Eight Most Common Leadership Styles

Leadership is a surprisingly complex subject and that numerous factors influence how successful a particular leader may or may not be. Here is a of list of the eight most common leadership theories.

1. The Great Man Theory (1840s)

 Great men are born and not made.

This theory became popular during the 19th century. The stories told about some of the world’s most famous leaders, such as, Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, George Washington helped contribute to the notion that great leaders are born and not made.

This theory doesn’t give any hope to the idea that leaders are made and not born. It stipulates that some people are just born great. This theory surprisingly seems attractive to some people.

2. The Trait Theory of Leadership (1930s – 1940s)

This theory assumes that people inherit certain qualities and traits that make them better suited to leadership. Trait theories often identify a particular personality or behavioural characteristics shared by leaders Not too dissimilar to Great Man Theory it argues that leaders have certain inherent attributes such as courage, charm and other traits common to great leaders

3. The Skills Theory of Leadership (1940s – 1950s)

This theory defines great leaders by their skills and not personality. It outlines three main skills of a good leader:

  1. Conceptual – decision making, innovation, critical thinking, persuasiveness
  2. Technical – Report writing, computer skill, project management
  3. Human – motivational skill, active effective communication

The good thing about this theory is that it uses what leaders accomplish rather than their personality traits. It implies that leadership can be learned.

4. The Style Theories of Leadership (1940s – 1950s)

Also known as behavioural theory focuses on the actions of effective leaders rather than the individual traits that comprise an effective leader. The theory states that there is no one style of leadership that is effective adopting styles like being autocratic & demanding, democratic & participative or laissez fair & unengaged.

5. The Situational Leadership Theory (1960s)

This theory works work on the assumption that the most effective style of leadership changes from situation to situation. It is a leadership style in which a leader adapts their style of leading to suit the current work environment and/or needs of a team.

The situational leader may use one of the four styles below:

  1. Telling. The team requires close supervision and constant guidance. Leaders may make all of the decisions and then communicate these decisions to the team. The telling style is most commonly used when repetitive results are needed or when a team is at the novice level.
  2. Selling. This type of leadership is typically used when a team or employee is unmotivated to perform a task or job duty.
  3. Participating. The participating behavioural leadership style is most commonly used when a team is competent in particular tasks but do not have the willingness or confidence needed to complete them.
  4. Delegating. This style is used when a team is efficient and effective at their jobs and require little guidance.

6. The Contingency Theory (1960s)

According to this theory, an individual can be an effective leader in one situation and an ineffective leader in another one. This theory posits that you should be able to examine each situation and decide if your leadership style is going to be effective or not. Leaders must also present tasks clearly and with goals and procedures outlined. They need to possess the ability to hand out punishments and rewards, as well.

7. Leader-Member Exchange Theory (1970s)

The Leader-Member Exchange Theory first emerged in the 1970s. It focuses on the relationship that develops between managers and members of their teams. The theory assumes that leaders develop an exchange with each of their subordinates, and that the quality of these leader-member exchange (LMX) relationships influences subordinates’ responsibility, decision influence, access to resources and performance. This theory focuses on increasing organizational success by creating positive relations between the leader and subordinate.

8. Servant Leadership Theory (1970s – 1980s)

This leadership is a style that prioritizes the team’s growth and well-being over the organization’s or leader’s own ambitions. The servant leader focuses on coaching and developing individuals, not just achieving the goals of the organization. This type of leader believes that high quality work will follow when their team members feel personally and professionally fulfilled. Team member’s satisfaction and collaboration are important aspects in this style.