The Four Core Theory Groups
Let's look at each of the four core groups of theory, and explore some of the tools and models that apply with each. (Keep in mind that there are many other theories out there.)
1. Trait Theories – What Type of Person Makes a Good Leader?
Trait theories argue that effective leaders share a number of common personality characteristics, or "traits."
Early trait theories said that leadership is an innate, instinctive quality that you do or don't have. Thankfully, we've moved on from this idea, and we're learning more about what we can do to develop leadership qualities within ourselves and others.
Trait theories help us identify traits and qualities (for example, integrity, empathy, assertiveness, good decision-making skills, and likability) that are helpful when leading others.
However, none of these traits, nor any specific combination of them, will guarantee success as a leader.
Traits are external behaviors that emerge from the things going on within our minds – and it's these internal beliefs and processes that are important for effective leadership.
We explore some of the traits and skills that you need to be a good leader in our articles What a Real Leader Knows Add to My Personal Learning Plan, Level 5 Leadership Add to My Personal Learning Plan, and What is Leadership? Add to My Personal Learning Plan
2. Behavioral Theories – What Does a Good Leader Do?
Behavioral theories focus on how leaders behave. For instance, do leaders dictate what needs to be done and expect cooperation? Or do they involve their teams in decision-making to encourage acceptance and support?
In the 1930s, Kurt Lewin developed a framework based on a leader's behavior. He argued that there are three types of leaders:
Autocratic leaders make decisions without consulting their teams. This style of leadership is considered appropriate when decisions need to be made quickly, when there's no need for input, and when team agreement isn't necessary for a successful outcome.
Democratic leaders allow the team to provide input before making a decision, although the degree of input can vary from leader to leader. This style is important when team agreement matters, but it can be difficult to manage when there are lots of different perspectives and ideas.
Laissez-faire leaders don't interfere; they allow people within the team to make many of the decisions. This works well when the team is highly capable, is motivated, and doesn't need close supervision. However, this behavior can arise because the leader is lazy or distracted; and this is where this style of leadership can fail.
Clearly, how leaders behave affects their performance. Researchers have realized, though, that many of these leadership behaviors are appropriate at different times. The best leaders are those who can use many different behavioral styles, and choose the right style for each situation.
Our article "Laissez Faire" versus Micromanagement Add to My Personal Learning Plan looks at how you can find the right balance between autocratic and laissez-faire styles of leadership, while our article on the Blake-Mouton Managerial Grid Add to My Personal Learning Plan helps you decide how to behave as a leader, depending on your concerns for people and for production.https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/leadership-theories.htm