Professional and Staff Development
Leadership Theory Simplified
Assistant Professor Leadership Development
“Pop leadership” philosophy abounds in our culture today. Book stores have shelves full of books on leader ship. Leaders and leadership are discussed daily on tele vision, radio, newspapers, magazines and on the web. As a result, many mixed messages about leadership are expressed. So – how do you decide what is accurate? Read the inside cover of a leadership book and you may find that the book is more about manage ment and business than leadership. A magazine or newspaper may just express the opinion of a famous person about leadership. While the ...view middle of the document...
1. The Genetic View – Some people are born with leadership talents and others are not. Only certain people can learn to lead effectively; they are naturals. If you do not have this inborn talent, there is nothing you can do. 2. The Learned View – If you study leadership carefully and practice, you can learn to be an effective leader, no matter whom you are. In a sense, this is the opposite of the genetic view. This view is common in the military and among leadership development professionals. 3. The Heroic View – The only good leaders are those who perform courageous, wise and compas sionate feats that the rest of us can’t. Think of the movie roles played by Gary Cooper, Jimmy Stewart and John Wayne. The perception is that this is the type of leaders who get the rest of us out of trouble. 4. The Top-Only View – Leadership only happens at or close to the top of an organization. Everyone else “just follows orders.” If you are not the boss, you are nothing. If you are the boss, you are everything anyone could wish for. Being “the boss” is the ultimate goal. 5. The Social Script View – When it is your proper turn to be the leader, you will be asked. When asked, you should accept and be grateful. After all, not everyone is asked. This approach is common in professional associations and civic or community organizations. 6. The Position View – If you are in the job and have the title, you are a leader. This idea is tradi tional in bureaucracies and highly structured organizations and carries some validity even in the most effective systems. If your title is phrased “director of…” or “head of…,” your leadership virtues are assumed. 7. The Calling View – Although not necessarily a religious experience, a “call” to lead can be quite compelling. This concept suggests that leaders have a sense of mission or purpose. Do any of these sound familiar to you? Which one of these viewpoints have you experienced?
Every leader is different, and no single theory works for all leaders. Begin to develop your own leadership approach by learning more about the following leadership theories. • • • • • • Great man Trait Behavioral Contingency Transactional Transformational
Great Man. Researchers who support the Great Man theory believe that people are born to leadership. This may include members of royalty, high-ranking military officers and industry heads. Today, many people still hold this traditional belief, and even though this theory may sound oldfashioned, research suggests that some people have personality traits, behaviors and knowledge that lend themselves to leadership (Yaverbaum and Sherman, 2008). Studying famous royal, military or industry leaders may provide you with some tools that help you develop your own leadership abilities. Trait Theory. Similar to the Great Man theory, Trait theory suggests that the characteristics or the personality of a person may make them an effective leader. Several academics believe that...