uninvolved in work decisions unless asked, does not participate in the division of labor, and very infrequently gives praise.

Situational and contingency theories Edit

This theory assumes that different situations call for different characteristics; according to this group of theories, no single optimal psychographic profile of a leader exists. According to the theory, "what an individual actually does when acting as a leader is in large part dependent upon characteristics of the situation in which he functions."

The authoritarian leadership style, for example, is approved in periods of crisis but fails to win the "hearts and minds" of their followers in the day-to-day management; the democratic leadership style is more adequate in situations that require consensus building; finally, the laissez faire leadership style is appreciated by the degree of freedom it provides, but as the leader does not "take charge", he can be perceived as a failure in protracted or thorny organizational problems.

Functional theory Edit

This theory argues that the leader’s main job is to see that whatever is necessary to group needs is taken care of; thus, a leader can be said to have done their job well when they have contributed to group effectiveness and cohesion. Functional theory is most commonly applied to team leadership it has also been effectively applied to broader organizational leadership as well.

Transactional and transformational theories Edit

The transactional leader (Burns, 1978)is given power to perform certain tasks and reward or punish for the team’s performance. It gives the opportunity to the manager to lead the group and the group agrees to follow his lead to accomplish a predetermined goal in exchange for something else. Power is given to the leader to evaluate, correct and train subordinates when productivity is not up to the desired level and reward effectiveness when expected outcome is reached.

The transformational leader (Burns, 2008) motivates its team to be effective and efficient. Communication is the base for goal achievement focusing the group on the final desired outcome or goal attainment. This leader is highly visible and uses chain of command to get the job done. Transformational leaders focus on the big picture, needing to be surrounded by people who take care of the details. The leader is always looking for ideas that move the organization to reach the company’s vision.